‘Decisions are imminent’ on charges in Trump’s bid to overturn 2020 election in Georgia, Fulton County DA says

‘Decisions are imminent’ on charges in Trump’s bid to overturn 2020 election in Georgia, Fulton County DA says



CNN

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

Hearing in Atlanta on whether the special jury report should be released publicly. Willis, a Democrat, said she is opposed to making it public right now, citing her ongoing discussions about charges.

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

“We want to make sure that everyone is treated fairly, and we think that future defendants are treated fairly that it is not appropriate to release this report at this time,” she said.

The special grand jury, which is barred from issuing an indictment, wrote the final report expected to be the culmination of its seven months of work, which included the interview of witnesses by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.

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

The final report will likely include some summary of the panel’s investigative work, as well as any recommendations for indictment 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

Fr. The US attorney explains what could happen next in the Fulton Co. investigation

Donald Wakeford, Fulton County’s chief senior assistant district attorney, also argued to the judge that it would be “dangerous” to release the report before any announcement of possible charges is made.

“We think even 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 enough time meaningful to evaluate it — is dangerous,” a said Wakeford. “It’s dangerous for the people who may or may not be named in the report for a variety of reasons. It’s also a disservice to the witnesses who came to the grand jury and told the truth to the grand jury .”

Atlantic-area prosecutors are already looking at the report as they consider whether to bring charges against Trump or his associates.

McBurney, who oversaw the special grand jury’s roughly seven-month investigation, will decide whether and, if so, how much of the report should be released publicly. Although the grand jury panel recommended making its report public, so far, the matter has been kept under wraps.

A media coalition, including CNN, wants the full report made public.

“We believe the report should be released now and in its entirety. And that approach is consistent with the way the American judicial system operates,” argued attorney Tom Clyde, who represented the coalition. “In other words, it’s not unusual for a district attorney or prosecuting authority to be generally uncomfortable with releasing information as the case progresses. It 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 unusual.”

“There will be no rash decisions” he said, adding later: “Nobody will wake up when the court reveals the report on the front page of the newspaper.”

McBurney will have to weigh the public’s interest in learning about attempts to interfere in the last presidential election against concerns that the district attorney’s pursuit of indictments could hinder an ongoing investigation and that the release could be disinterested. made of individuals who were not charged. with crimes, said Peter Skandalakis, executive director of the Georgia Council of Prosecuting Attorneys.

“What you don’t want is an opportunity for a grand jury to make some allegation of criminal conduct that can’t be proven later or is unfounded and the person hasn’t had a chance to clear his or her name,” Skandalakis said.

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

“The grand jury compelled the testimony of numerous other officials, often high-ranking, during the investigation, but it was never 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 their job and looked at the facts and the law, as we have, and concluded that there was no violation of the law by President Trump.”

The Georgia probe began soon after Trump called Raffensperger in January 2021, pushing 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 anybody else’s,” Willis told CNN in an interview in 2022. “If somebody takes that away or violates it in a way that’s criminal, because I’m sitting here in this jurisdiction the responsibility is mine.”

Willis asked a special jury to investigate the case and the panel began its work in June 2022, calling a roster of witnesses including Raffensperger, Giuilani, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

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

Over time, the investigation has expanded far beyond Trump’s call to include false claims of election fraud for state voters, the fake voter scheme, attempts by unauthorized individuals to gain access to voting machines in one Georgia county. and threats and harassment against election workers.

Along the way, Willis has named a number of people as targets of his probe, including 16 Republicans who served as Trump’s 2020 electors and Giuliani.

But it was up to the special grand jurors to put that into the final report.

“It’s important for people to know that the prosecutor’s office doesn’t traditionally write the presentation,” said Robert James, who used a special grand jury to investigate local corruption when he was district attorney in DeKalb County. Georgia. “It is 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 jury for an indictment. She does not have to follow the exact recommendations laid out by the special jury, but her work product will likely be public eventually and she may risk complications if she strays too far from the panel’s recommendations.

Willis previously said she may pursue Racketeer and Corrupt Influence Organizations (RICO) charges in the case, which would allow prosecutors to bring charges against multiple defendants and make the case that Trump and his allies were part of a criminal enterprise.

Whatever her approach, she will likely be under pressure to move quickly to indict or end her investigation.

The level of pressure is “all-encompassing,” said James, who predicted Willis would marshal her resources and get her case ready for trial before seeking any indictments.

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

The story of the panel’s investigation has been set out in special reports before a special jury and concluded with recommendations.

The former 2013 special grand jury that James served on issued a roughly 80-page report, but it was only released publicly after a months-long court battle.

The DeKalb County panel’s investigative summary referred to evidence and documents provided to the jury. At the end of the report was a list of all the witnesses who appeared. Ultimately, the grand jurors referred one person for indictment — who fought the public release of the report — and nearly a dozen others for further investigation, outlining the violations in each case that led to their conclusions. They also proposed various government reforms.

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

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

“Like everybody else I’m sitting eating popcorn waiting to see what he’s going to release and what he’s not going to release,” said Robert James, who used a special 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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