| 23 May 2024, Thursday |

Georgia judge to release parts of report on Trump’s efforts to overturn election

A state court ruled on Monday that while portions of a special grand jury’s report in Georgia on Donald Trump’s attempts to rig the state’s 2020 election should be made public, any suggestions for criminal charges will initially remain under seal.

The panel’s conclusions, which have remained secret ever since the existence of the final report was made public in January, might be used as the foundation for a case against Trump or his advisers for attempting to overturn Democratic President Joe Biden’s statewide victory.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney said three parts of the report will be released on Thursday: the introduction, the conclusion and a section in which the grand jury “discusses its concern that some witnesses may have lied under oath.”

The report also includes “a roster of who should (or should not) be indicted, and for what, in relation to the conduct (and aftermath) of the 2020 general election in Georgia,” the judge said.

But those conclusions will remain secret for now, he ruled, citing the due process rights of witnesses or potential defendants who were not afforded a full chance to respond to allegations during the grand jury process. Those concerns are particularly serious for individuals who never appeared before the panel, he said.

Trump was not subpoenaed and did not testify to the grand jury.

The decision on whether to file criminal charges ultimately lies with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. At a Jan. 25 court hearing, Willis told McBurney that charging decisions were “imminent” and urged him to keep the report under wraps to ensure future defendants cannot cry foul.

Willis’ investigation could make Trump the first former U.S. president to face criminal prosecution, months after he launched his bid for the Republican presidential nomination to challenge Biden in 2024.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and accused Willis, an elected Democrat, of targeting him for political gain.

McBurney said he was delaying the report’s partial release until Thursday to give prosecutors time to discuss with him whether any further redactions need to be made.

A spokesperson for Willis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Willis launched her investigation shortly after a January 2021 phone call in the waning days of Trump’s term, when the president urged Georgia’s top election official to “find” enough votes to deliver him the state. Days later, Trump supporters breached the U.S. Capitol seeking to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory.

Biden’s Georgia win, the first for a Democratic presidential candidate in nearly three decades, confirmed the state’s emergence as a political battleground, a status that has been underscored by a series of high-profile Senate races that have helped Democrats maintain a majority in the chamber.

The special grand jury was convened last year at Willis’ request as an investigative tool, in part because it had the authority to subpoena witnesses. The panel did not have the power to issue indictments but could make recommendations; if Willis decides to pursue charges, she would have to seek indictments from a regular grand jury.

Over the course of around seven months, the jurors heard testimony from 75 witnesses, including senior Trump advisers such as attorney Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and top Georgia Republicans such as Governor Brian Kemp.

In addition to Trump’s phone call, the wide-ranging investigation has examined a scheme in which an alternate slate of presidential electors falsely affirmed to Congress that Trump, not Biden, had won the state’s electoral votes.

Numerous legal and criminal investigations are threatening Trump, his family, and his connections, including the Georgia investigation.

The U.S. Justice Department’s investigations into both Trump’s retention of classified information after leaving the White House and his efforts to rig the 2020 election are being supervised by a special counsel.

Letitia James, the Democratic attorney general of New York, has filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump, his real estate company, and his children on the grounds that they misled banks and insurers about the worth of their assets. The district attorney’s office in Manhattan is conducting its own criminal inquiry into Trump’s commercial activities.

  • Reuters