Atlanta DA asks FBI for security assessment after Trump calls for protests over election probe

Key Points
  • Atlanta's district attorney asked the FBI to conduct a security-risk assessment of the city's courthouse and an adjacent government center.
  • The request by Fani Willis, the top prosecutor in Fulton County, came a day after Donald Trump called on supporters to hold "the biggest protests we've ever had" in places where he is being investigated.
  • A judge recently approved Willis' request to impanel a special grand jury for her probe of Trump for possible criminal interference in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.
  • The DA cited the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol in her request. That riot disrupted the confirmation of President Joe Biden as the election winner.
Fulton County Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis photographed in her office on Jan. 4, 2022.
Ben Gray | AP

Atlanta's top prosecutor asked the FBI to conduct a security-risk assessment and provide protection for a courthouse and government center a day after former President Donald Trump called on supporters to hold "the biggest protests we've ever had" in places where he is being investigated.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is investigating Trump for possible criminal interference in Georgia's 2020 presidential election contest, said in a letter to the FBI that "security concerns were escalated this weekend by the rhetoric of former President Trump." The reality TV star-turned-politician spoke at a rally Saturday in Conroe, Texas.

Fulton County prosecutor asks FBI for security backup after Trump speech

"We must work together to keep the public safe and ensure that we do not have a tragedy in Atlanta similar to what happened at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021," Willis wrote in her letter Sunday to the special agent in charge of the FBI's Atlanta field office.

On Jan. 6 that year, a mob of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol and disrupted a joint session of Congress that was in the process of confirming that President Joe Biden had won the 2020 election, despite Trump's false claims to the contrary.

Willis in her letter cited the fact that Trump said that if he runs for president in 2024, and is elected, he may pardon rioters' convictions "because they are being treated so unfairly."

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Conroe, Texas, U.S., January 29, 2022.
Go Nakamura | Reuters

During a phone call days before the riot, Trump asked Georgia's secretary of state, who oversees elections, to "find" him enough votes that would overturn Biden's win in that state. In the same call, Trump also made what Georgia's voting system implementation manager called "provably false" claims about purported election irregularities.

That call and other actions by Trump's allies are the focus of the investigation by Willis.

A Fulton County judge last week approved Willis' request to impanel a special grand jury for her probe, which will have the power to issue subpoenas for testimony from witnesses and other evidence.

Willis cited the special grand jury and its scheduled May 2 start date in her letter to the FBI, saying, "I have an obligation to ensure that those who work and visit the Fulton County Courthouse, the adjoining Fulton County Government Center and surrounding areas are safe."

She noted that those buildings are close to the Georgia State Capitol, Atlanta City Hall, and a federal district and circuit appeals court, as well as Georgia State University.

Fulton County DA requests special grand jury in Trump election probe

In addition to asking for an immediate risk assessment of the county courthouse and government center, Willis asked the FBI to "provide protective resources to include intelligence and federal agents."

She wrote that Trump at his rally on Saturday made multiple references to her probe and others.

At that rally, Trump said, "If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have the biggest protests we have ever had in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere because our country and our elections are corrupt."

The Manhattan District Attorney and the New York state Attorney General's offices are conducting parallel investigations into the former president's business practices.

A spokeswoman for the FBI in Atlanta confirmed receipt of Willis' letter, and later Monday issued a statement that said, "The FBI supports our state, local, and federal law enforcement partners with maintaining public safety in the communities we serve."

"Our efforts are focused on identifying, investigating, and disrupting individuals that are inciting violence and engaging in criminal activity. As we do in the normal course of business, we are gathering information to identify any potential threats and are sharing that information with our partners," the spokeswoman said. " If you have any tips on potential threats please visit tips.fbi.gov or call FBI Atlanta at 770-216-3000."

Rep. Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican who is vice chair of the select House committee investigating events surrounding the Jan. 6 riot, in a tweet early Monday blasted Trump for his rhetoric on Saturday.

"Trump uses language he knows caused the Jan 6 violence; suggests he'd pardon the Jan 6 defendants, some of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy; threatens prosecutors; and admits he was attempting to overturn the election," Cheney said in her tweet. "He'd do it all again if given the chance."

Earlier this month, a Texas man was arrested by federal authorities for allegedly posting a threat to kill a Georgia election official and other officials just days after Trump's call to Georgia's secretary of state.