The streets around the Fulton County courthouse in Atlanta where Donald Trump may soon face his fourth criminal indictment were quiet this week as orange barricades and law enforcement created a sense of anticipation.
(Bloomberg) — The streets around the Fulton County courthouse in Atlanta where Donald Trump may soon face his fourth criminal indictment were quiet this week as orange barricades and law enforcement created a sense of anticipation.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who has been probing the former US president’s effort to overturn the 2020 election result in Georgia for two and a half years, is expected to present the case to a grand jury as soon as the coming week.
In preparation, the street in front of the courthouse was closed with armed sheriff’s deputies patrolling the area 24/7. Vehicles from several law enforcement agencies lined side streets, while media vans idled next to stacks of bicycle racks used for crowd control.
A criminal case against Trump in Atlanta would be a twist because he doesn’t have an obvious connection to the area the way he does in the other places he’s been indicted. Trump has lived and worked in New York, Washington and Florida, where he’s accused of falsifying business records, conspiring to overturn the 2020 election and absconding with classified documents, respectively.
Now he is facing the potential of a drawn out legal battle in a state that has taken a hardline approach in probing suspected 2020 election fraud. Trump’s actions in Georgia also stood out because of an infamous phone call in which he and his aides tried to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger into reversing the election loss.
Trump has denied wrongdoing in Georgia and pleaded not guilty in other cases. He claims all the investigations are part of a political “witch hunt” to keep him from winning the White House again.
Security measures extended blocks away to the Georgia State Capitol, where the street nearest the entrance was sealed off. The gold-domed building was devoid of tourists and many staffers were working from home amid renovations. At nearby City Hall, no one was seen entering or leaving the building in the middle of a workday, though the office of Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said city’s headquarters is “open for business.”
One sheriff’s deputy standing guard said he’d never seen such an extensive security operation in 30 years on the job. The officer said one priority will be protecting protesters who may clash with each other if Trump appears in court.
No Special Treatment
Willis previously said she intends to announce any charges in August and that much of her staff would be working remotely during the first three weeks of the month. She also asked that judges not schedule trials and in-person hearings during part of that time.
A Fulton County indictment would also be the latest test of how the former president is treated by law enforcement when reporting as a criminal defendant. Sheriff Patrick “Pat” Labat said in an Aug. 1 press conference that he isn’t inclined to give Trump special treatment.
“Unless someone tells me differently, we are following our normal practices,” he said. “It doesn’t matter your status. We have mugshots ready for you.”
His office declined to elaborate.
“We don’t want to get ahead of the process,” spokeswoman Natalie Ammons said this week. The sheriff’s office “has considered all possibilities and planned for what may be required of our agency in the event of a possible indictment.”
It would be notable if Trump were handcuffed or had his mugshot taken because such measures were skipped in the other cases, though he was fingerprinted. The Marshals Service in Washington and Florida haven’t required a mugshot because Trump is a recognizable person and many photographs already exist.
Fulton County Case
A Fulton County case will likely echo allegations in the indictment of Trump in Washington, brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith. Trump is accused in that case of trying to overturn the 2020 election nationwide, and his actions in Georgia feature prominently in the alleged conspiracy.
Willis, a Democrat who took office days before the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, had extensive details on Trump’s actions in Georgia when she opened her probe in February 2021. Those details included Trump’s effort to pressure Raffensperger, asking him and others to “find” just enough votes to overcome his loss, even though a recount had already been conducted.
Willis has a history of prosecuting cases — from teachers to rap music stars — under Georgia’s version of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization act, or RICO — a statute often associated with organized crime. She may use the law against Trump and allies as well.
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Trump has been fighting back by attacking Willis, hurling a barrage of personal insults at her. He has repeatedly said Willis — who is Black — is racist. And in recent days his presidential campaign has been running an ad in the Atlanta market accusing Willis of having an affair with a gang member her office was investigating. Willis on Aug. 9 issued a memo telling her employees to not respond to such “derogatory and false information” in any way, according to local news.
Neither Trump’s lawyer nor Willis’s office responded to requests for comment.
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