As Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis requests a special grand jury to aid her investigation into Donald Trump's alleged election interference, the controversy clearly has the former president's attention. I can say this with confidence because Trump, who said very little about the matter for months, suddenly can't stop talking about it.
Here, for example, is a statement the former president issued on Friday afternoon:
"So let me get this straight, I am being investigated in Georgia for asking an Attorney General with many lawyers and others knowingly on the phone to look for corruption, which definitely took place in the Georgia Presidential election — but the people who committed the crime are in no way, shape, or form under investigation and are instead being protected?"
It's a strange defense for a variety of reasons, but of particular interest was the apparent admission that he pressured Georgia's state attorney general to look for non-existent corruption. We knew that Trump was facing an investigation over his lobbying efforts toward Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, but Friday's statement suggests the former president might be receiving scrutiny for multiple calls.
Also notable is the sheer volume of related foolish statements. A day earlier, Trump issued a separate press release that read in part:
"My phone call to the Secretary of State of Georgia was perfect, perhaps even more so than my call with the Ukrainian President, if that's possible. I knew there were large numbers of people on the line, including numerous lawyers for both sides. Although I assumed the call may have been inappropriately, and perhaps illegally, recorded, I was not informed of that. I didn't say anything wrong in the call, made while I was President on behalf of the United States of America, to look into the massive voter fraud which took place in Georgia... What this Civil Special Grand Jury should be looking into is not my perfect phone call, but the large scale voter fraud that took place in Georgia."
Just to briefly recap, Trump's call with Raffensperger was anything but "perfect"; Trump's extortion call with Zelensky was literally an impeachable offense; Raffensperger did nothing wrong by recording the conversation; and Trump has had more than a year to produce evidence of "massive voter fraud" in Georgia and he's failed spectacularly.
A week earlier, the former president issued a different statement insisting he secretly won Georgia, despite reality. A few days earlier, he added in another statement, "Where did all those votes show up from in Georgia, where it was just revealed they sold ballots for $10 a piece."
No such thing has been "revealed."
I don't care that Trump is issuing a bunch of statements with obvious lies. I do care that Trump's statements with obvious lies apparently reflect quite a bit of anxiety about his legal jeopardy.
As for the larger controversy, in case anyone needs a refresher, let's review how we arrived at this point.
The trouble appeared to start in earnest on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021, when Trump told Raffensperger that he wanted someone to "find" enough votes to flip the state in the then-president's favor, the will of the voters be damned.
As we discussed soon after, Raffensperger recorded the call, offering the public the opportunity to hear Trump, desperate to claim power he didn't earn, exploring ways to cheat, begging others to participate in his anti-democracy scheme, and even directing some subtle threats at the state's top elections official. By some measures, it was among the most scandalous recordings ever made of an American president.
It wasn't long before some observers questioned whether such efforts were legal. Politico published a report noting that Trump's antics "could run afoul of federal and state criminal statutes, according to legal experts and lawmakers."
Prosecutors in Georgia started thinking along the same lines: Willis opened a criminal investigation into alleged violations of state election law — which seemed quite sensible, since trying to interfere with the lawful administration of an election is a crime.
The investigation has proceeded for months, though as NBC News' reported last week, a significant number of witnesses have refused to cooperate without subpoenas. The empaneling of a special grand jury — which would sit indefinitely — would have the power to subpoena witnesses, which is why the Fulton County prosecutor requested one.
A judge still needs to approve the local district attorney's request for a special grand jury. Watch this space.