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Influential Trump lawyer’s job in Georgia grand jury probe says ‘absolutely serious’

As Georgia Grand jury investigates Donald Trump for his conduct after losing the 2020 election, the former president’s team has turned to one of Atlanta’s most respected and powerful attorneys.

For more than four decades, Dwight Thomas has represented many of the region’s high-profile defendants in high-profile, sensitive cases. That he has consulted for Trump’s team may be a sign that he is taking Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ investigation very seriously, according to former prosecutor Clinton Rucker, who spent more than 25 years working major cases for it the office.

“If you hired Dwight Thomas, you’re absolutely serious,” said Rooker, who is now a municipal court judge. “You absolutely believe you have some exposure and you want to make sure you have someone who is competent enough to not only look at the issues, but you want someone who can ultimately come in and fight and win.”

Attorney Dwight Thomas, center, speaks to reporters with two colleagues outside federal court in Atlanta after a bond hearing for their client, rapper TI, on October 19, 2007.

John Amis / AP

A spokesman for Willis’ office confirmed that Willis spoke with Thomas about the case and that the DA would only discuss the case with attorneys involved in it. Yahoo News first reported that Willis and Thomas spoke. Thomas declined in an email to discuss his involvement, citing juror confidentiality regulations. A source with knowledge of Thomas’ involvement describes his work as “consulting” on special grand juries and the laws that govern them.

Trump’s representatives and lawyers did not respond to requests for comment. Trump has denied all allegations of wrongdoing regarding his conduct after the 2020 election.

The grand jury has subpoenaed dozens of Trump allies and supporters in recent months. It also has heard testimony by government officials involved in a infamous phone call January 2, 2021 in which the then-president told Georgia election officials, “I just want to find 11,780 votes” — the number needed to erase Biden’s lead.

Few defense attorneys have as much experience as Thomas with special juries, Rucker said. Special judicial commissions are unique in that they focus on a single investigation and can be indicted for a longer period of time than standard judicial commissions. Willis wrote when asked the special grand jury in January that it will have “an investigative focus appropriate to the complexity of the facts and circumstances involved.”

Thomas’ current and past clients include a range of celebrities and politicians. He represented rapper TI in a gun case and is currently listed as the lawyer for Alfred Megbuluba, a 32-year-old man charged with murder for allegedly pushing a woman out of a moving Lamborghini. Another lawyer in the case told local media that Megbuluba will plead not guilty. Thomas recently defended Jason Larry, a suburban Atlanta mayor who pleaded guilty to fraud charges stemming from a scheme to steal more than $900,000 in COVID-19 relief funding.

Closer to Trump, Thomas represented Vernon Jones, a then-Democratic local politician, on several issues. Jones gained national attention when he endorsed Trump for re-election in 2020. Jones later changed his party affiliation to Republican.

Campaign finance records show Thomas has donated mostly to Democrats, including $2,000 in 2021 to Senator Raphael Warnock, who faces a tough re-election campaign against Trump-endorsed challenger Herschel Walker. But Georgia attorney Jason Sheffield said it’s no surprise that Thomas would take on a prominent Republican client.

“He checks any partisanship at the courthouse door. And he’s extremely diligent. A prudent, fair, great negotiator. Thorough, but I think above all, just an advocate for the fair application of the law,” Sheffield said. adjunct professor at Emory University School of Law who formerly worked in Thomas’s office.

Sheffield said he called on Thomas for advice recently before taking on a high-profile, controversial client. Travis McMichael was one of them three men convicted of murder in the racist killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was jogging when three white men in trucks chased him and shot him.

“Before I started the case, I called Dwight and said, ‘What do you think about this?’ It’s a very disturbing case and people are angry about it.” He said, “If you can’t take this case, you can’t take any case,” Sheffield said.

Sheffield said the advice fits a kind of mantra Thomas pushes the lawyers he mentors to remember: “If you can’t do it for one, then you can’t do it for anybody.”

This sentiment was echoed by Michael Holmes, another former partner at his firm.

“He was a mentor to me, a father figure and a friend and an amazing lawyer,” Holmes said.

Thomas, 71, has mentored countless attorneys, Sheffield and Rucker said, and many of his clients are current or former Fulton County prosecutors.

“More prosecutors here have learned the practice of criminal law through Dwight’s office than I can count,” Sheffield said.

Rucker remembers learning from Thomas even when he was against him.

“He’ll catch you on technicalities of the law and do it with a smile. And when it’s all over, he’ll say, ‘Hey, let me take you to lunch,'” Rucker said.

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