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GA Prosecutor Urges Patience in Probe  02/26 06:13

   

   ATLANTA (AP) -- The Georgia prosecutor investigating potential efforts by 
Donald Trump and others to influence last year's general election has a message 
for people who are eager to see whether the former president will be charged: 
Be patient.

   "I'm in no rush," Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said this week 
in an interview with The Associated Press. "I think people think that I feel 
this immense pressure. I don't."

   Willis, a Democrat elected in November, sent letters to state officials on 
Feb. 10 instructing them to preserve records related to the election, 
particularly those that may contain evidence of attempts to influence elections 
officials. But she said this week that she's not sure where the investigation 
will go or how long it will take.

   Her office confirmed that the probe includes a call in which Trump urged 
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to 
overturn Joe Biden's win in the state. Willis also said she has questions about 
a call U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham made to Raffensperger, the sudden departure of 
a top federal prosecutor and statements made before Georgia legislative 
committees.

   The investigation is in the very early stages, Willis said. Lawyers are 
sifting through data --- including news reports --- to compile a witness list. 
Once they start talking to people, it will inevitably lead to other people and 
records they want to see. Eventually, Willis said, they'll have enough 
information to decide whether laws were actually broken.

   Democrats and a few Republicans have condemned Trump's call to 
Raffensperger, with some critics saying the recording is proof of criminal 
election interference.

   Lawyers from around the country have offered help, Willis said. While she 
may eventually seek outside counsel with specific expertise, she said, it will 
require careful vetting.

   "I don't want anyone that's already got a result in mind," she said.

   Willis wrote in the letters to state officials that her office had opened a 
criminal investigation into "potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting 
the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and 
local government bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office 
and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election's 
administration."

   She wrote that her team has "no reason to believe that any Georgia official 
is a target of this investigation."

   After a coronavirus-related pause, two grand juries are to be seated next 
week, which will allow prosecutors to seek subpoenas.

   Following the November general election, Trump refused to accept his loss by 
about 12,000 votes in Georgia, long a Republican stronghold. He and his allies 
made unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud and hurled insults at 
Raffensperger, Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan --- all fellow 
Republicans --- for not acting to overturn his loss.

   State and federal officials have repeatedly said the election was secure and 
that there was no evidence of systemic fraud.

   In a Jan. 2 telephone conversation with Raffensperger, Trump repeatedly 
suggested Raffensperger could change the certified results of the presidential 
election, an assertion the secretary of state firmly rejected.

   "All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one 
more than we have," Trump said. "Because we won the state."

   When Willis' investigation became public, senior Trump adviser Jason Miller 
said it "is simply the Democrats' latest attempt to score political points by 
continuing their witch hunt against President Trump, and everybody sees through 
it."

   During the call with Raffensperger, Trump also appeared to suggest that 
Byung J. "BJay" Pak, the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Atlanta, was a 
"never-Trumper" --- a term often used for conservative critics of Trump. Pak 
abruptly announced his resignation the day after the call became public. He's 
never publicly explained his departure.

   "I find it particularly peculiar the way that he left and when he left," 
Willis said of Pak. "It's something that, to do my job correctly, I have to ask 
questions about. That's just logical."

   Prior to his call with Raffensperger, Trump tried unsuccessfully to pressure 
others in Georgia. While election officials were verifying signatures on 
absentee ballot envelopes in one metro-Atlanta county in December, Trump told a 
lead investigator in a phone call to "find the fraud," saying it would make the 
investigator a national hero. Trump also demanded that Kemp order a special 
session of the state legislature to overturn Biden's victory.

   Before those calls, Raffensperger said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South 
Carolina Republican, called him to ask whether the secretary of state had the 
power to reject certain absentee ballots, which Raffensperger interpreted as a 
suggestion to toss legally cast votes.

   Graham has called the idea that he would suggest that legally cast ballots 
be discarded "ridiculous."

   Willis said she hasn't determined whether the Graham call violated the law 
but said, "It is of interest."

   Asked whether she is looking at debunked claims Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani 
made before Georgia legislative committees casting doubt on the legitimacy of 
the state's election, Willis said, "We won't overreach, but if those things do 
seem to be part of a plan to influence the election, they'll become relevant."

 
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