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Georgia grand jury: ‘Perjury may have been committed’ in Trump election probe

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney ordered the release of three sections of a report on efforts to overturn Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia. (Ben Gray/AP)
10 min

An Atlanta-area special grand jury investigating efforts by President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia concluded that some witnesses may have lied under oath during their testimony and recommended that charges be filed. But those witnesses were not identified in the five-page excerpt of the grand jury report made public Thursday.

Read the released report

“A majority of the grand jury believes that perjury may have been committed by one or more witnesses testifying before it,” the report reads. “The grand jury recommends that the district attorney seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where the evidence is compelling.”

The unsealed document, released Thursday, offered no major clues about the grand jury’s other findings — although the panel pointedly noted that it unanimously agreed that Georgia’s 2020 presidential vote had not been marred by “widespread fraud,” contrary to what Trump and many of his allies have claimed.

In a phone call on Jan. 2, 2021, President Donald Trump insisted he won the state and threatened vague legal consequences. Here are excerpts from the call. (Video: Obtained by The Washington Post)

“The grand jury heard extensive testimony on the subject of alleged election fraud from poll workers, investigators, technical experts, and State of Georgia employees and officials, as well as from persons still claiming that such fraud took place,” the report reads. “We find by a unanimous vote that no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning that election.”

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney on Monday ordered the release of the report’s introduction and conclusion as well as the section where the grand jury discussed potential perjury.

The five pages unsealed Thursday suggested that the grand jury’s full final report may be just nine pages long. It included an addendum apparently signed by the jury’s foreman and deputy foreman — their signatures redacted — noting that the panel had voted to make its findings public but was not recommending “a manner or time for such publication.”

The rest of the panel’s findings remained private — including what McBurney has described as “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 said releasing the full report at this time would violate due process of “potential future defendants” because what was presented to the grand jury was a “one-sided exploration” of what happened. He noted that there were no lawyers “advocating for the targets of the investigation” and that those who testified were not allowed to “present evidence” or “rebut” other testimony.

“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.”

While the grand jury report remains mostly sealed, McBurney’s ruling was the latest indication that the panel has recommended charges in the case. Last month, Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis pressed to keep the report fully sealed, telling the judge that charging decisions were “imminent.”

In extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressures Georgia secretary of state to recalculate the vote in his favor

The report’s partial release comes against the backdrop of other investigations into alleged efforts by Trump and his supporters to subvert the 2020 election results in key battleground states.

In December, the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol issued a final, 800-plus-page report, which cited evidence from thousands of documents and more than 1,000 witness interviews. The committee was not conducting a criminal investigation, and its conclusions have no legal bearing. Still, it argued that Trump, with the help of allies, orchestrated a plan to stay in office despite his election loss.

In recent weeks, a special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland issued subpoenas to election officials in states including Georgia, as well as to Trump campaign associates, as part of a Justice Department inquiry into the efforts Trump and his allies undertook to reverse his 2020 defeat.

In Fulton County, Willis will decide whether to criminally charge Trump or his allies. But her decision will be heavily influenced — and perhaps given political cover — by the findings of the Atlanta-area residents randomly selected in May to serve on the special grand jury.

In a statement released Thursday, Trump defended his actions in Georgia, saying “the long awaited important sections of the Georgia report, which do not even mention President Trump’s name, have nothing to do with the President because President Trump did absolutely nothing wrong.”

The investigative body of 23 jurors and three alternates picked from a pool of residents of Atlanta and its suburbs was given full subpoena power for documents and the ability to call witnesses. The jurors’ identities have not been made public and may never be.

From June to December, the panel heard from a parade of prominent Republicans including Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, U.S. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, along with dozens of other witnesses — among them some who have not previously given public testimony on what they knew about Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. The grand jury spoke to 75 witnesses.

