The election investigation in Georgia is entering a new phase with search warrants

The Georgia prosecutor investigating whether former President Donald Trump and his allies broke the law in trying to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state is seeking search warrants in the case, a sign that the wide-ranging investigation has entered a new phase.

The disclosure was made Monday in a court order filed by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who oversees the special grand jury set up to assist in the investigation. In an order sealing any search warrants and related documents from public release, McBurney wrote that District Attorney Fani Willis’ office “is now seeking to obtain and execute a number of search warrants, the affidavits of which are based on sensitive information obtained during the investigation.”

Disclosure of the information could jeopardize the investigation, McBurney wrote, “causing, among other things, flight from prosecution, destruction or tampering of evidence, and intimidation of potential witnesses.” It could also lead to risks to the “safety and well-being” of people involved in the research, he wrote.

It was not immediately clear what the targets of the search warrants are or whether any search warrants still need to be approved by a judge. To obtain a search warrant, prosecutors must convince a judge that they have probable cause that a crime occurred in the location where authorities want to search.

As the Willis investigation intensifies, open court appearances in the case have provided a rare window into the workings of a special grand jury that sits behind closed doors.

Willis, a Democrat, opened the investigation early last year, shortly after the release of a recording of a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call in which Trump suggested that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “find” the votes needed to overturn defeat by Democrat Joe Biden.

In addition to the Trump-Raffensperger call, Willis confirmed early that she was investigating a call made by Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to Raffensperger, the U.S. attorney’s sudden departure in Atlanta in early January 2021, and statements made by during legislative committee meetings by individuals advancing rebuttable allegations that cast doubt on the legitimacy of the state’s elections.

Court filings in recent months have also indicated that Willis is interested in a slate of bogus electors who signed a certificate in December 2020 falsely stating that Trump had won the state and that they were the state’s “duly elected and qualified” electors. He told a court that the 16 Georgia Republicans who signed that certificate have all been notified that they are targets of the investigation, meaning they could face criminal charges.

Lawyers for Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and Trump lawyer, say their client has also been told he is a target of Willis’ investigation. He appeared at state legislative committee hearings in December 2020 and made allegations of election fraud in Georgia. Giuliani was also involved in coordinating the fraudulent election plan, Willis wrote in a court filing. He testified before the Special Judiciary Committee in August.

Willis’ investigation has also expanded to tampering with voting equipment at a polling station in a rural Georgia county about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta.

Documents, emails, security videos and deposition testimony produced in response to subpoenas in a long-running lawsuit showed attorney Sidney Powell and other Trump allies hired a computer forensics team to go to Coffee County to create complete copies of data and software for the elections equipment there. Willis is seeking testimony from Powell and has also requested documents from the company that employs the computer forensics team.

Another thread Willis appears to be pursuing is alleged attempts to pressure a Fulton County election official. A petition filed last month indicates he wants to question Harrison Floyd, director of Black Voices for Trump. Willis said in the report that Floyd and Trevian Cootee, whom Willis described as a “purported journalist” based in Chicago, tried to pressure Ruby Freeman. Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, were election workers who were falsely accused by Trump allies of removing fake ballots from a suitcase during the ballot count.

As the investigation progressed, several people who have been called to testify tried to avoid testifying. Most were unsuccessful.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican facing a re-election challenge from Democrat Stacey Abrams, managed to delay his filing until next month’s election.

Graham’s attempt to fight the subpoena is pending before a federal appeals court. Willis said in a court filing that she wants to speak to Graham about the calls she made to Raffensperger and his staff in which she allegedly asked about “a review of certain absentee ballots taken in Georgia to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump.” Graham has denied any wrongdoing and said his status as a senator shields him from having to testify.

A number of high-ranking Georgia state officials, including Raffensperger and Attorney General Chris Carr, have already testified before the special grand jury. Others in Trump’s orbit who have been questioned include attorneys John Eastman and Kenneth Chesebro. And the panel is still awaiting testimony from others, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Willis has said she could seek to compel Trump himself to testify. The former president hired a legal team in Atlanta and last month dismissed the investigation as a “strictly political witch hunt!”

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