Joe Biden is facing growing calls to select a Black woman as his running mate as an acknowledgement of their critical role in the Democratic Party and a response to the nationwide protests against racism and inequality.The shifting dynamics were clear late Thursday when Amy Klobuchar took herself out of contention for the vice presidency. The Minnesota senator, who is white, told MSNBC that “this is a moment to put a woman of color on that ticket.”Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has already pledged to select a woman as his vice president to energize the party’s base wit...
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is asking a special grand jury to hear evidence of former President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 Georgia election election results.
Willis’ request is for Fulton County superior court judges to allow the panel to be put in place on May 2 to determine if the former president and or his allies committed criminal offenses in the Georgia election that Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden by fewer than 12,000 votes.
Willis opened the investigation in February 2020 following a Jan. 2 phone in which Trump asked the secretary of state and other election officials to “find” enough votes to change the outcome of the election.
“The district attorneys office has received information indicating a reasonable probability that the state of Georgia’s administration of elections in 2020 including the state election of the president of the United States was subject to possible criminal disruptions,” Willis wrote in a Thursday letter to the chief judge of Fulton County Superior Court.
“Our office has learned that individuals associated with these disruptions have contacted other agencies in power to investigate this matter, including the Georgia Secretary of State, the Georgia Attorney General and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, leaving this office as the sole agency with jurisdiction that is not a potential witness to conduct related to this matter.”
A majority of the Fulton Superior Court judges must agree to appoint the special grand jury, which Willis said would allow her to subpoena witnesses who have not cooperated with the investigation and give her more time to present her case.
Willis wrote in the letter that a special grand jury is better suited to handle complex matters since it focuses on one case for as long as 12 months and doesn’t handle multiple cases over a two-month period like a regular grand jury.
Clark Cunningham, a professor at Georgia State College of Law, said Watergate set the stage for a criminal investigation into the actions of a president, with the U.S. Supreme Court ordering the release of tapes that led to burglary convictions and Richard Nixon’s resignation.
As a district attorney, Willis would have more power than with Trump’s impeachment investigation or with the Congressional committee digging into the former president’s role in the deadly Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol breach.
“The fact that this is being done by a special grand jury, convened by a criminal prosecutor, is going to give a priority to this investigation that quite possibly even Congress will not have,” Clark said.
“(Fulton prosecutors) might find someone they feel like they have a very strong case against, indict them and then attempt to negotiate with that person to take cooperation,” he said. “So the first indictment is not going to be against Donald Trump, I don’t think, but it may be against someone who in the view of the grand jury has criminal liability but also has important and useful information.”
Danny Porter, former longtime Gwinnett County district attorney, said it’s helpful for prosecutors that a special grand jury can meet much more often a regular grand jury.
Although a special grand jury cannot issue indictments, it can recommend them if they find enough probable cause for prosecution, he said.
“She knows what she’s doing,” Porter said. “She’s given herself enough time to present the evidence at a reasonable pace. The other thing she’s doing is she is trying to get where citizens have heard the case and made a recommendation rather than rashly rush to a grand jury and drop indictments.”
Then-President Trump’s request on the call was directed at Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who declined Trump’s request, and stated on Thursday that his office is cooperating with the Fulton prosecutor’s requests and would testify if subpoenaed.
Willis wrote that Raffensperger has refused to provide evidence or to be interviewed without being subpoenaed.
In February, Willis sent letters to Raffensperger, Gov. Brian Kemp, Attorney General Chris Carr and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan asking them to preserve documents and other evidence that might reveal election fraud, false statements, conspiracy theories, racketeering and other violations.
“Obviously she’s been slow-walking this,” Raffensperger said during an interview on Fox News. “She’s been in office for over year now and now she’s just finally getting to this point. I think she’s just trying to score some cheap political points with her Democrat friends.”
Trump said in statement Thursday that his conversation with Raffensperger was “a perfect call” that doesn’t warrant any further investigation.
“Although I assumed the call may have been inappropriately, and perhaps illegally, recorded, I was not informed of that,” Trump said. “I didn’t say anything wrong in the call, made while I was president on behalf of the United States of America, to look into the massive voter fraud which took place in Georgia.”
