Politicians and the press have long been lying to the American public about the 2020 election by asserting that former President Donald Trump and his lawyers attempted to overturn the results of the election based on disproven claims of election fraud. Now Fulton County, Georgia’s prosecutor is pushing the same lies, while also seeking to criminalize legitimate legal challenges to violations of the state’s election law.
Yesterday news broke that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis had obtained grand jury subpoenas to question several of Trump’s election lawyers, including Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Jenna Ellis, Cleta Mitchell, and Kenneth Chesebro. The special grand jury convened by Willis also issued subpoenas for South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and attorney and podcast host Jacki Pick Deason.
In January of this year, D.A. Willis first requested that the chief judge of the Fulton County Superior Court, Christopher Brasher, impanel a “special grand jury” to assist in Fulton County’s investigation “into any coordinated attempts to unlawfully alter the outcome of the 2020 elections in this state.” Willis claimed a special grand jury was needed because her office had “received information indicating a reasonable probability that the State of Georgia’s administration of elections in 2020, including the State’s election of the President of the United States, was subject to possible criminal disruptions.”
What those supposed “possible criminal disruptions” were, she didn’t say. And for good reason: Willis’ investigation represents a political witch hunt seeking retribution against Trump and his lawyers for challenging the Georgia election results.
The proof of this reality lies foremost in the fact that in seeking the appointment of a special grand jury, Willis stressed that it would lack the authority to return any indictments but instead “may make recommendations concerning criminal prosecution as it shall see fit.” In other words, the special grand jury will not return an indictment but instead will issue a report.
Given the D.A.’s one-sided presentation of evidence to the special grand jury, any report will, by design, merely regurgitate what Willis fed the group — garbage in, garbage out. Willis doesn’t need an indictment to prevail in her attempt to paint Trump and his supports as criminals, however, as just leaking information on the subpoenas served that end. In fact, even if the special grand jury recommends criminal charges, watch for Willis to demur for some self-righteous reason, so those accused cannot defend themselves or challenge any bogus legal theories of criminal liability advanced by the district attorney.
Further proof that the D.A.’s investigation is a sham comes from her focus on Trump’s January 2, 2021, telephone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Democrats and the sycophant media continue to falsely claim that Trump asked Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 votes during that call, even though a transcript of the conversation has been publicly available for over a year and a half. That transcript confirms that during the phone conversation with Raffensperger’s office, Trump and his legal team weren’t pushing Raffensperger to “find” more votes for Trump, but to investigate the evidence Trump’s legal team had accumulated showing illegal votes were cast in the 2020 general election in Georgia well in excess of Biden’s 11,779 vote margin.
Yet, in subpoenaing Cleta Mitchell, Willis reportedly asserted that Mitchell was a necessary witness for the grand jury proceedings because Mitchell participated in the call and allegedly “parroted claims of voter fraud.” The transcript, however, makes clear that Mitchell and the other attorneys involved were not pushing claims of voter fraud, but instead wanted the secretary of state’s office to investigate violations of Georgia election law.
Trump’s legal team had gathered evidence showing systemic violations of the state’s election code in some 30-plus categories. Trump had presented those arguments in a lawsuit his attorneys filed in Fulton County to challenge the election, but Brasher failed to timely appoint a judge to preside over Trump’s case. It was those same violations of the Georgia election code that Trump’s lawyers asked the secretary of state to investigate.
Yet in subpoenaing Mitchell, the Fulton County D.A. frames Mitchell’s legal representation of Trump as part of a “coordinated attempt” to “criminally disrupt” the 2020 election results. In other words, the prosecutor is seeking to criminalize legitimate legal challenges.
Ironically, to subpoena Mitchell and Trump’s other lawyers, Willis needed the permission of Brasher — the same judge who delayed proceedings in Trump’s election lawsuit until it was too late to matter.
That Willis used the special grand jury to subpoena several of Trump’s attorneys also confirms the political farce in play because attorney-client privilege will prevent Trump’s lawyers from answering many of the questions likely to be posed. Getting answers, however, is clearly not the goal. Rather, like the Jan. 6 Committee’s show trial taking place on the Hill, the Fulton County prosecutor seeks to shame critics of the 2020 election, and thereby teach Republicans to stay silent in the face of future election irregularities.
By going after the attorneys, as both the local D.A. and the Jan. 6 Committee are doing, Democrats are also ensuring that Republican candidates will have a difficult time finding lawyers willing to launch legitimate election challenges in the future. And, contrary to what the press is telling people, Trump’s claim that there were some 11,800 illegal votes included in Georgia’s final tally proved correct, which is preciously why the Fulton County prosecutor wants to focus on fraud.
The only fraud at play, though, concerns the storyline Willis and the media are feeding the public.
Margot Cleveland is The Federalist’s senior legal correspondent. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and Townhall.com, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
Cleveland is a lawyer and a graduate of the Notre Dame Law School, where she earned the Hoynes Prize—the law school’s highest honor. She later served for nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk for a federal appellate judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Cleveland is a former full-time university faculty member and now teaches as an adjunct from time to time.
As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of a young son with cystic fibrosis, Cleveland frequently writes on cultural issues related to parenting and special-needs children. Cleveland is on Twitter at @ProfMJCleveland. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.