Why next week? In a memo to Fulton County officials, Willis wrote that she had instructed the majority of her staff to work remotely between July 31 and August 18. That has been widely interpreted as a signal that she would present her case to a criminal grand jury and announce their decision during that window, which expires next Friday. Additionally, barricades and street closures around the Fulton County courthouse suggest a decision is imminent.
But what about the rest of this week? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has confirmed that at least four people have received subpoenas to testify before a Fulton County criminal grand jury — former Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, former state Sen Jen Jordan, former state Rep. Bee Nguyen and independent journalist George Chidi. They were not given specific dates to appear, but were told they would receive at least 48 hours advance notice before they were summoned. None have received word yet, meaning next week is the earliest they could appear. It’s possible only some of the witnesses are called.
How would an indictment happen? Prosecutors will present their case to the grand jury, bringing in investigators to summarize evidence and the findings of the previous special grand jury and any witnesses they feel are needed. Prosecutors would need to convince at least 12 of the 23 jurors that there’s probable cause that a person committed a crime to warrant a “true bill” of indictment. If jurors disagree, they’d vote for a “no bill.” After an indictment is handed up, it’s presented to a Fulton Superior Court judge in open court so it can then become an official public document.
What charges could be on the table? Willis is widely expected to seek racketeering charges against Trump and others, which in Georgia is defined more broadly than in federal law. The state’s RICO statute allows prosecutors to pull in evidence that wouldn’t otherwise be allowed to stand on its own in court and string together the actions of several people, if they can prove they were all working toward the same goal. Other charges Willis previously suggested she was considering: criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, violation of oath of office and involvement in violence or threats related to election administration.
Trump has already been indicted elsewhere so why do charges in Georgia even matter? At this point, Trump has been charged in connection with three other criminal probes — in Manhattan, Miami and Washington D.C. The federal probe in Washington deals with interference in the 2020 election and covers some of the events which took place in Georgia. So, would an indictment in Fulton County make much of a difference? Legal experts say yes. That’s because if Trump wins a second term in 2024 he might be able to short circuit the federal cases proceeding against him. That would be far harder to do in Fulton County, where the prosecution is being led by a local district attorney. Additionally, Trump could —debatably — pardon himself in a federal case. In Georgia, a board operating independently of the governor makes pardon decisions and someone may only be eligible for a pardon five years after they have served their sentence.
Staff writers Tamar Hallerman, Greg Bluestein and Bill Rankin contributed to this article.