Fulton DA teases possible August charges in Trump probe

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks during a Court Watch event at Atlanta City Hall, Tuesday, May 2, 2023, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks during a Court Watch event at Atlanta City Hall, Tuesday, May 2, 2023, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis hinted that she might seek indictments in early to mid-August in her long-running inquiry of former President Donald Trump and his allies.

The timetable was disclosed in a Thursday letter to Ural Glanville, Fulton Superior Court’s chief judge, and 20 other county officials. Willis listed 10 days between July 31 and August 18 in which she plans to direct a large percentage of her staff to work remotely.

“This remote work will reduce the number of Fulton County District Attorney’s office staff in the Fulton County Courthouse and Government Center by approximately 70%,” Willis noted, adding that only her leadership team, armed investigators and a couple of other teams will be working in the building those days.

The remote work dates correspond with when two regular grand juries with indictment authority are scheduled to hear evidence. What’s known among prosecutors as “Grand Jury A” meets on Mondays and Tuesdays, while “Grand Jury B” gathers on Thursdays and Fridays.

Those grand juries, which have 16 to 23 members and meet in two month terms, hear evidence for all sorts of felony cases on any given day, from murder and arson to shoplifting. For an indictment to be handed up, at least 12 grand jurors must agree that there is enough probable cause — more evidence for than against — that a person committed a crime.

Willis’s letter, which was first reported by The New York Times, is yet another strong signal that the DA is planning to seek charges against major players who aggressively questioned Georgia’s 2020 election results, including Trump.

The DA has spent more than two years examining whether the former president and his allies broke any Georgia laws when they pressed state officials to “find” votes and call for a special legislative session to reverse Democrat Joe Biden’s narrow win. Also under investigation: the appointment of a slate of “alternate” GOP electors, the accessing of sensitive election data in Coffee County; and attempts to pressure a Fulton County poll worker, among other events between Nov. 2020 and Jan. 2021.

In her letter to Glanville, Willis also requested that Fulton judges not schedule trials and in-person hearings during the weeks of Aug. 7 and Aug. 14.

The judge had already been given a heads up about Willis’s timeframe to seek indictments.

During a May 8 hearing for alleged spa shooter and death penalty defendant Robert Aaron Long, the judge asked parties to provide him possible dates to hold pretrial hearings.

“There is a concern about security in the courthouse during the months of August and September,” Fulton prosecutor Michael Carlson told Glanville, a clear reference to the Trump inquiry and Willis’s charging decisions.

Still, Glanville said he was setting down Aug. 21-24 for the hearings, asking lawyers to check back with him early that month to see if “everything holds.”

Willis previously told local law enforcement officials to be ready for “heightened security and preparedness” between July 11 and Sept. 1 because she predicted her indictment decisions might “provoke a significant public reaction.”

In recent weeks, prosecutors have interviewed a half-dozen fake electors after offering them immunity deals and worked to stymie attempts from Trump and GOP elector Cathy Latham to all but derail their inquiry.

On Friday, Fulton Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney denied a push from Trump’s Atlanta-based attorneys to receive three weeks to file a reply to Willis’s response to the latter.

“To date, the Court has received well over five hundred pages of briefing, argument, and exhibits on the issues raised by former President Trump and Ms. Latham,” McBurney wrote. “That is plenty.”

It is now up to McBurney to determine whether to hold a hearing on Trump’s motion, which seeks to disqualify Willis from investigating the former president, seal the final report of the special grand jury that recommended potential indictments and suppress any evidence the jury uncovered before any indictments are handed up.

In a separate “friend of the court” filing on Friday, a bipartisan group of former federal and state prosecutors, including former DeKalb DA J. Tom Morgan, urged McBurney to dismiss Trump’s motion. Any request for relief is “premature,” they said, since no one has been indicted.

“This Court should not grant the sweeping and unprecedented relief that Trump’s motion seeks,” wrote the group, which includes former Fulton prosecutor and state Rep. Tanya Miller; ex-Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld; and Donald Ayer, deputy U.S. attorney general during the George H.W. Bush administration. “Being subject to criminal investigation and potential indictment is not a cognizable injury that can support standing.”