‘Decisions are imminent’ on charges in Trump’s effort to nullify 2020 Georgia election, Fulton County prosecutor says

‘Decisions are imminent’ on charges in Trump’s effort to nullify 2020 Georgia election, Fulton County prosecutor says



CNN

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis suggested Tuesday that the special grand jury investigating efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to upend the 2020 election in Georgia recommended multiple indictments and said its decision on whether to bring charges is “imminent”.

At a hearing in Atlanta on whether to release the grand jury’s special report. Willis, a Democrat, said she opposes going public at this time, citing her ongoing deliberations on the charges.

“Decisions are imminent,” Willis told Judge Robert McBurney.

“We want to make sure that everyone is treated fairly, and we believe that in order for future defendants to be treated fairly, it is not appropriate at this time for this report to be released,” he said.

The special grand jury, which was barred from issuing indictments, produced the highly anticipated final report as the culmination of its seven months of work, which included interviewing witnesses from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to Trump’s former lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

The special grand jury heard a total of 75 witnesses, Willis said Tuesday.

Your final report will likely include some summary of the panel’s investigative work, as well as any recommendations for prosecution and the alleged conduct that led the panel to its conclusions.

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Former President Donald Trump and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis

fmr. The US Attorney explains what could happen next in the Fulton Co. investigation.

Donald Wakeford, the top assistant district attorney for Fulton County, also argued before the judge that it would be “dangerous” to release the report before any announcement related to possible charges is made.

“We believe that immediate release before the district attorney has had a chance to publicly address whether or not there will be charges, because there hasn’t been a sufficient amount of time to evaluate it, is dangerous,” Wakeford said. “It is dangerous for people who may or may not be named in the report for various reasons. It’s also a disservice to the witnesses who went to the grand jury and told the grand jury the truth.”

Atlanta-area prosecutors are already poring over the report as they consider filing charges against Trump or his associates.

McBurney, who oversaw the special grand jury’s roughly seven-month investigation, will decide whether the report should be made public, and if so, how much. While the grand jury panel recommended that his report be made public, until now, the contents have been closely guarded.

A media coalition, including CNN, is seeking to have the full report made public.

“We believe that the report should be published now and in its entirety. And that approach is consistent with the way the American judicial system operates,” argued attorney Tom Clyde, representing the coalition. “In other words, it is not unusual for a district attorney or prosecuting authority to be generally uncomfortable with having to divulge information during the progress of the case. That happens all the time.”

At the end of the nearly two-hour hearing, McBurney emphasized the unique nature of the issue, saying, “I think the fact that we had to discuss this for 90 minutes shows that it’s something extraordinary.”

“There will be no hasty decisions,” he said, adding later: “No one will wake up to the court having released the report on the front page of a newspaper.”

McBurney will have to weigh the public’s interest in learning about efforts to interfere in the latest presidential election against concerns that making the information public could hamper an ongoing investigation if the district attorney is prosecuting indictments and that the publication could disparage people who have not been charged. with crimes, said Peter Skandalakis, executive director of the Georgia Board of Prosecutors.

“What you don’t want is an opportunity for a grand jury to make an allegation of criminal conduct that is later unprovable or unsubstantiated and the person hasn’t had a chance to clear their name.” Skandalakis said.

Trump’s lawyers did not participate in Tuesday’s hearing.

“The grand jury sought testimony from dozens of other, often high-ranking, officials during the investigation, but never considered it important to speak to the President,” Trump attorneys Drew Findling, Marissa Goldberg and Jennifer Little said in a statement. . “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.”

The Georgia investigation began shortly after Trump called Raffensperger in January 2021, pressing the secretary of state to “find” the votes needed for Trump to win the state. He lost the state to Joe Biden by almost 12,000 votes.

“Our vote is as important as any other,” Willis told CNN in a 2022 interview. “If someone takes it away or violates it in a criminal way, because I sit here in this jurisdiction, it’s my responsibility.”

Willis requested a special grand jury to investigate the case and the panel began its work in June 2022, calling a witness list that included Raffensperger, Giuilani, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.

In this file photo, Fulton County Judge Robert C. McBurney instructs prospective jurors during special purpose grand jury proceedings on May 2, 2022, in Atlanta.

Over time, the investigation has expanded well beyond Trump’s call to include false claims of voter fraud to state legislators, the fake voter scheme, attempts by unauthorized persons to gain access to voting machines in a Georgia county and threats and harassment against poll workers.

Along the way, Willis has designated a number of people as targets of his investigation, including 16 Republicans who served as pro-Trump voters in 2020 and Giuliani.

But how much of that is included in the final report was up to special grand juries.

“It’s important that people know that the DA’s office doesn’t write the filing, traditionally,” said Robert James, who used a special grand jury to investigate local corruption when he was a district attorney in Georgia’s DeKalb County. “It’s literally the will of the people.”

Now that Willis has the special grand jury report, it’s up to her to decide whether to go to a regular grand jury to bring charges. She is not required to follow the exact recommendations set forth by the special grand jury, but it is likely that the product of her work will eventually become public and she could risk backlash if she strays too far from the suggestions of the grand jury. panel.

Willis has previously said he could bring RICO charges in this case, which would allow prosecutors to bring charges against multiple defendants and argue that Trump and his allies were part of a criminal enterprise.

Whatever your approach, you will likely face pressure to move quickly with the allegations or close your investigation.

The level of pressure is “encompassing,” said James, who predicted Willis would pool his resources and prepare his case for trial before seeking charges.

“The spotlight is hot,” James said. “You can’t afford to lose a case like this, right?”

Previous grand jury special reports have presented a narrative of the panel’s investigation and concluded with recommendations.

The 2013 special grand jury James worked with released a report of about 80 pages, but it was only made public after a months-long court fight.

The DeKalb County panel’s investigative summary referenced testimony and documents provided to the grand jury. At the end of the report was a list of all the witnesses who appeared. Grand jury members eventually referred one person for indictment, who opposed the release of the report, and nearly a dozen others for further investigation, exposing the violations in each case that led them to their conclusions. They also recommended a variety of government reforms.

A 2010 report from a special grand jury in Gwinnett County summarized its investigative activity surrounding local land acquisition deals and indicted a public official, though the indictment was later overturned when a court ruled that large special juries could not issue indictments.

For McBurney, there are only a few special grand jury examples to guide his decision-making about handling the report.

“Like everyone else, I’m sitting there eating popcorn waiting to see what he’s going to reveal and what he’s not going to reveal,” said Robert James, who used a special grand jury to investigate local corruption when he was a district attorney in DeKalb, Georgia. County.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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