Georgia courthouse on heightened security ahead of possible Trump charges

ATLANTA — The scene outside the Fulton County Courthouse in downtown Atlanta is perhaps the biggest indication that something major could soon be happening inside.

The road in front of the building has been closed to traffic, orange barricades and metal barriers line the street, and officers from both the sheriff’s and marshal’s offices have a visible presence.

Monday morning, a bomb-sniffing dog was brought in to check media vehicles.

The dramatically increased security is one of numerous signs that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis will soon be presenting her 2020 election interference case to a grand jury.

Willis, who has been investigating whether former President Donald Trump and his allies meddled in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election, has sent subpoenas to witnesses in the probe, telling them to be prepared to testify before the end of the month.

The extra security measures in place Monday were expected after Willis sent the chief judge and law enforcement officials letters this year indicating her office could seek indictments in the first half of August.

“I respectfully request that judges not schedule trials and in person hearings during the weeks beginning Monday, August 7 and Monday, August 14,” Willis wrote in her letter to the chief judge in May.

Willis has been conducting a wide-ranging investigation since early 2021 into whether there were any “coordinated attempts to unlawfully alter the outcome of the 2020 elections” by Trump and his allies.

She enlisted a special grand jury last year that was empowered to subpoena witnesses to assist in the probe; it heard testimony from 75 witnesses, court records show. The panel recommended indicting more than a dozen people, its foreperson said on NBC’s “Nightly News” in February.

Among those who have received subpoenas to testify are former state Sen. Jen Jordan and state Rep. Bee Nguyen — two Democrats who attended hearings where Rudy Giuliani, then a lawyer for Trump, urged officials not to certify the Georgia election results based on debunked conspiracy theories.

Republican former Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan also confirmed he has received a subpoena to testify.

The subpoenas instruct each recipient to remain “on call” in August, noting that they “will receive at least 48 hours’ notice before your presence is required.”

Duncan, Nguyen and Jordan said they haven’t received their 48-hour notices to appear, an indication that Willis might not be presenting her case until later this week or next.

Atlanta journalist George Chidi tweeted last week that he had received a subpoena. He discovered a meeting of the so-called fake electors on Dec. 14, 2020, and was told at the time that it was an education meeting.

Willis’ probe also looked at Trump’s efforts to pressure Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger about the election results, as well as a scheme to have a slate of alternate presidential electors in place.

Both Trump’s call to Raffensperger and the electors’ scheme figured prominently in special counsel Jack Smith’s federal indictment last week alleging Trump used “unlawful means” to try to stay in office.

Kemp’s office said that as of Monday morning he hadn’t been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury. Raffensperger’s office declined to comment.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in the federal case. He maintains that he hasn’t done anything wrong in the Georgia case, and he instead has accused Willis, a Democrat, of pursuing a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

With potential indictments looming, some Fulton County departments are adjusting their staffing levels or workflows. The majority of Willis’ staff is working remotely. Anyone scheduled to appear before the county magistrate court in the next two weeks has been asked to do so virtually.

Despite the security activity outside the courthouse, Fulton County spokesperson Jessica Corbitt said that inside, “for the most part, it’s still business as usual.”

“We are prepared, and all of our county facilities are open,” she said.

Blayne Alexander and Charlie Gile reported from Atlanta, and Dareh Gregorian reported from New York.