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Fani Willis doesn't have to wait out litigation to bring charges

Trump's long-shot attempt to quash the special grand jury's report doesn’t have to upend the Fulton County district attorney's plan. But what is her plan?


Donald Trump is going after the Georgia special grand jury with a long-shot motion to quash. Judge Robert McBurney ordered Monday that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis respond to Trump’s motion by May 1, which is a little more than a month from now.

And though the focus lately has been on potential charges against Trump in New York, you might be wondering what this means for Willis and the decisions she said were “imminent” two months ago. Will it delay her plan?

Not necessarily. But it comes down to what Willis’ plan is, and that’s not clear.

Remember, the special grand jury wasn’t tasked with returning an indictment against Trump or anyone else. It was investigative, tasked with examining possible interference in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

That’s what has made the Trump team’s attacks on the special grand jury perplexing from a legal perspective. Willis needs to go through a regular grand jury to get an indictment, and anyone charged in an indictment there would have the full scope of rights that any defendant has when charged. That is, the regular grand jury is a separate proceeding.

Either way, there’s nothing stopping her from responding before May 1 if she wants to move things along.

Given that distinction, Trump’s motion might not affect Willis’ timing if she is indeed seeking criminal charges against Trump or others in a regular grand jury. In fact, there’s nothing in McBurney’s order that stops Willis from obtaining an indictment through the regular grand jury even before responding to Trump’s motion on the special grand jury. Either way, there’s nothing stopping her from responding before May 1 if she wants to move things along.

The bigger question is whether Willis sees the judge’s order as a bad thing, or as it giving her more time to build her case. How and when she responds to Trump’s motion could give us a clue about her thinking and what’s next.