The Jolt: Special grand jury likely in Trump election case

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
In a December call with Frances Watson, chief investigator for the Georgia secretary of state's office, former President Donald Trump repeated unsubstantiated claims that "something bad happened" in Georgia's election. (Pete Marovich/Pool/ABACA/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

In a December call with Frances Watson, chief investigator for the Georgia secretary of state's office, former President Donald Trump repeated unsubstantiated claims that "something bad happened" in Georgia's election. (Pete Marovich/Pool/ABACA/TNS)

The criminal investigation into whether former President Donald Trump violated elections laws by interfering with the November outcome could soon enter a new phase.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is likely to impanel a special grand jury to probe Trump’s attempt to reverse his defeat, according to a person with direct knowledge of the discussions.

The development, first reported by The New York Times, is a sign that the investigation is ratcheting up. The special grand jury would have certain investigatory powers and could issue subpoenas to build a potential case, according to the person. Prosecutors could then return to a regular grand jury to seek a criminal indictment.

We’re told that investigators are reviewing Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s new book, which includes his annotated transcript of the January phone call from Trump in which he urged the Georgia official to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat. Raffensperger would presumably be a star witness in the criminal case if it were to move forward.

Willis, for her part, isn’t revealing much. She declined to give an update on the Trump situation in an interview last Wednesday with our AJC colleague Joshua Sharpe. Asked three different ways, Willis wouldn’t budge.

“That’s just an ongoing investigation,” she said. “That’s all I got for you.”


The three-dimensional chess board that is redistricting in Georgia came under fire Monday from Republican voters south of Atlanta, who accused GOP leaders of trying to “California my Coweta.”

The complaints came during a House hearing on the proposed state House map, which draws GOP state Rep. Philip Singleton (a frequent critic of Speaker David Ralston) into a more Democratic district.

More from our colleague Mark Niesse from the Capitol:

Besides Singleton, Democrats bear the brunt of the redistricting effort. At least 12 Democratic Party legislators were drawn into the same districts as other incumbents who aren't running for higher office.

The proposed state House map would safeguard the chamber's Republican majority, but Georgia's population growth and changing demographics would allow Democrats to make gains. The Republican map would reduce the number of Republican-leaning districts from 103 to 97 in the 180-seat legislative body.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution



One burning question in the redistricting process is the future of U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes most of Columbus, part of Macon, and a large swath of Southwest Georgia.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports it is the most underpopulated district in Georgia:

Republicans hope they can gain ground and eventually flip the seat that has been reliably Democratic for decades to offset losses elsewhere, said Chris Grant, a political science professor at Mercer University.

“They are doing what they can to make (Bishop) more vulnerable," he said. “He is going to retire eventually, and they may be opening the door for a Republican to replace Sanford eventually. ...Republicans are going to lose strongholds in the metro Atlanta area, and I'm not sure the districts they are creating right now will continue to perform very well in the long run. “That may be the purpose of the map: to get Sanford to think about retiring," Grant added.

- The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer



8:30 a.m.: Committee meetings begin, continue throughout the day;

10 a.m.: The Senate session begins*;

11:00 a.m.: House Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee hearing;

1:30 p.m.: The House gavels in.

*The state Senate is expected to debate and vote on the new state Senate map.


State Sen. Jen Jordan has raised more than $1 million for her run for state attorney general, her campaign announced Tuesday.

Meg Scribner, Jordan’s campaign manager, said Jordan’s six-month haul marks a primary fundraising record for a Democratic challenger for Attorney General in Georgia.

Jordan will face Atlanta attorney Charlie Bailey in the Democratic primary on May 24. The winner will go on to challenge Georgia AG Chris Carr in November.


Kolbey Gardner, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, has ended his campaign, citing mental health issues.

“I love Georgia but these last few weeks have been tough,” he wrote on Twitter Monday night.

Gardner added that he is the sole breadwinner in his family and is also taking care of elderly family members.


The Atlanta mayoral race has entered the runoff phase, and the AJC’s Wilborn Nobles and J.D. Capelouto’s latest edition of “The Race for City Hall” discusses how the campaign is shifting now that it’s down to Felicia Moore and Andre Dickens.


Speaking of the mayor’s race, Jolt reader Paula writes in with the following questions about voting in the upcoming municipal runoffs:

“Do we again need to apply for ballots? When will the ballots be mailed to us? What are dates for early voting?”

Paula, thanks for the questions.

We asked our AJC voting experts and can tell you yes, voters must apply again for absentee ballots for the upcoming runoffs in Georgia. The deadline to apply for absentee ballots is Nov. 19 (11 days before Election Day on Nov. 30).

Local election boards will decide when early voting will be available. State law says early voting for runoffs will begin “as soon as possible” with at least one week of early voting available.

Fulton and DeKalb counties announced Monday that early voting will run for eight days, from Nov. 17 to Nov. 24.


Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has ended the city’s indoor mask mandate, saying the number of COVID-19 cases has entered the “green zone.”

“While it makes me personally anxious, I’ve always said we’d follow the science. Thus, we are lifting the city-wide mask mandate,” Bottoms said in a tweet.

The AJC’s J.D. Capelouto writes that Bottoms implemented an indoor mask mandate for all individuals, regardless of vaccine status, in July because the Delta variant had begun to spread rapidly.

That order is now lifted, although masks will continue to be required inside city buildings.


Every city and county in Georgia is eligible to receive Coronavirus relief funds as part of the American Rescue Plan that President Joe Biden signed into law earlier this year.

The money would be substantial for any municipality, but especially for small and rural areas that rarely receive cash directly from the federal government, along with the latitude to use it as they see fit.

Tia will have a story up Tuesday morning about how some of Georgia’s smallest counties and towns are planning to use their COVID-19 funds, as well as the state and national organizations that are helping them navigate the process.

Let us know if you’re hearing anything from your local government that you find interesting, innovative or eyebrow-raising regarding Coronavirus funds.


If you love a policy discussion of Georgia’s urban-rural dynamics as much as we do, Georgia State University has you covered next Tuesday.

GSU will hold an all-day online symposium on the issue. The event is free and open to the public.

Morning speakers include friend-of-the-Jolt Charlie Hayslett, while the afternoon will feature a panel of Georgia mayors: Hardie Davis of Augusta, Matt Seale of Ocilla, Andrea Gibby from Young Harris, and Van Johnson from Savannah.

Bring your popcorn and your questions.


As always, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to, and

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