Judge to Hold Hearing on Georgia Grand Jury Special Report

ATLANTA (AP) — A judge will hear arguments Tuesday on whether to release a report from a special grand jury tasked with investigating whether then-President Donald Trump and his allies broke any laws as they sought to overturn their narrow 2020 election loss in Georgia.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney will hear arguments from the district attorney’s office, the media and possibly other parties before making a decision on the report’s release. The special grand jury, whose work was overseen by McBurney, recommended that the report be made public.

The report is expected to include recommendations for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis regarding possible criminal prosecution, though it’s unclear how specific those recommendations will be. The special grand jury did not have the power to issue indictments, and it will ultimately be Willis who decides whether she seeks indictments from a regular grand jury.

If McBurney decides to release the report, it must also determine whether any part of the report should be redacted and whether the report should be made public now or later. It is unclear how quickly he will rule.

The investigation is one of several that threaten potential legal consequences for the former president as he seeks re-election in 2024. Over a period of about seven months, the special grand jury heard from dozens of witnesses, including high-profile Trump allies, including the attorney Rudy. Giuliani and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and high-ranking Georgia officials including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp.

Willis began investigating shortly after a recording of a January 2021 phone call between Trump and Raffensperger became public. In that call, the president suggested that the state’s top elections official, a fellow Republican, could “find” the votes needed to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump had said. “Because we won the state.”

A coalition of news organizations, including The Associated Press, argued in favor of publishing the report in its entirety, saying in a filing Monday that the document “is a court record subject to a presumption of disclosure” under U.S. rules. state courts and state and federal laws. constitutions The media group said public interest in the report is “extraordinary” and that “there is not enough countervailing interest to overcome the presumption.”

Willis had not filed a report Monday outlining whether the report should be released.

Trump’s legal team in Georgia said in a statement that they do not plan to be present or participate in the hearing.

“To date, we have never been a part of this process,” Drew Findling, Marissa Goldberg and Jennifer Little wrote, noting that the former president was never summoned or asked to come voluntarily as part of the investigation.

“Therefore, we can assume that the grand jury did its job and analyzed the facts and the law, as we have, and concluded that President Trump did not violate the law,” they wrote.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney swears prospective jurors in during special purpose grand jury proceedings in Atlanta on May 2, 2022.

The order granting Willis’s request for a special grand jury authorized the panel to “make recommendations regarding criminal prosecution as it deems appropriate.”

A grand jury handbook produced by the Georgia Board of Prosecutors says courts have repeatedly held that a grand jury “may not include, in a general report or presentation, comments that accuse or accuse identifiable individuals of misconduct.” That can only be done in a charging document, such as an indictment, the manual says.

“I don’t think you can specifically charge anyone with a crime, so it’s going to have to be a blanket recommendation” about whether the district attorney should continue with the investigation, Board of Prosecutors Executive Director Pete Skandalakis said of the report.

If the special grand jury recommended that specific people be charged, Skandalakis said he thinks that would have to be redacted before the report could be released.

While the work of the special grand jury was conducted in secret, as required by law, the related public court filings provided a glimpse of the investigative threads being pursued. The included:

—Trump and others phone calls to Georgia officials in the wake of the 2020 election.

— A group of 16 Georgia Republicans who signed a certificate in December 2020 falsely stating that Trump had won the state and that they were the “duly chosen and qualified” electors of the state.

— False accusations of voter fraud made during meetings of state legislators at the Georgia Capitol in December 2020.

— The copying of data and software from election equipment in rural Coffee County by a computer forensics team hired by Trump allies.

— Alleged attempts to pressure Fulton County poll worker Ruby Freeman into falsely confessing to voter fraud.

— The abrupt resignation of the US attorney in Atlanta in January 2021.

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