by Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder [This article first appeared in the Georgia Recorder, republished with permission]
February 13, 2023
The first details of a Fulton County special grand jury’s report on attempts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to interfere in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election are set to be released to the public Thursday.
Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney said in a court order on Monday that he will unseal three sections of the grand jury’s final report following a lengthy investigation in which the panel was tasked with recommending whether Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis should pursue criminal charges against the former president, Trump’s inner circle and other supporters.
The three sections of the report coming out on Thursday include the introduction, conclusion and a portion in which the jurors discuss witnesses they believe committed perjury. Those witnesses are not identified in that section of the report.
In January, several media organizations requested that McBurney publicly release the jury’s final report on a historic investigation, arguing it has significant national public interest. Nevertheless, McBurney on Monday disagreed with the attorneys representing the media groups that the entire December report should be made public as a court record.
In a January 24 hearing, Willis said she was concerned that releasing the full report would hinder the chances of potential defendants getting a fair trial. She said at that hearing decisions were imminent on indictments based on the special grand jury’s findings.
McBurney wrote the report was ultimately only intended for Willis, who would use it to decide whether to pursue grand jury indictments.
“There were no lawyers advocating for any targets of the investigation,” McBurney said in the order. “Potential future defendants were not able to present evidence outside the scope of what the district attorney asked them.”
McBurney wrote that he will continue to assess whether other parts of the report should be publicly disclosed as he receives updates on the case from prosecutors. Last year, Fulton’s circuit court judges granted Willis’ request for a panel that could meet for a year in order to handle more complex cases.
“The consequences of the due process deficiencies is not that a special purpose grand jury’s final report is forever suppressed or that its recommendation for or against incidents are in any way flawed or suspect,” McBurney said. “Rather, the consequence is that those recommendations are for the District Attorney’s eyes only – for now.”
Willis launched the investigation in early 2022 after the public release of a recording of a phone conversation in which Trump asked Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find enough votes to declare him the winner of Georgia. Raffensperger refused Trump’s overtures as Biden won the closely contested race by nearly 12,000 votes over the Republican incumbent.
Immediately after the Georgia election, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, held court before state Senate and House legislators at committee hearings where he and others spread wild conspiracy theories of widespread election fraud, urging lawmakers to intervene to stop Biden from winning.
Among the 75 witnesses to appear before the Fulton panel was Giuliani former chief of staff Mark Meadows and U.S. Sen Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina. Among the other witnesses were fake Republican electors who cast their votes for an alternate slate of electors in support of Trump while the official Democratic electoral votes for Biden were being cast.
Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Raffensperger, whose refusals to overturn the election angered Trump, also testified.
In Georgia and several other battleground states, claims of stolen elections fueled the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, as members of congress were set to count the electoral votes in the presidential election.
A separate investigation conducted by the Jan. 6 House special committee played out on national TV, backed by public documents. The committee’s December report concludes Trump incited the Jan. 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol insurrection. A U.S. Justice Department investigation continues into whether Trump, his inner circle or other supporters broke any laws.
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