By Zachary Cohen and Sara Murray, CNN
Prosecutors in Georgia investigating former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election have interviewed several individuals who served as fake GOP electors from the state, according to two sources familiar with the ongoing criminal probe.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ office appears to be trying to determine whether the pro-Trump electors in Georgia had any knowledge that their actions may have been a component of a broader and potentially illegal plot to pressure election officials and overturn Joe Biden’s victory, a source told CNN.
Biden won Georgia by a nearly 12,000-vote margin in 2020, the first Democrat to carry the state in 28 years. Conspiracy theories immediately sprung up around the state’s election and baseless claims of fraud have persisted even after three ballot counts confirmed Biden was the winner. Losing the Peach State was a stinging defeat for Trump, who spent months attempting to overturn the results, even pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the votes needed to swing the state to him — a call that set off the Atlanta-area criminal investigation.
The pro-Trump electors who have met with prosecutors in Georgia, including the state’s Republican Party Chairman David Shafer, were reassured that they are currently considered witnesses, rather than subjects or targets, in the investigation — a notable distinction that suggests the Atlanta-area district attorney does not view their actions as criminal at this time, two of the sources told CNN.
The interviews with pro-Trump electors in Georgia, which have not been previously reported, are the first indication that the Fulton County DA has already begun looking into the matter — adding to an array of other probes by DOJ, the House Select Committee investigating January 6 and other states where alternate slates were put forward.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco previously told CNN that the Justice Department is investigating the fake electors scheme and a grand jury in Washington recently issued subpoenas related to the fake electors and other matters.
But there is little public indication of an active federal probe, and three sources told CNN that the pro-Trump electors who are cooperating with the state inquiry in Georgia haven’t yet been contacted by anyone at the FBI, Justice Department or relevant US attorneys offices.
That, however, does not preclude the possibility federal investigators are also looking into the circumstances around alternate slates of electors being put forward in Georgia, the sources acknowledged.
Willis told CNN last week her team is looking into the fake Electoral College certifications that Trump backers put forward in Georgia as part of the broader probe into the former President’s conduct in Georgia following the 2020 election. But she offered few details about how the issue fits within the larger investigation.
“We’re going to look at anything connected with interference with the 2020 election,” Willis said in an interview last week with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I’ve allowed that to be a broad scope, not just the (former) President’s phone call that you played there but other things that indicate that there may have been interference with that election, to include fake electorates.”
Willis added: “That is of interest to my office.”
In that same CNN interview, Willis said she didn’t have concrete plans to coordinate her investigation with any potential inquiries from the Department of Justice.
“What their investigation would be is obviously election fraud that may have occurred anyplace in this great country,” Willis said. “Mine is much smaller — a big investigation, but much smaller. I am only looking into election interference in the state of Georgia and, more specifically, things that they asked for around that call that occurred in my county, Fulton County.”
During interviews with Willis’ team, witnesses in Georgia have been forthcoming and provided significant factual information about what happened on December 14, 2020, when pro-Trump electors met and voted on alternate slates, according to one source familiar with the meetings.
CNN previously reported that Trump campaign officials, led by Rudy Giuliani, oversaw efforts in December 2020 to put forward illegitimate electors from seven states that Trump lost, including Georgia.
Giuliani and his allies coordinated the nuts-and-bolts of the process on a state-by-state level, three sources previously told CNN. One source said there were multiple planning calls between Trump campaign officials and GOP state operatives, and that Giuliani participated in at least one call.
The source also said the Trump campaign lined up supporters to fill elector slots, secured meeting rooms in statehouses for the fake electors to meet on December 14, and circulated drafts of fake certificates that were ultimately sent to the National Archives.
The House Select Committee investigating January 6 has demonstrated significant interest in the effort to put forward slates of pro-Trump electors as part of its separate probe.
The panel has interviewed Shafer and another pro-Trump elector from Georgia, ultimately determining they fulfilled their subpoenas by testifying, according to a source familiar with the meeting. Shafer did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
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CNN’s Marshall Cohen contributed reporting