Fulton DA seeks FBI’s aid as Trump probe advances

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is requesting backup from the FBI after former President Donald Trump singled out prosecutors investigating his actions and called for large-scale protests during a recent rally.

In a Sunday letter to J.C. Hacker, the head of the bureau’s Atlanta field office, Willis urged the FBI to conduct a risk assessment of the Fulton County Courthouse and Government Center and provide other protective resources such as federal agents and intelligence. She said that security concerns were “escalated” by comments Trump made during an event in Texas over the weekend.

“We must work together to keep the public safe and ensure that we do not have a tragedy in Atlanta similar to what happened at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021,” she told Hacker in the letter, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Trump described the inquiry Willis’ office is carrying out, as well as those overseen by investigators in New York and on Capitol Hill, as “prosecutorial misconduct” during a Saturday rally in Conroe, Texas.

“If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protests we have ever had in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere because our country and our elections are corrupt,” Trump said.

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Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg Jr., New York Attorney General Letitia James and Willis are all Black, as is U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who’s leading the Jan. 6 Committee. Trump did not mention any of them by name or offer any explanation for his labeling them racist.

“In reality they’re not after me, they’re after you and I just happen to be the person that’s in the way,” Trump told his supporters. “It’s been going on for years.”

The developments came as Willis office ramps up its criminal probe of Trump’s actions when Georgia’s 2020 election results were being finalized.

Fulton judges last week granted Willis’s request for a special grand jury to be impaneled beginning May 2 “to investigate any and all facts and circumstances relating directly or indirectly to alleged violations of the laws of the State of Georgia” following the 2020 elections.

Willis’ inquiry, launched a year ago, is centered on the Jan. 2, 2021, phone call that Trump placed to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he urged the Republican to “find” the 11,780 votes to overcome President Joe Biden’s win here.

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Willis has indicated that her team is also examining the abrupt resignation of former Atlanta-based U.S. Attorney BJay Pak; a November 2020 call U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., placed to Raffensperger; and false claims made by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani during a hearing before the Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee. The probe could also examine the 16 phony Republican electors who cast ballots for Trump in a sham ceremony in December 2020, even though Georgia was called for Democrat Joe Biden.

“My staff and I will not be influenced or intimidated by anyone as this investigation moves forward,” Willis told Hacker. “I have an obligation to ensure that those who work in and visit the Fulton County Courthouse, the adjoining Fulton County Government Center and surrounding areas are safe.”

The Democrat noted that within close proximity of the courthouse where the special grand jury is slated to meet are City Hall, the state Capitol, Georgia State University and multiple federal buildings.

Should Willis’s office decide to pursue charges against Trump, the legal proceedings are expected to draw a sea of news media, protesters and counter-protesters to downtown Atlanta. The DA told Hacker that her staff has “already made adjustments to accommodate security concerns” during the course of the investigation and begun working with county officials to plan for additional security.

A spokeswoman for the FBI’s Atlanta office responded, “as we do in the normal course of business, we are gathering information to identify any potential threats and are sharing that information with our partners.”

Fulton County prosecutors are cooperating with their counterparts in New York and Washington, the AJC previously reported. Willis has indicated that her office is probing potential violations of Georgia law including criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, intentional interference with the performance of election duties, conspiracy and racketeering, among others.

Trump recently described his phone call to Raffensperger as “perfect.” He said that a special grand jury should instead be looking at “the large scale voter fraud that took place in Georgia,” a falsehood that’s been proven wrong by three ballot counts and multiple investigations that found no evidence of a coordinated effort to change votes.

In an interview with the Associated Press earlier this month, Willis said that a decision on whether to bring charges against Trump could come in the first half of 2022.

“We’re going to just get the facts, get the law, be very methodical, very patient and, in some extent, unemotional about this quest for justice,” she said.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

Fulton DA Fani Willis requested — and last week was granted — a special grand jury for her probe into former President Donald Trump. It will be impaneled starting on May 2.

Trump on Saturday described investigators in Georgia, New York and Washington as “radical,” “vicious” and “racist” and called for major protests if prosecutors “do anything wrong or illegal.”

Willis on Sunday urged the FBI to provide protective resources to the Fulton County courthouse because of Trump’s comments, which she said “escalated” security concerns.