Fani Willis Faces a Historic August as Trump Probe Reaches Key Moment

5 minute read

August is set to be a turning point for both former President Donald Trump and the woman poised to lead one of the cases against him.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has been investigating the former President's role in efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election for more than two years, since the revelation of a recorded January 2021 phone call in which Trump urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the votes that would win him the state. Next month, her decision about whether to charge him will push the first Black woman to serve as Atlanta’s D.A. even further into the national spotlight. 

At a back-to-school event over the weekend, Willis affirmed to local TV station WXIA that she would make an announcement about the case before September 1. 

"The work is accomplished," Willis said. "We've been working for two-and-a-half years. We're ready to go."

The Fulton County District Attorney launched her investigation in February 2021 after news broke of the Raffensberger call. In May 2022, Willis convened a special grand jury, which interviewed about 75 witnesses including various prominent Republicans: former Trump Lawyer Rudy Giuliani, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. 

The grand jury produced a report in January, and although portions of it were released to the public indicating some witnesses may have committed perjury, details of recommended charges against individuals were kept secret. Since 2021, the probe has expanded to include baseless claims of election fraud, the breach of elections equipment in rural Coffee County, and the actions of a slate of fake Trump-supporting electors, at least half of whom made immunity deals with Wills’ office. 

This month, two new grand juries were seated; one will consider charges against Trump if Willis brings them. On Monday, a judge denied a motion by Trump’s legal team to block Willis’ investigation, though Trump is still seeking to do so through other avenues. 

Willis is no stranger to the limelight. During her 16-year tenure as a prosecutor in the office she now helms, she went after a dozen public school educators for allegedly cheating on standardized tests. At eight months, that criminal trial is still the longest in Georgia history. In 2020, Willis ousted her former boss, who had served as District Attorney for more than two decades but had become embroiled in scandal. Since then, she has overseen high-profile cases, seeking the death penalty against the alleged shooter in the 2021 Atlanta spa shootings and indicting rapper Young Thug under the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act—the same act the educators were convicted for conspiring to violate. Some have speculated that she is preparing to bring RICO charges against Trump as well. Willis’ office did not respond to a request for comment on her pending decision about Trump.

According to the recent WXIA report, Willis wrote a letter to the Fulton County Sheriff in anticipation of security risks. She has asked judges to avoid putting trials and in-person hearings on the calendar between August 7 and August 14 so her team can work remotely. 

"Some people may not be happy with the decisions that I'm making," Willis told the local TV station. "And sometimes, when people are unhappy, they act in a way that could create harm.”  

Her comments come after security barricades appeared around the Fulton County Courthouse last week. In a statement to CNN, the Fulton County Sheriff’s office said that the barriers would help “enhance security during high profile legal proceedings,” while other protective measures might not be so apparent. 

"I think that the sheriff is doing something smart in making sure that the courthouse stays safe,” Willis said. “I'm not willing to put any of the employees or the constituents that come to the courthouse in harm's way.” 

Her own experience may make her especially wary of what’s to come. Even in 2021, Willis faced so many threats from Trump supporters that she had to have a larger-than-customary and continuous protective detail to accompany her to restaurants and the gym.   

Trump has already been hit with two indictments this year, becoming the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges. One focuses on allegations that he falsified records to hide hush-money payments. The other covers his alleged mishandling of classified documents. 

Willis’ case likely overlaps with a Justice Department investigation into whether Trump sought to overturn the 2020 election and his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Since Trump announced he’d received a target letter in mid-July in the federal investigation, the prospect of a potential indictment from Special Counsel Jack Smith has dominated the national conversation. On Monday, the former president posted on Truth Social that he assumes an indictment from Smith “will be coming out any day now.” 

For her part, Willis has said she is not coordinating with Smith. 

“I don’t know what Jack Smith is doing and Jack Smith doesn’t know what I’m doing,” Willis told Atlanta radio station WABE on Saturday. “In all honesty, if Jack Smith was standing next to me, I’m not sure I would know who he was. My guess is he probably can’t pronounce my name correctly.”

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