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Georgia DA says she will announce charging decision in Trump case this summer

Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis is investigating whether former president Donald Trump and his allies broke the law when they sought to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia. (Brynn Anderson/AP)
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An Atlanta-area district attorney investigating whether former president Donald Trump and his allies broke the law when they sought to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia said she will announce this summer whether charges will be filed in the case.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) made the announcement in letters sent to state and law enforcement Monday urging a “need for heightened security and preparedness in coming months due to this pending announcement.”

Read the full letter here

In one of the letters, addressed to Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat and obtained by The Washington Post, Willis said she would announce possible criminal indictments in the case between July 11 and Sept. 1 and warned that “[o]pen-source intelligence has indicated the announcement of decisions in this case may provoke a significant public reaction.”

“We have seen in recent years that some may go outside of public expressions of opinion that are protected by the First Amendment to engage in acts of violence that will engage the safety [of] our community,” Wills wrote. “As leaders, it is incumbent for us to prepare.”

“Please accept this correspondence as notice to allow you sufficient time to prepare the Sheriff’s Office and coordinate with local, state and federal agencies to ensure that our law enforcement community is ready to protect the public,” Willis added.

The letters, first reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, were the strongest indication yet that Willis may file criminal charges in the high-profile case, which has cast scrutiny not only on the actions of Trump and his closest allies but also has ensnared a host of prominent Republicans, including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).

Several top Georgia officials, including Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who were targets of Trump’s lobbying to overturn Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the state, testified before a special grand jury investigating the case and probably would be key witnesses in any criminal trial.

Willis, a longtime Fulton County prosecutor who was elected district attorney in 2020, launched her investigation into alleged election interference just days after a recording was made public of a January 2021 phone call that Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger urging him to “find” enough votes to overturn Trump’s defeat in Georgia.

It was one of several calls Trump and his associates made to Georgia officials prodding them to undertake efforts to change the results of the state’s presidential election, which Trump lost by fewer than 12,000 votes.

Willis has indicated publicly and in court filings that her office’s investigation has since expanded to include several other lines of inquiry, including false claims of election fraud that Giuliani and other Trump associates made to Georgia state lawmakers; threats and harassment targeting Georgia election workers; and the creation of an alternative slate of Republican electoral college electors who met at the Georgia Capitol in December 2020 and signed certificates falsely asserting that Trump had won the state.

Willis and her team are said to be closely examining not only Trump’s phone calls but also what knowledge he had and what role he played in efforts including those false electors. Willis has indicated she is eyeing Georgia’s expansive anti-racketeering law as she considers whether Trump and his allies conspired to break the law in seeking to overturn the state’s election results.

Willis told The Post last year that she and other prosecutors had heard credible allegations that serious crimes had been committed and that she believed some people could be facing prison sentences.

At least 18 people have been notified they are targets of the election interference investigation, according to court documents and statements from their attorneys. That list includes Giuliani and the slate of 16 alternate Republican electors.

A special grand jury impaneled to investigate the case heard from 75 witnesses over several months last year before issuing a final report in January. That report remains mostly sealed to protect the rights of “potential future defendants,” according to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who oversaw the panel.

But Emily Kohrs, the panel’s forewoman, has said the grand jury recommended the indictment of several people. She has declined to say whether Trump was among them — citing McBurney’s instruction to keep jury deliberations private until prosecutors decide whether to file charges — but also told reporters the public would not be “shocked” at the panel’s recommendations given news about the case.

Until Monday’s letters, Willis had said little in recent months about her timeline for filing charges. In January, the district attorney told McBurney that charging decisions were “imminent” — but later clarified that she didn’t necessarily mean she would publicly announce that decision quickly.

In recent weeks, close observers of the case had speculated indictments could be announced in May, when the latest slate of criminal grand jury panels are scheduled to begin their two-month terms. But a prosecution motion last week to remove an attorney representing 10 of the alternate GOP electors offered the clearest hint that the investigation into the case was continuing.

The motion cited prosecution interviews with some of those Republicans nearly two weeks ago. A source close to the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly, said prosecutors are continuing to receive and review evidence in the case as Willis weighs her final decision about charges.

But the delay is likely to be marked by more legal wrangling.

McBurney has given Willis until May 1 to respond to a motion from Trump’s Georgia-based legal team, which have sought to quash the special grand jury report and any evidence from its investigation. They have also asked to recuse Willis and her office from the case and to prevent prosecutors from pursuing “any further proceedings in this matter,” including indictments, claiming Willis violated “prosecutorial standards” and Trump’s constitutional rights in part by publicly commenting on the case.

In a statement Monday, Drew Findling, Jennifer Little and Marissa Goldberg — Trump’s Georgia-based attorneys — said Willis’s letters Monday did nothing but put forward “a potential timetable” for charging decisions and pointed to their “substantive legal challenge” pending in the case.

“We look forward to litigating that comprehensive motion which challenges the deeply flawed legal process and the ability of the conflicted D.A’s Office to make any charging decisions at all,” the attorneys said in a statement.

At the same time, Kimberly Bourroughs Debrow, who represents 10 of the alternate Republican electors, has been given until May 5 to respond to Willis’s request that she be removed from the case.

Prosecutors claim Debrow committed an ethical breach by representing so many clients simultaneously — including electors who have “made adverse claims” against other electors that Debrow represents, which prosecutors argued is a conflict of interest. Prosecutors also allege some of Debrow’s clients claimed in interviews that they were unaware of potential offers of immunity from the D.A.'s office — an allegation Debrow strongly denies.

In a statement last week, Debrow said that the interviews with her clients were recorded and that “the court will be able to hear for itself how the DA’s office has completely misrepresented the facts.”

While Willis’s letter for the first time confirmed a potential timetable for charges, it also hinted at ongoing discussions about security surrounding a case that potentially involves indicting a former American president — concerns that escalated as local officials observed the atmosphere around Trump’s recent indictment in New York.

A source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about security measures, said state and local law enforcement officials have already been planning security protocols around the courthouse — in part because of ongoing threats against Willis and her office but also because of the building’s proximity to the Georgia Capitol, which is across the street from the Fulton County Courthouse.

“As we have discussed, the need for vigilance will increase,” Willis said Monday in her letter to Sheriff Labat.