Fulton County Judge Robert McBurney released part of the special grand jury report in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ investigation into attempts to overturn the 2020 Georgia presidential election. But emphasis on part. The document we get includes the judge’s order for its release, about one and one-third pages, marked “1” and “2,” and then about half a page and a few more lines of conclusion on another page, marked “8” and “9.” There’s also a brief procedural addendum.
Perhaps more important than anything we can read today is the fact that three weeks ago Willis opposed the release of the report due to “imminent” charging decisions. So we may soon learn much more than is included in this release.
But what do we get in those roughly two pages of substantive content? There are three key sentences.
RELATED STORY: Georgia was ground zero for Trump's 2020 coup plot, and could be first to indict him for his actions
First, it’s not news to the reality-based, but: “We find by unanimous vote that no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result' in overturning that election.”
Second: “A majority of the Grand Jury believes that perjury may have been committed by one or more witnesses testifying before it. The Grand Jury recommends that the District Attorney seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where the evidence is compelling.”
That, however, is item VIII (eight) on a list that the public does not get to see the rest of. For context, on page one the grand jury explains, “We set forth for the Court our recommendations on indictments and relevant statutes, including the votes by the Grand Jurors. This includes the votes respective to each topic, indicated in ‘Yea/Nay/Abstain’ format throughout.” So we know that the recommendation for perjury indictments is the last of a string of other recommendations on specific indictments. This is as far as the special grand jury could go—it was only empowered to make recommendations about indictments, not to indict anyone itself. Willis now takes those recommendations and decides whether to bring them to a regular grand jury that can issue indictments.
We don’t know what those specific recommendations are or who they involve because the judge’s decision to release part of the report ordered all of that redacted to protect the due process rights of the individuals named in that section.
The special grand jury has drawn attention in particular for its focus on Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in the state. The investigation begun in February 2021 focused specifically on the phone call in which Donald Trump pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes,” the number Trump needed to win. But it expanded beyond that to consider evidence on the slate of false electors attempting to throw the state to Trump; state legislators’ false allegations of election fraud; the resignation of Byung Pak as U.S. attorney in Atlanta, a resignation he told congressional investigators was because he had heard Trump was planning to fire him; the computer forensics team hired by Trump allies that copied voting system software in one Georgia county; and the harassment campaign directed against Fulton County elections worker Ruby Freeman.
The grand jury investigation involved a protracted fight to get Sen. Lindsey Graham to testify, with Graham losing his effort to completely evade testifying on the grounds that it would violate the “speech or debate” clause of the Constitution; Graham’s claim was that he made calls to Georgia officials about the election not in relation to the Trump campaign but as a United States senator on legislative business and therefore was protected. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani also testified after trying to get out of it on medical grounds. Many lesser-known Trump loyalists also appeared before the special grand jury. So it’s possible that some key Trump allies might be named in the redacted sections of the special grand jury report. Trump himself was not called in to testify to the grand jury, which his lawyers have claimed means “we can assume that the grand jury did their job and looked at the facts and the law, as we have, and concluded there were no violations of the law by President Trump.” That assumption seems weak at best considering that Willis started off with a recording of Trump directly pressuring the state’s top election official to “find 11,780 votes.”
With so much of the special grand jury’s report redacted, though, we can only speculate and wait to find out more. We do know that this is not the only legal trouble Trump may find himself in.
As Mark Sumner wrote in December, ”Georgia was ground zero for Trump's 2020 coup plot, and could be first to indict him for his actions”—but “first” was a key word there. Trump faces many other investigations, and while Georgia continues to look like it might move first, it’s far from a one-shot deal. Special counsel Jack Smith is investigating both Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 elections and his hoarding of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, and both prongs of that investigation seem to be going full throttle. In recent weeks, Smith’s team of federal prosecutors has subpoenaed Mike Pence and Mark Meadows, both of whom were in close contact with Trump as he tried to stay in office despite having lost the election, and is seeking to pierce attorney-client privilege to get answers from Evan Corcoran, one of Trump’s attorneys on the classified document issue.
Last month, Trump and his lawyers were ordered to pay $937,989.39 for a “frivolous” and “abusive” lawsuit against dozens of political opponents including Hillary Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey. In the wake of that ruling, Trump dropped two lawsuits trying to block New York Attorney General Letitia James from pursuing a $250 million civil lawsuit against Trump, his adult children, and his business for fraud. If she’s successful, Trump and his children would also be barred from being officers in any New York corporation. The Trump Organization has already been fined $1.6 million in a related criminal case.
Additionally, late last month the Manhattan district attorney’s office revived its investigation into Trump’s hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, with evidence being presented before yet another grand jury.
That’s a lot of serious legal investigations on top of the Georgia one. But it still sounds like Willis could be issuing the next round of Team Trump indictments.
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