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Georgia criminal investigation into former President Trump reaches grand jury phase

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A criminal investigation in Georgia is looking into former President Trump's alleged attempt to overturn the state's election results, and last week two grand juries convened in Fulton County, potentially giving prosecutors the opportunity to issue subpoenas for documents and witnesses. Atlanta Journal-Constitution Washington correspondent Tia Mitchell joins CBSN's "Red & Blue" anchor Elaine Quijano with more on the next steps in the investigation.

Video Transcript

- A criminal investigation into former President Trump is entering a new phase in Georgia. The case is centered on Mr. Trump's alleged attempts to overturn the state's election results. Last week, two grand juries convened in Fulton County, which covers a significant part of Atlanta.

It marks the first time prosecutors have issued subpoenas for documents and witnesses. District Attorney Fanny Willis is investigating whether Mr. Trump violated state election laws during a January phone call with Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Here's part of that conversation.

DONALD TRUMP: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.

- Mr. Trump lost Georgia to, now, President Biden by about 12,000 votes. Willis is sent letters, last month, to Georgia officials, including Secretary Raffensperger and Republican Governor Brian Kemp, asking them to preserve any documents that could be relevant to the case. Those materials are expected to be an upcoming focus of the investigation.

For more, let's bring in the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Washington correspondent Tia Mitchell. Hi, there, Tia. Nice to see you again. So what happens in this phase of the investigation?

TIA MITCHELL: Well, this is really the fact finding phase. As you mentioned, the grand jury has been consulted, and we think that's about issuing additional subpoenas as prosecutors attempt to build their case. We also know that an expert in Rico laws, which is the racketeering and corruption laws in Georgia, has been brought in to work for the DA.

His name is John Floyd, and he's not just coming for that case. But this case could be one of the added to his list. Because Georgia has used its state Rico laws in the past for kind of conspiratorial accusations against elected or government employees.

- Well, this investigation was prompted by that January phone call in which the former president urged Secretary Raffensperger to "find him more votes." What else is the district attorney looking into?

TIA MITCHELL: Well, from what we have reported, she's looking into possibly if there is evidence that elected officials or public officials violated their oath. She's looking at accusations to see if there was election fraud. Again, she's looking to see, if there was a conspiracy, or otherwise, other evidence that Trump and his supporters were working together to try to influence the outcome of the election.

- Well, shortly after that call, the US attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, Byung J. Pak, resigned. Do we know anything more about why?

TIA MITCHELL: We don't know much about that, and it's been speculated that might also be part of DA Willis's investigation. He resigned very suddenly. Now, again, he is a Trump appointee, and most federal prosecutors expect to be replaced when a new president comes into office, particularly, when that President is of a different party.

But his resignation was very sudden. It was before Joe Biden was inaugurated, and there are a lot of questions about it. That could be probed by the district attorney.

- Well, Tia, why do some legal experts think the former president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani is also potentially at risk?

TIA MITCHELL: Yes, so Rudy Giuliani came and testified before a committee of the Georgia Senate. And during that testimony, he peddled a lot of misinformation, disinformation, and flat out things that weren't true and weren't factual. And he shared that, again, at this public hearing as evidence as to why he believed that Joe Biden had not won the general election in Georgia. So again, because he made those statements at a government meeting at a public hearing, people are wondering if he possibly broke the law.

- All right, well, before we let you go, Tia, a major election bill passed the Georgia Senate Monday. What can you tell us about that?

TIA MITCHELL: Yes, this bill that passed the Georgia Senate would end no excuse absentee ballot, it would restrict people who wanted to vote by mail. You either would have to be elderly, or live overseas, or have a medical condition that the state determines gives you an excuse to vote by mail. It just won't be open to anyone anymore, and it's among the many changes that Republicans are pushing for after their losses in Georgia.

The bill also would require additional identification for those who wanted to vote by mail. It's different than what the Georgia House has approved. But again, right now, no excuse absentee voting is something that has passed one chamber in the Georgia General Assembly and could become law this year.

- All right, this despite, as we have noted in the past, there being no evidence of widespread fraud in the elections. All right, Tia Mitchell, for us. Tia, always great to see you. Thank you very much.

TIA MITCHELL: Thank you.