A Georgia county prosecutor falsely claimed in a federal court filing last week that Donald Trump requested the Georgia secretary of state “‘find 11,780 votes’ in the former President’s favor.” This falsehood exposes the Fulton County district attorney’s “grand jury” investigation and her targeting of Trump, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and other Republicans as a sham.
In the response brief she filed last Thursday in support of the special purpose grand jury’s subpoena of Graham, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told a Georgia federal court that “a central focus” of her investigation into the 2020 election “is former President Donald Trump’s January 2, 2021, telephone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger requesting that the Secretary ‘find 11,780 votes’ in the former President’s favor.”
With that opening paragraph, the Fulton County Democrat revealed the hoax of an investigation she is running. Trump did not request that Raffensperger “find 11,780 votes.” Period. It never happened.
Rather, during the January 2, 2021, telephone conversation between Trump’s legal team and the secretary of state’s office, Trump’s lawyer explained to Raffensperger that “the court is not acting on our petition. They haven’t even assigned a judge,” and that “the people of Georgia and the people of America have a right to know the answers.”
During that call, Trump and his lawyers ticked off the numerous categories of illegal votes of which they had concrete evidence—some 25 categories. Trump had challenged those votes in the petition referenced by his attorney, but the court delayed the proceedings, which is why the legal team asked the secretary of state’s office to investigate the problem.
Further, as the transcript of the conversation confirmed, Trump’s legal team told Raffensperger that it had solid evidence of illegal votes easily exceeding the official margin of Biden’s victory of 11,779. Under Georgia election law, if the “evidence establishe[s] that there are more illegal or irregular votes than the margin of victory, the remedy is a new election,” which is why Trump focused on his need to find 11,800 votes throughout his conversation with Raffensperger.
Trump repeated that refrain several times during the call, stating, “I have to find 12,000 votes and I have them times a lot. And therefore, I won the state.” Not once during their conversation did Trump ask Raffensperger “‘to find 11,780 votes’ in the former President’s favor.” Rather, Trump spoke of his own desire “to find 11,780 votes,” and did so in the context of highlighting the tens of thousands of illegal votes for which his legal team had ample evidence and they asked merely that the secretary of state review their evidence of illegal voting.
That appeal to the secretary of state came because Fulton County Chief Judge Chris Brasher failed to appoint a judge eligible to hear Trump’s election contest for a month. Ironically, the same Judge Brasher had authorized Willis’s special purpose grand jury investigation, with Willis claiming the January 2, 2021, telephone call to Raffensperger—necessitated by Judge Brasher’s delay tactics—represents “a central focus” of her investigation.
Willis’ “special purpose grand jury,” however, is one in name only, lacking the power to indict and instead only authorized to issue a report. Nonetheless, the county prosecutor proceeded to seek subpoenas for several big-name Republicans in addition to Graham, including Trump’s election lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Jenna Ellis, and Cleta Mitchell.
The Fulton County prosecutor also targeted many top Georgia Republicans including state Sen. Burt Jones, the current Republican candidate for the 2022 general election for lieutenant governor. A state court judge ruled late last month, however, that Willis and her “special prosecution team may no longer investigate Senator Jones” given the prosecutor’s public support of Jones’s Democrat opponent.
Willis suffered a second setback when a federal court ruled questioning of Republican Rep. Jody Hice before the special purpose grand jury would be checked by both the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution and the “high-ranking official” doctrine. Those doctrines “may operate to prevent the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office from obtaining answers to certain questions from Congressman Hice before the Special Purpose Grand Jury,” a federal court ruled in late July.
Graham likewise challenged Willis’s special purpose grand jury, filing a Motion to Quash the subpoena with a federal court in Georgia, arguing that the Speech or Debate Clause, the high-ranking official doctrine, and sovereign immunity all prevent the county district attorney from hauling the South Carolina senator into Fulton County for questioning. Graham’s legal team presented a hard-hitting rejoinder to the subpoena by highlighting how, with the Speech or Debate Clause, the Framers sought to prevent precisely the political warfare in which Willis is engaging.
But Willis’s response filed on Thursday proves even more damning to her attempts to interrogate Graham, with her court filings revealing the investigation is a sham because the “central focus” of that investigation rests on a lie—that Trump asked Raffensperger “to find 11,780 votes.”
This provable falsehood should prompt the closing of Willis’s investigation, but it likely won’t given Fulton County politics. That falsehood represents another reason the Speech or Debate clause protects Graham from Willis’s political witch hunt: to “prevent intimidation by the executive and accountability before a possibly hostile judiciary.”
Further, as Graham’s attorneys stressed in their reply brief filed on Friday, while a prosecutor may have more leeway in forcing testimony by a legislator as part of a criminal investigation, Willis’s “special grand jury,” which cannot indict, qualifies under Georgia law as a “civil investigative body.” As such, Willis’ reliance on case law that allows a grand jury investigating “third-party crimes” to subpoena a legislator is misplaced.
While true, the bigger problem for Willis is that the supposed “third-party crime” she is investigating never happened. Since the transcript of Trump’s call with Raffensperger has been public for more than one year, the Fulton County prosecutor should know that fact. She likely doesn’t care, however.
The question now is whether presiding federal judge Leigh Martin May, a Barack Obama appointee, will care about Willis’s transparent political targeting of Graham and other Republicans.