By Kate Brumback
A special grand jury that investigated efforts by then-President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn his election loss in Georgia says it believes some witnesses committed perjury, and it recommends that prosecutors seek charges.
The panel recommended that the district attorney “seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where the evidence is compelling.” In addition to the section on perjury, the report's introduction and conclusion were released Thursday. But any recommendations on potential criminal charges for specific people will remain under wraps for now.
While the report is silent on key details, including who the panel believes committed perjury and whether other indictments should be pursued, it marks the first time the grand jurors' recommendations for criminal charges tied to the case have been made public. The investigation is one of several that could have serious legal consequences for the former president as he ramps up his third bid for the presidency.
Despite Trump's persistent contentions, the grand jurors found “by a unanimous vote that no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning the election."
The partial release was ordered Monday by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who oversaw the special grand jury. During a hearing last month, prosecutors urged him not to release the report until they decide on charges, while a coalition of media organizations, including The Associated Press, pushed for the entire report to be made public immediately.
McBurney wrote in his order that it's not appropriate to release the full report now because it's important to protect the due process rights of people for whom the grand jury recommended charges.
The special grand jury, which was requested by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to aid her investigation, did not have the power to issue indictments. Instead, its report contains recommendations for Willis, who will ultimately decide whether to seek one or more indictments from a regular grand jury.
Over the course of about seven months, the grand jurors heard from 75 witnesses, among them Trump allies including former New York mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Top Georgia officials, such as Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, also appeared before the panel.
The grand jurors were seated in May, began receiving evidence in June and submitted their report to McBurney on Dec. 15. The report's introduction says an “overwhelming majority” of the information that the grand jury received “was delivered in person under oath.”
Trump, who publicly refused to accept that Joe Biden won the November 2020 election, has seemed particularly bothered by his loss in Georgia and what he saw as a failure of Republican state elected officials to fight for him. Georgia tipped to Biden by about 12,000 votes, making him the first Democratic presidential candidate to win there since 1992.
Trump and his allies have made unproven claims of widespread voter fraud and have repeatedly berated Raffensperger and Kemp for not acting to overturn his loss. State and federal officials, including Trump’s attorney general, have consistently said the election was secure and there was no evidence of significant fraud.
Willis has said since the beginning of the investigation two years ago that she was interested in a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call in which Trump suggested to Raffensperger that he could “find” the votes needed to overturn his loss in the state.
“All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump said during that call. “Because we won the state.”
Trump has said repeatedly that his call with Raffensperger was “perfect,” and he told the AP last month that he felt “very confident” that he would not be indicted.
Based on witnesses called to testify before the special grand jury, it is clear that Willis is focusing on several areas. Those include:
— Phone calls by Trump and others 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 state’s “duly elected and qualified” electors.
— False allegations of election 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 elections worker Ruby Freeman into falsely confessing to election fraud.
— The abrupt resignation of the U.S. attorney in Atlanta in January 2021.
Willis last summer sent letters informing some people, including Giuliani and the state's 16 fake electors, that they could face criminal charges.