6 Takeaways From the Report on the Trump Investigation in Georgia
On Thursday, after a lengthy criminal investigation by a Georgia special grand jury into allegations of election interference by Donald J. Trump and his allies, a judge released excerpts from a report drafted by the panel. The grand jury’s recommendations were redacted, and little new information was released, but a close reading, together with earlier reporting, offers some insights into where the case is headed. Here are some key takeaways.
Legal experts say Mr. Trump remains in real jeopardy in Georgia.
In a post on Truth Social on Thursday afternoon, Mr. Trump thanked the special grand jury for its “Patriotism & Courage.
“Total exoneration,” he added. “The USA is very proud of you!!!”
In fact, the portions of the grand jury’s report that included recommendations on possible indictments were not revealed. Many legal experts continue to see two significant areas of exposure for Mr. Trump.
The first is his direct involvement in recruiting a slate of alternative presidential electors after the 2020 election, even after Georgia’s results were recertified by the state’s Republican leadership. The second are the telephone calls he made to pressure state officials after the election, including one in which Mr. Trump told Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, that he needed to “find” 11,780 votes, one more than President Biden’s margin of victory in the state.
“Even before we got these initial statements from the special grand jury, we knew Trump was in deep criminal peril because of the mountain of evidence that has accumulated that he violated Georgia statutes,” said Norman Eisen, a lawyer who served as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during the first impeachment and trial of Mr. Trump, and a co-author of a lengthy Brookings Institution report on the Fulton County investigation.
The jurors did make recommendations about indictments.
The special grand jury noted in its report that it had voted on indictment recommendations, though the released excerpts do not revealwhat the results of those votes were. The jurors wrote that they had “set forth for the Court our recommendations on indictments and relevant statutes.” (A special grand jury cannot bring indictments, but can make recommendations to the district attorney.)
In ordering that only portions of the report be released, with all names redacted, the judge handling the case may have provided a clue to the grand jury’s recommendations. The judge, Robert C.I. McBurney of Fulton County Superior Court, said he was limiting the extent of the release because the grand jury inquiry, by its nature, allowed for only “very limited due process” for potential defendants. The judge’s stance would have been unlikely if the grand jury had not recommended indictments.
Understand Georgia’s Investigation of Election Interference
A legal threat to Trump. Fani T. Willis, the Atlanta area district attorney, has been investigating whether former President Donald J. Trump and his allies interfered with the 2020 election in Georgia. The case could be one of the most perilous legal problems for Mr. Trump. Here’s what to know:
Looking for votes. Prosecutors in Georgia opened their investigation in February 2021, just weeks after Mr. Trump made a phone call to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, and urged him to “find” enough votes to overturn the results of the election there.
What are prosecutors looking at? In addition to Mr. Trump’s call to Mr. Raffensperger, Ms. Willis has homed in on a plot by Trump allies to send fake Georgia electors to Washington and misstatements about the election results made before the state legislature by Rudolph W. Giuliani, who spearheaded efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power as his personal lawyer. An election data breach in Coffee County, Ga., is also part of the investigation.
Who is under scrutiny? Mr. Giuliani has been told that he is a target of the investigation, and prosecutors have warned some state officials and pro-Trump “alternate electors” that they could be indicted. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, has been fighting efforts to force him to appear before a grand jury.
The potential charges. Experts say that Ms. Willis appears to be building a case that could target multiple defendants with charges of conspiracy to commit election fraud or racketeering-related charges for engaging in a coordinated scheme to undermine the election.
One specific issue raised in the excerpts is perjury. A majority of jurors believed that perjury may have been committed “by one or more witnesses,” though those witnesses were not identified.
But perjury is not the only potential charge the grand jury discussed, since the jurors say that the unredacted report includes an appendix listing a number of applicable statutes.
None of the 23 jurors believes there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election in Georgia.
In the released excerpts, the jury noted that it had reached a unanimous conclusion that “no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning that election.”
Their conclusion is not good news for Mr. Trump or his allies. It suggests that none of the jurors were hard-line Trump supporters who had adopted his false claims that the election was stolen, even though it is likely that some of the jurors did vote for Mr. Trump.
Clark D. Cunningham, a law professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta, noted that the jurors had been chosen randomly from Fulton County residents, and that 26 percent of the county’s ballots in 2020 were cast for Mr. Trump. So it was likely that some Trump voters were among the jurors — and even they were not swayed.
The jurors wrote that they had made their decision after hearing “extensive testimony on the subject of alleged election fraud” from poll workers, investigators, technical experts, state officials and even “persons still claiming that such fraud took place.”
The effects of the perjury allegations on the broader case are unclear.
A majority of the grand jurors believed “that perjury may have been committed by one or more witnesses,” and recommended that Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Ga., who is leading the investigation, “seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where the evidence is compelling.”
The excerpts did not include any names, so it is not clear who the jurors were raising concerns about. They heard testimony from 75 witnesses. And perjury cases can be difficult to win, so it is not guaranteed that the district attorney will bring charges based on the jurors’ concerns.
The full report seems to be skinny, and that may be on purpose.
The page-numbering scheme from the excerpts suggests that the full report is only nine pages long, not counting at least one appendix.
Anthony Michael Kreis, a constitutional law expert at Georgia State University, suspects that prosecutors advised jurors to keep the report short and simple for strategic reasons. “If you have a lengthy document that becomes part of the court record, that gives defense attorneys a lot of rabbit holes to go down that the D.A.’s office may not want,” he said.
He added: “It was as vanilla as a legal document will ever get. And I think that was by design.”
The district attorney will now decide what charges to bring.
With the report in hand, the district attorney’s office will now determine whether to use its recommendations as a basis for bringing the case to a regular grand jury, which can issue indictments.
In addition to Mr. Trump himself, nearly 20 people are known to have been named targets of Ms. Willis’s investigation and are among those who could face charges. They include Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, and David Shafer, the head of the Georgia Republican Party.
High-profile figures who were called to testify include Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Mark Meadows, who served as White House chief of staff at the time of the 2020 election.
As for the report, the full version is likely to be released — eventually. The district attorney’s office has indicated that it supports fuller disclosure, but not before its own decisions about indictments are made.
Ms. Willis said at a hearing last month that a determination on whether to seek indictments was “imminent,” but she has not specified exactly what that means. Her decision is expected by May.