- By Holly Honderich
- BBC News, Washington DC
A US grand jury has been sworn in in Georgia, expected to decide whether to indict former President Donald Trump and his associates in connection with efforts to rig the 2020 election.
Mr Trump is under investigation for making phone calls to a Georgia election official in 2021, pressuring him to find thousands of votes in his favor.
Republicans have denied wrongdoing.
Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Wallis, a Democrat, opened the investigation in early 2021.
He previously indicated that any charges would be filed in August.
The centerpiece of the investigation is a January 2021 call between Mr Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, Georgia’s chief election officer, in which the then-president suggested local officials could “find” more than 11,000 votes – enough to give him. Victory in the Peach State.
In a recording of the call, Mr Raffensberger responded that Georgia’s decisions were correct.
Mr Trump has continued to make unsubstantiated claims of widespread election fraud in the months since he left the White House.
Mr Trump, now the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has continued to deny the results of the 2020 presidential election and has called the Georgia investigation a “political witch hunt”, while describing what he called “correct” with Mr Raffensberger.
A grand jury is already set to consider the Georgia case. Over six months last year, a special grand jury interviewed dozens of witnesses, but it had no authority to indict anyone.
The special grand jury did not find widespread election fraud in Georgia, but recommended several indictments for alleged perjury.
Much of the special grand jury’s report has been withheld from the public to protect the rights of “potential future defendants,” the judge overseeing the case said.
But a brief unsealed section of the report said “a majority of the jury believes that perjury was committed by one or more witnesses testifying before it.”
The unsealed portions do not reveal which witnesses may have lied under oath.
On Tuesday, a new grand jury term begins in Fulton County, which includes most of Atlanta and surrounding suburbs.
Two 26-member panels have been selected, one of which is expected to handle the case against Mr Trump and his associates.
District Attorney Ms. Willis and her team must present their case to one of the grand juries convened on Tuesday to bring criminal charges against the former president.
Ms Wallis wrote in a letter to local authorities that possible indictments in the case could come between July 11 and September 1, coinciding with Fulton County’s latest two-month term for its grand juries.
He also ordered author E. Jean Carroll to pay millions of dollars after he was found responsible for sexual abuse.
He has filed a separate defamation suit against Trump for $10 million.
The Justice Department previously said Mr Trump’s 2019 comments about Ms Carroll were protected because he was president.
But the Justice Department reversed itself on Tuesday, saying the former president could be held liable in the case because the comments were not part of his official duties.
In a letter filed with the judge presiding over the case, the Justice Department wrote that “Mr. Trump was motivated by a ‘personal grievance’ stemming from events that occurred several years prior to Mr. Trump’s presidency.”