It is legal to record a call in Georgia as long as one party knows it’s being recorded.
In the aftermath of the Nov. 3 general election, Trump and his allies repeated baseless fraud accusations and conspiracy theories even after Raffensperger and U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr said they found no evidence of widespread fraud. Several recounts and audits confirmed Biden’s win while the majority of lawsuits challenging the validity of the results have been dismissed or pulled by the plaintiffs.
The former U.S. attorney in Atlanta, Byung “BJay” Pak, said he quit after hearing rumors Trump was considering firing him due to his refusal to overturn the election results.
In the event Willis moves forward with the Trump investigation, Porter believes she will handle it like other cases despite the national attention it’s receiving.
“This is a case that’s going to garner a lot of scrutiny and a lot of attention and already has,” he said. “And if Trump goes by any of his previous history, there’s going to be an army of lawyers and I suspect he’s not going to surrender meekly.”
Trump is also facing more legal scrutiny with a request for a New York grand jury to examine potential financial misconduct with his organization in a civil case.
Meanwhile, the Jan. 6 Congressional committee continues to subpoena witnesses to examine Trump and associates’ role in the election and rioting that followed. Wednesday, The U.S. Supreme Court allowed more than 700 documents from the presidential record to be sent to the U.S. House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.
The Milwaukee District Attorney’s office has referred a request for criminal action against 10 Wisconsin Republicans to the state Department of Justice.
Jeff Mandell, an attorney with Law Forward, revealed the news during a national press briefing with pro-democracy groups on Thursday. Mandell last February had sent a criminal referral asking the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office to investigate the 10 Republican “fraudulent electors who met here and tried to hijack Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes,” by certifying that Donald Trump had won the 2020 presidential election and submitting those documents to Congress.
Recently the situation has received heightened attention, sparked by a column by Mandell in the Examiner and an open records request by American Oversight, which was given the documents and shared them publicly.
Mandell said he received a letter in response from Assistant District Attorney Matthew Westphal on Wednesday. In the letter, Westphal said that his office consulted with the state Department of Justice “to discuss these matters” and offered to provide “any necessary assistance to the extent able,” but suggested that due to jurisdictional issues and the situation involving a federal election, the case needed to move up the ladder.
“Your request for investigation alleges behaviors relating to the statewide results of a presidential election and alleges actors residing across the State,” wrote Westphal to Mandell. “As such, these actions would be more appropriately addressed by an agency that maintains jurisdiction across county lines.”
He added that “similar allegations of false electors and false elections certifications have been raises [sic] across the United States, including the states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. At least two of those states have already referred their matters to the United States Department of Justice.”
Last Friday, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul addressed the situation, telling the Examiner, “I believe it’s critical that the federal government fully investigates and prosecutes any unlawful actions in furtherance of any seditious conspiracy.”
During the briefing hosted by States United Democracy Center, Mandell said he received evidence this week that the 10 GOP electors who certified a win for Trump did so fully aware that Trump did not win.
“Now, some of the fraudulent electors have said that maybe they didn’t know that all of the [legal] cases were done. And so I’d like to break a little bit of news about this,” said Mandell, “which is that I now have a copy of the envelopes that they used to send those documents in to the federal government. This was not part of the original document FOIA requests that American Oversight got.” Mandell said the envelope and its tracking information prove the documents were put in the mail after it was clear who won the election in Wisconsin.
The fake electors met on Dec. 14, the same day the real state electors were meeting to certify the Wisconsin votes for Joe Biden.
“So not only did they do this on the 14th, but then they had two full more days of news and information before they made a deliberate decision to submit those documents,” added Mandell.
Drop box appeal
Also on Thursday, Law Forward filed an appeal in the case where a Waukesha County judge ruled that using drop boxes to return absentee ballots is antithetical to Wisconsin statutes. Law Forward lawyers will be back in court on Friday seeking an emergency stay given that there are elections in the state in less than four weeks.
