Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

Parts of Ga. special grand jury report to be released

Developmen­t may put Trump’s 2024 campaign at risk

- By Kate Brumback

ATLANTA — A Georgia judge on Monday ordered the partial release later this week of a report by a special grand jury that investigat­ed efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss.

The report’s introducti­on and conclusion, as well as a section in which the grand jurors expressed concerns that some witnesses may have lied under oath, will be released Thursday, said Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney.

Any recommenda­tions on who should or should not be prosecuted will remain secret for now to protect their due process rights, McBurney wrote.

McBurney’s order came three weeks after hearing arguments from prosecutor­s, who urged the report be kept secret until they decide on charges, and a coalition of media organizati­ons, which pressed for its release.

The release is a significan­t developmen­t in one of several cases that threaten legal jeopardy for the former president as he ramps up a 2024 White House campaign. The special grand jury spent about seven months hearing testimony from witnesses including high-profile Trump allies, such as attorney Rudy Giuliani and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and highrankin­g Georgia officials, such as Secretary of State Brad Raffensper­ger and Gov. Brian Kemp.

McBurney wrote that the report includes recommenda­tions for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, including “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 special grand jury did not have the power to issue indictment­s, and it will ultimately be up to Willis to decide whether to seek indictment­s from a regular grand jury.

The special grand jury’s final report was requested by Willis and is meant to inform her investigat­ive decision-making process, McBurney wrote, adding that the panel’s investigat­ion was largely controlled by the district attorney and her team and was “a one-sided exploratio­n.”

There was “very limited due process” for people for whom the grand jurors recommende­d charges, McBurney wrote. Some may not have had the opportunit­y to appear before the panel, and those who did appear did not have the right to have their lawyers present or to offer any rebuttal.

For that reason, the judge concluded, it is not appropriat­e to release the full report at this time.

It is not clear if or when Willis will present the case to a regular grand jury with the purpose of getting one or more indictment­s. At a Jan. 24 hearing, she said decisions are “imminent” but did not elaborate.

Trump told The Associated Press last month that he did “absolutely nothing wrong.” He said he felt “very confident” that he wouldn’t be indicted.

At the January hearing, Willis had argued against the immediate release of the report, saying it could violate the rights of potential defendants and negatively affect the ability to prosecute those who may be charged with crimes.

“We want to make sure that everyone is treated fairly, and we think for future defendants to be treated fairly, it is not appropriat­e at this time to have this report released,” Willis said during the hearing.

A group of news organizati­ons, including the AP, argued in favor of releasing the report in full, saying that public interest in the report is “extraordin­ary.”

“The discomfort of the prosecutin­g authority in disclosing court records isn’t enough to make them sealed,” said attorney Tom Clyde, representi­ng the media. “It has to be significan­t, identifiab­le evidence that’s going to cause a problem.”

Willis said in an emailed statement Monday that she believes McBurney’s order is “legally sound and consistent with my request” and that she has no plans to appeal. Clyde declined to comment.

Willis and her team began investigat­ing two years ago, after the release of a recording of a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call between Trump and Raffensper­ger. In that conversati­on, the then-president suggested that Raffensper­ger, a fellow Republican, could “find” the votes needed to overturn Trump’s election loss in the state to Biden, a Democrat.

“All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump said on the call.

 ?? ALYSSA POINTER/ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTI­ON 2020 ?? The special grand jury heard testimony from high-profile witnesses including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensper­ger.
ALYSSA POINTER/ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTI­ON 2020 The special grand jury heard testimony from high-profile witnesses including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensper­ger.

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