As my colleague Steve Benen recounted Wednesday, Freeman and Shaye Moss, her daughter, were accused by Trump, Rudy Giuliani and others of tampering with ballots at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena on Election Day in 2020. But federal and state investigators found no evidence to support those accusations, and at least one Justice Department official told Trump the claims were false.
Nonetheless, Trump took aim at Freeman again this week on his social media platform, Truth Social, baselessly accusing her of lying under oath and committing election crimes.
Because Freeman has an ongoing defamation suit against Giuliani, some may wonder whether these new posts could enable her to sue Trump himself. Although Trump could be insulated from defamation claims regarding statements made during his presidency, a question that federal courts are still weighing, Freeman likely could sue him for repeating false statements about her now. After all, author E. Jean Carroll recently filed a new defamation lawsuit against Trump after he repeated certain allegations about her on Truth Social shortly before he was deposed in her case.
So what might have prompted Trump to reignite his public attacks against Freeman? It's true the House Jan. 6 committee released her transcribed interview last week, but is that really why Trump is going after her again?
A more likely explanation begins in Georgia, not on Capitol Hill. As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Tuesday, the special grand jury convened by Georgia's Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is wrapping up its investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
According to the newspaper:
The panel could vote within weeks on recommendations, including whether Willis should press any charges, according to the outlet. If a majority of jurors can agree on a course of action, it will be included in a final report, known as a special presentment.
It's not so much that an indictment is imminent. The report would first go to Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Robert McBurney for review before being turned over to Willis for "potential criminal prosecution," the newspaper reported. And that would require empaneling a new grand jury.
Yet, as the special grand jury wraps up its work, it's unknown whether Willis' team plans to seek testimony from Trump or has even signaled to his legal team that it intends to do so. As the newspaper notes, “Formally petitioning him for his appearance could trigger a lengthy court fight — and he would likely plead the Fifth Amendment.” Still, that petition would not exactly be welcomed by Trump.
Could developments in Fulton County be why Trump suddenly lashed out again at Freeman? And will Freeman seek compensation for all he has put her through? After all, she provided this heartbreaking testimony before the Jan. 6 committee:
There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere. Do you know how it feels to have the President of the United States to target you? The President of the United States is supposed to represent every American, not to target one. But he targeted me, Lady Rudy, a small business owner, a mother, a proud American citizen who stand up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of the pandemic. ...
Now I won’t even introduce myself by my name anymore. I get nervous when I bump into someone I know in the grocery store who says my name. I’m worried about who’s listening. I get nervous when I have to give my name for food orders. I’m always concerned of who’s around me. I’ve lost my name, and I’ve lost my reputation. ...
I’ve lost my sense of security, all because a group of people, starting with number 45 and his ally Rudy Giuliani, decided to scapegoat me and my daughter Shaye to push their own lies about how the presidential election was stolen.
I asked Protect Democracy, which has been co-counsel to Freeman both in her defamation lawsuit against Giuliani and in connection with her Jan. 6 committee testimony, for comment about their client’s next steps. Her attorney Von DuBose provided this statement:
Nobody, not even a former president, has a right to intentionally spread damaging, defamatory lies about fellow citizens. The lies about Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss have been proven false over and over again, but they have nonetheless upended my clients’ lives and continue to threaten their safety.
That Freeman’s life was upended because of her service was not lost on the Jan. 6 committee. At its June 21 hearing last year, Rep. Adam Schiff expressed how sorry committee members are for what Freeman and her daughter endured, remarking, “No election workers should be subject to such heinous treatment just for doing their job.”
Their sacrifice hasn't been lost on President Joe Biden either. On Friday, the second anniversary of the Capitol attack, he will award the Presidential Citizens Medal to Freeman, Moss and 10 others who also “demonstrated courage and selflessness during a moment of peril for our nation” and “performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.”
Yet, Trump has doubled down on vilifying and endangering them, this time without any protections the presidency could afford him.
Watch this space — for a potential new case?