Georgia Prosecutor Fani Willis Warns Donald Trump as Investigation Deepens

The Georgia district attorney responsible for investigating Donald Trump's alleged efforts to overturn the state's vote in the 2020 presidential election has warned the former president he is not above the law.

Fani Willis, a Democrat recently elected as DA for Fulton County, also addressed the issue of criminal intent, seen by legal experts as a sticking point in any prosecution, with an apparent reference to Trump's request to "find 11,780 votes."

Willis has stressed her impartiality in interviews since it was announced that her office would take on the case. Speaking to local news channel WSB-TV2 Atlanta, she said they would not "treat anyone differently."

"Anyone who violates the law will be prosecuted, no matters what their social status is. No matter what their economics are, no matter what their race or gender is. We are not going to treat anyone differently," she said.

"I have no idea what I'll find. I think a good law enforcement officer, a good prosecutor, you walk in with an open mind, you get the facts for what they are, there will be some statutes that we'll look at.

"If those facts meet the elements of those statutes then we'll bring charges."

The investigation focuses on a phone call from Trump to Brad Raffensperger on January 2nd in which the former president urged Georgia's secretary of state to "find" votes.

Willis explained to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that her office was holding the investigation as it was the only state investigative agency not to have a conflict of interest.

Talking to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Thursday, Willis said her enquiries would go past the Raffensperger phone call and suggested Trump's words could go towards showing the criminal intent necessary to convict.

"What I know about investigations, is that they're kind of like peeling back an onion. And as you go through each layer you learn different things," she said.

"To be a responsible prosecutor you must look at all of those things in the investigation... It seems that the investigation will go past this one phone call."

D.A. Willis: Detailed facts become important, like asking for a specific number and then going back to investigate and understand that that number is just one more than the number that is needed. It lets you know that someone had a clear mind.They understood what they were doing.

— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) February 12, 2021

Legal experts told Newsweek the necessity to show criminal intent, or mens rea, on Trump's part is the major hurdle for prosecutors to overcome. Willis suggested to Maddow that the facts were on her side.

"Mens rea is always important," Willis said. "So you look at facts to see did they really have intent? Did they understand what they were doing? Detailed facts become important, like asking for a specific number and then going back to investigate and understand that that number is just one more than the number that is needed."

"Facts like that, that may not seem important, become very important," she added.

In the leaked call between Trump and Raffensperger, the then-president is recorded saying: "I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state."

The additional votes in Georgia would have given Trump the win over Biden in the state.

However, Kent Alexander, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, told Newsweek: "As outrageous as the appeal was to 'find' 11,780 votes, a successful criminal prosecution would be a steep and daunting uphill climb."

Willis also told WSB-TV2 that letters from her office to numerous officials in state government, including Raffensperger, requesting they preserve documents that could relate to the inquiry, were sent to avoid any inadvertent loss of evidence.

"The purpose of the letters was very simple: We want them to preserve that evidence," she said.

"We don't want anything inadvertently to be destroyed or to go missing, and so it would be very unfair to be angry with them in a month when possibly we issued a subpoena if they very honestly said 'we didn't know we were gonna need that so we didn't keep it.'"

Donald Trump Leaves Florida Airport in Car
Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump exits the airport after leaving Air Force One at the Palm Beach International Airport on the way to Mar-a-Lago Club on January 20, 2020 in West Palm Beach, Florida. He faces an investigation in Georgia after a call he made to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was leaked to the press. Noam Galai/Getty