On Tuesday, Donald Trump issued a long, incoherent rant in which he admitted that he has received a target letter from the Washington, D.C., grand jury investigating attempts to overturn the 2020 election. That letter almost certainly means Trump will soon be the subject of indictments on additional federal charges. However, even as Trump’s attorneys wait on incoming mail from special counsel Jack Smith, another very special envelope could potentially hit their inboxes first.
Back in April, Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis announced that she would make her final decisions on charges related to criminal interference in the 2020 election “in the near future.” Willis stated then that charges could be expected over the summer, and in letters to local officials she warned that charges might be coming July 31 and Aug. 18.
The possibility that those charges will arrive soon became clear when a new grand jury was seated last week in Atlanta. That grand jury is reportedly not hearing directly from witnesses. Instead, it’s hearing previously recorded testimony and recommendations prepared by an earlier special grand jury, which filed its final report back in January. The new grand jury is expected to turn that report into charges. The subject of those charges could be Trump and members of his campaign team.
Less than a week before the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, Trump was on the phone with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. In that phone call, Trump threatened Raffensperger and attempted to enlist him in a criminal scheme to falsify the results of the 2020 election in Georgia.
"So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state," Trump said. At another point, he said that it would be a "criminal offense" if Raffensperger and his office did not back up Trump's false claims of ballot destruction, and a "big risk to you and [state legal counsel Ryan Germany]."
That call was just part of Trump’s efforts to overturn the results in Georgia, which also included selection of a group of false electors who would go to Washington as part of an effort to halt the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6.
In 2022, Willis convened a “special purpose grand jury” to hear testimony related to election interference. Under Georgia law, that special purpose grand jury could issue subpoenas and compile a public report, along with recommendations for prosecutors. However, it could not directly produce indictments. The grand jury seated by Willis on July 11 is thought to be examining the testimony and other evidence collected by that special purpose grand jury. This second grand jury will be tasked with issuing any indictments.
Among those who were subpoenaed for testimony by the special purpose grand jury were Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Giuliani has often been mentioned as a potential target in the Georgia case. Graham also called Raffensperger and questioned the accuracy of the vote count. Meadows was sought because of his participation in planning to recruit false electors in Georgia.
As ABC News reports, Trump’s attorneys moved earlier this month to have the evidence of the special purpose grand jury disallowed and Willis barred from taking part in any trial related to the 2020 election, on claims of bias. That claim has been filed with both the Superior Court of Fulton County and Georgia's Supreme Court in back-to-back filings. This is the second attempt by Trump’s attorneys to block the report. They asked another Georgia court to rule that instructions to the special jury were “unconstitutionally vague” in March.
Neither claim by Trump’s attorneys has been ruled on at this point. However, the judge in charge of the claim filed in March did rule that Willis couldn’t depose a Republican state senator because she had campaigned for that senator’s Democratic opponent. Trump’s attorneys cited the failure to issue a ruling in the March case as evidence that the judge was acting against Trump. It is possible that Willis will wait for rulings on these cases before proceeding with any indictments.
The special purpose grand jury’s public report was issued in February, but is intentionally vague. It confirms only that the jury found that some of those providing testimony committed perjury, and recommends that prosecutors seek appropriate charges.
It also contains this statement designed to directly counter the claims made by Trump in public statements and legal filings:
"We find by a unanimous vote that no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning that election."
Like the federal investigation lead by Smith, the Georgia case includes potential charges of conspiracy and will likely involve indictments against several members of Trump’s campaign team and White House staff.
Between now and mid-August, any day could be indictment day. Let’s hope Willis will check in with Smith to avoid any scheduling issues.