The special grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump’s efforts for re-election in Georgia in 2020 is concerned that some witnesses may have lied under oath. These concerns are expressed in a section of the panel’s final report, which is now scheduled to be issued on Thursday, along with the study’s introduction and conclusion.
To protect the rights of future possible defendants who haven’t had an opportunity to defend themselves, local Judge Robert McBurney said in a ruling released on Monday that key details about potential criminal defendants and specific charge recommendations would be kept secret for the time being.
“The consequence of these due process deficiencies is not that the special purpose grand jury’s final report is forever suppressed or that its recommendations for or against indictment are in any way flawed or suspect,” McBurney wrote. “Rather, the consequence is that those recommendations are for the district attorney’s eyes only—for now. Fundamental fairness requires this.”
The decision to release portions of the report while withholding names and allegations represents a partial victory for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who has been investigating Trump and his associates since early 2021 and recently requested that the entire report be kept secret because her charging decisions are “imminent.”
The panel “provided the District Attorney with exactly what she requested: 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,” McBurney wrote.
The report’s public release has been eagerly awaited since the panel concluded its investigation in January. Willis’ investigation is only one of several criminal probes that are currently looming over Trump, but it may be the most likely to result in final charging decisions.
Special Counsel Jack Smith is also investigating Trump’s attempts to stay in office after losing the 2020 election, as well as the finding of secret government records at Trump’s Palm Beach resort, Mar-a-Lago. In New York, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is said to have started providing evidence to a grand jury concerning Trump’s role in a scheme to buy the silence of an adult film actress named Stormy Daniels about her alleged sexual liaison with Trump before the 2016 election.
McBurney said that “fundamental fairness” requires withholding the names of individuals named in the report while Willis decides whether to charge and who to charge. Those potential defendants have not yet had the opportunity to call their own witnesses, as they would in a normal criminal trial, according to McBurney. Witnesses who testified before the special purpose grand jury were not allowed to be represented by attorneys.
“By all appearances, the special purpose grand jury did its work by the book,” McBurney wrote. “The problem here, in discussing public disclosure, is that the book’s rules do not allow for the objects of the District Attorney’s attention to be heard in the manner we require in a court of law.”
Willis’ inquiry began when Trump contacted Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on January 2, 2021, and pleaded with the local official to help Trump in “finding” enough votes to win. The discussion was recorded and subsequently released to the media, including The Washington Post. “All I want to do is this,” Trump told Raffensperger. “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.”