Georgia grand jury majority believes some committed perjury in 2020 election probe
Criminal indictments could come in the case, but Thursday's release was limited in scope
A special grand jury that investigated efforts by then U.S. president Donald Trump and his allies to overturn his election loss in Georgia says it believes some witnesses committed perjury, and it recommends "appropriate indictments."
The panel recommended that the district attorney "seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where the evidence is compelling." But the report does not name the people who are alleged to have lied.
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.
The jury said it found "by unanimous vote that no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning the election."
Trump and his allies have made unproven claims of widespread voter fraud and have repeatedly berated Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp for not acting to overturn his loss.
'Decisions are imminent,' DA said last month
The panel also said the belief that one or more witnesses may have committed perjury was found by a "majority of the grand jury," without offering specifics.
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 McBurney not to release the report until they decide on charges, while a coalition of media organizations 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.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis argued against the release, indicating on Jan. 24 that "decisions are imminent" on how to proceed. Willis could empanel a more typical grand jury to seek indictments.
The investigation is one of several that could have serious legal consequences for the former president as he tries to persuade voters to return him to the White House in 2024.
This week, former vice-president Mike Pence confirmed he received a subpoena from a special counsel at the federal level investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot on the Capitol and the events leading up to that day. The riot was preceded by weeks of allegations of voter fraud by Trump that were entirely rejected by the courts, as well as his administration's cybersecurity officials, who characterized the vote as "the most secure in American history."
Several potential avenues of inquiry
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.
Trump associates, Georgia officials testify
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 Kemp and Raffensperger, also appeared before the panel.
Trump, who has 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.
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Georgia tipped to Biden by about 12,000 votes, making him the first Democratic presidential candidate to win there since 1992.
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.
Trump has said repeatedly that his call with Raffensperger was "perfect," and he told The Associated Press last month that he felt "very confident" he would not be indicted.
Willis last summer sent letters informing some people, including Giuliani and the state's 16 fake electors, that they could face criminal charges.
With files from CBC News