“This is a distortion of the law and yet they have found one circuit court judge here in Wisconsin who is willing to say that it’s correct,” Mandell said. “On the eve of the election, they want to change the rules and make it harder for people to vote.”
Mandell said it’s important that people realize it’s not just drop boxes being banned by the judge.
“I want to be more clear because I think a lot of people are talking about it just as drop boxes, but it also challenges the method of ballot return,” said Mandell. “What the court determined is … also that no one except for the voter, the United States Postal Service and the municipal clerk can touch an absentee ballot.”
He said that if the ruling stood, it would result in it becoming ridiculously easy to be arrested for voter fraud.
“That means that if I fully completed my absentee ballot, signed it, sealed it, intend to put it in the mail and on the way out of the house I forget and leave it on the kitchen table and I text my wife and ask her to put it in the mailbox, the judge believes that my wife and I have both committed voter fraud,” said Mandell.
“That is absurd. It is preposterous. It is not supported by Wisconsin statute or practice.”
He filed in the District 4 Court of Appeals in Madison, choosing the appellate venue. The ruling, he asserts is not only wrong, but “the United States Supreme Court has held quite clearly and repeatedly over the last few years but they do not want to see election rules changed on the eve of an election because it causes voter confusion and disenfranchisement. They say that the Constitution prohibits that.”
More Gableman subpoenas
In a separate action, Law Forward attorneys responded Wednesday to two more subpoenas from Michael Gableman, one for the City of Green Bay and its officials, including Mayor Eric Genrich. Gableman is the former Supreme Court justice that Speaker Robin Vos hired to investigate the 2020 presidential election.
They will be back in court Friday, Mandell said, “because Mr. Gableman is trying to have the mayor of Green Bay thrown in jail for not attending a faux deposition.” He added, “Mr. Gableman does not have the authority to take this action under the law, and that he never actually asked anyone to show up at.” Green Bay has been the focus of Republican ire because of grants and Election Day help it received from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, partially funded by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.
And while Mandell’s colleagues at Law Forward spent Wednesday arguing about gerrymandered redistricting maps before the Wisconsin Supreme Court — another example, he said, of actions antithetical to democracy — Mandell filed a new lawsuit on behalf of Voces de la Frontera Action, a Latino community group, which also received a subpoena from Gableman’s expanded review.
“Mr. Gableman is seeking to uncover all of the communications activities and financial contributions Voces de la Frontera Action used in its completely legal activities around the election,” said Mandell. “This is a violation. This is an attempt to chill constitutionally protected conduct and speech and it cannot stand.”
Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: email@example.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.
Ginni Thomas was called out by multiple legal experts in a New Yorker story by Jane Mayer.
"Last fall, Justice Clarence Thomas, in an address at Notre Dame, accused the media of spreading the false notion that the Justices are merely politicians in robes. Such criticism, he said, 'makes it sound as though you are just always going right to your personal preference,' adding, 'They think you become like a politician!' The claim that the Justices’ opinions are politically neutral is becoming increasingly hard to accept, especially from Thomas, whose wife, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas, is a vocal right-wing activist," Mayer reported.
Mayer interviewed NYU Law professor and judicial ethicist Stephen Gillers.
“I think Ginni Thomas is behaving horribly, and she’s hurt the Supreme Court and the administration of justice. It’s reprehensible. If you could take a secret poll of the other eight Justices, I have no doubt that they are appalled by Virginia Thomas’s behavior," Gillers explained.
Gillers said it comes down to an appearance of impropriety.
“It doesn’t require an actual conflict. The reason we use an appearance test is because we say the appearance of justice is as important as the fact of justice itself," he explained.
Fordham legal ethics professor Bruce Green said the appearance “is awful—they look like a mom-and-pop political-hack group, where she does the political stuff and he does the judging.”
Former ethics czar Norm Eisen said “it is hard to understand how Justice Thomas can be impartial when hearing cases related to the upheaval on January 6th, in light of his wife’s documented affiliation with January 6th instigators and Stop the Steal organizers.”
“Justice Thomas should recuse himself, given his wife’s interests in the outcome of these cases," Eisen said.
Read the full report.