Willis, a longtime Fulton County prosecutor who was elected district attorney in 2020, launched her investigation into alleged election interference just days after a recording was made public of a January 2021 phone call that Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger urging him to “find” enough votes to overturn Trump’s defeat in Georgia.

It was one of several calls Trump and his associates made to Georgia officials prodding them to undertake efforts with the aim of changing the results of the state’s presidential election, which Trump lost by fewer than 12,000 votes.

In the two years since, Willis has indicated publicly and in court filings that her office’s investigation has expanded to include several other lines of inquiry, including false claims of election fraud that Giuliani and other Trump associates made to Georgia state lawmakers; threats and harassment targeting Georgia election workers; and alleged efforts by unauthorized individuals to breach election data recorded by voting machines in Coffee County, Ga.

Another intense focus of Willis’s inquiry has been the creation of an alternative slate of Republican electoral college electors who met at the Georgia Capitol in December 2020 and signed certificates falsely asserting that Trump had won the election in Georgia. In court filings, lawyers for the would-be electors have said their clients were merely acting to preserve Trump’s rights amid a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Georgia election results, which had already been certified by the state.

But those actions have drawn scrutiny from state and federal investigators — including Willis — who are examining the larger coordinated plan behind their efforts, including the involvement of Trump, his attorneys and top advisers, and state and local Republican operatives. State and federal officials also are investigating whether the “fake elector” scheme was intended to disrupt the transfer of power during Congress’s certification of the electoral college votes for the presidency.

In court filings, Willis has described her investigation as an examination of “multi-state, coordinated efforts to influence the results of the November 2020 elections in Georgia and elsewhere.” She has publicly said that she is looking not only at potential violations of state law but also at criminal conspiracy — hinting that she may employ Georgia’s expansive statute on racketeering to prosecute the case, as she has in other high-profile trials in Fulton County, including an ongoing case against the rap artist Young Thug.

Some congressional Republicans on Jan. 4 criticized President Trump for asking Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” votes. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

In September, Willis told The Washington Post that her team had heard credible allegations that crimes had been committed. “If indicted and convicted, people are facing prison sentences,” Willis said.

At least 18 people have been notified that they are targets of the election interference investigation, according to court documents and statements from their attorneys. That list includes Giuliani, who was serving as Trump’s personal lawyer at the time, and all the alternative Republican electors — a group that includes David Shafer, the chairman of the Georgia Republican Party.

Willis’s office has not said whether Trump is a target of the Fulton County investigation, which the former president has called a “witch hunt.”

Last month, Trump’s Georgia-based legal team implied in a statement that there had been no formal contact between the former president and his legal team and Fulton County prosecutors. “We have never been a part of this process,” the attorneys said. But they did not respond when asked whether Trump had been given notice that he is a target of the investigation.

On Monday, McBurney indicated that he may move to unseal other parts of the grand jury report, asking prosecutors to provide him with “periodic updates” on the progress of their investigation. He noted that the report is considered part of the public court record when a “criminal investigation is complete and an indictment has been obtained.”

But it remains unclear how quickly Willis can move to file charges — if that is what she plans to do. To charge someone, Willis would have to present her case to a regular grand jury that has the power to issue criminal indictments.

In Fulton County, grand jury terms begin every two months, with the latest panels seated early last month. Some observers have wondered whether Willis is already presenting her case or will wait until a new grand jury is seated in March because of legal rules that allow defendants to request speedy trials, within two months of the end of the grand jury terms in which they are indicted.

A spokesman for Willis did not respond to a request for comment.

In their conclusion, the grand jurors emphasized that their report and its findings came directly from them. They wrote that the district attorney’s office “had nothing to do with the recommendations contained herein” and noted that the jury did not include any “election law experts or criminal lawyers.”

“The majority of this grand jury used their collective best efforts, however, to attend every session, listen to every witness and attempt to understand the facts as presented and the laws as explained,” the jurors wrote.

They said the case is now up to the “discretion of the district attorney to seek indictments where she finds sufficient cause.”