Even if the newly empaneled grand jury in Fulton County Georgia returns criminal charges against former President Donald Trump for attempting to tamper with the state's 2020 election results, there are a number of hurdles that need to be cleared before Trump potentially could face jail time.
That's the opinion of CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig, who argues in a new opinion piece that while there "appears to be sufficient evidence to support an indictment," District Attorney Fani Willis and her team of prosecutors face a long battle.
"The key will be establishing Trump's criminal intent," Honig says. "His defenders likely will argue that he genuinely believed he had won the Georgia election (despite all evidence to the contrary) and that he merely wanted to ensure a full and fair vote count. But prosecutors will focus on Trump's use of the word 'find.' If Trump truly believed he had won, and had received more votes than Joe Biden, why would he need (George Secretary of State Brad) Raffensperger to 'find' votes? And why precisely 11,780 votes -- exactly one more than (President Joe) Biden's margin of victory?"
Under Georgia law it's a crime to "solicit" election fraud and Willis could construe Trump's use of the word "find" in the now-infamous Raffensperger phone call to make that case. But as Honig points out, Raffensperger has said he will not cooperate with her investigation until and unless he is subpoenaed. If he is compelled to testify, Willis needs to convince the grand jury there is the probability that Trump committed a crime to secure an indictment, win a conviction by a unanimous vote in what likely would be a lengthy jury trial and then survive the appeal process.
Honig also notes "It's difficult to square the seriousness of the potential crimes here -- an attempt by the then-President to steal an election -- with the decidedly casual pace of the proceedings.
"Trump faces real legal jeopardy here. But genuine questions remain about whether (and when) he will actually be indicted. Even then, Willis faces an uphill battle to secure his conviction and a meaningful sentence."