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Why a special grand jury in Georgia's Trump probe would matter

A Georgia prosecutor investigating Donald Trump is moving forward with plans for a special grand jury.

By any fair measure, Donald Trump's lawyers are awfully busy. At last count, the former president is facing multiple civil suits, criminal charges against his private business, and a grand jury investigation into his financial practices.

But let's also not forget that the Republican is currently facing a criminal inquiry, which continues to get more interesting all the time. NBC News reported yesterday:

A Georgia prosecutor requested a special grand jury Thursday to aid her investigation into possible 2020 election interference by former President Donald Trump and others. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis sent a letter, obtained by NBC News, to Christopher Brasher, the chief judge of the Fulton County Superior Court, asking for a special grand jury to investigate any "coordinated attempts to unlawfully alter the outcome of the 2020 elections in this state."

For those who may need a refresher, let's review how we arrived at this point.

The trouble started in earnest on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021, when Trump told Georgia's Republican secretary of state, Brad 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: Fulton County District Attorney Fani 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' report added yesterday, 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.

As for the former president, Trump is clearly aware of the developments in Georgia, as evidenced by the strange written statement he issued yesterday afternoon. It 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."

Just to briefly fact-check this absurd litany of lies, Trump's call with Raffensperger was anything but "perfect"; Trump's extortion call with Ukraine's Volodymyr 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 judge still needs to approve the local district attorney's request for a special grand jury. Watch this space.