Two-hundred people swore to truthfully answer questions on Monday as a judge in Atlanta began the process of seating of a special grand jury in the investigation into whether former President Donald Trump and others illegally tried to influence the 2020 election in Georgia.
The investigation has been underway since early last year, and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis earlier this year took the unusual step of requesting a special grand jury to help it along. In a letter to the chief judge of the county Superior Court, she noted that the special grand jury would be able to issue subpoenas to people who have refused to cooperate otherwise.
Because of the intense public interest in this case, the court has made arrangements for at least parts of the special grand jury seating process to be broadcast to the news media and public. Once the special grand jury is seated, however, everything it does will happen in secret.
As the selection process got started Monday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who’s been tasked with overseeing the grand jury, led the 200 potential grand jurors in swearing an oath to give truthful answers about their qualifications to serve.
He explained that grand jurors must be at least 18, must be U.S. citizens and must have lived in Fulton County for the past six months. Anyone who’s an elected official or has been for the last two years, anyone convicted of a felony or anyone who’s served on a Fulton County jury or grand jury in the last year is not qualified to serve, McBurney said.
Because the investigation involves actions surrounding the 2020 general election, it is important that grand jurors “bring an open mind to the process.” Anyone who is already convinced that a crime did or did not happen should say they have a conflict when asked, McBurney said.
After identifying other potential conflicts — for example, plans to be out of the country for an extended time, having to care for someone after a major surgery — McBurney went through the first 100 potential jurors and asked them to say whether they have a conflict. A quarter of the grand jurors said they had a conflict and were being questioned privately by the judge and prosecutors to determine whether they will be excused.
Willis has confirmed that her team is looking into a January 2021 phone call in which Trump pushed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the votes needed for him to win the state. She has also said they’re looking at a November 2020 phone call between U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Raffensperger, the abrupt resignation of the U.S. attorney in Atlanta on Jan. 4, 2021, and comments made during December 2020 Georgia legislative committee hearings on the election.
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.