ATLANTA — A special grand jury investigating efforts by then-President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia says it believes “one or more witnesses” committed perjury and urged local prosecutors to bring charges.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis should “seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where the evidence is compelling,” according to portions of the special grand jury’s final report that were released Thursday.
Also, all 23 members of the grand jury agreed that Georgia’s 2020 presidential vote was not marred by “widespread fraud” as claimed by Trump and his allies.
“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 says. “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.”
The parts of the report that were released are silent on key details, including who the panel believes committed perjury and what other specific charges should be pursued. But it marks the first time the grand jurors’ recommendations for criminal charges tied to the case have been made public. And it’s a reminder of the intensifying legal challenges facing the former president as he ramps up his third White House bid amid multiple legal investigations.
Trump is also under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for holding classified documents at his Florida estate.
The former president never testified before the special grand jury, meaning he is not among those who could have perjured themselves. But the report doesn’t foreclose the possibility of other charges, and the case still poses particular challenges for Trump, in part because his actions in Georgia were so public.
Trump and his allies made unproven claims of widespread voter fraud and berated Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp for not acting to overturn his narrow loss to President Joe Biden in the state.
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. “Because we won the state.”
Trump has said repeatedly that his call with Raffensperger was “perfect,” and he told The Associated Press last month that he felt “very confident” that he would not be indicted. In a statement on Thursday, he continued to assert he did “absolutely nothing wrong.”
In fact, he claimed on his social media platform, Truth Social, that the release had given him “Total exoneration,” though portions having to do with recommended charges are still secret.
State and federal officials, including Trump’s attorney general, have consistently said the election was secure and there was no evidence of significant fraud.
The grand jury, which Willis requested to aid her investigation, was seated in May and submitted its report to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney on Dec. 15. The panel does not have the power to issue indictments. Instead, its report contains recommendations for Willis, who will ultimately decide whether to seek one or more indictments from a regular grand jury.
Over the course of about seven months, the special 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 Raffensperger and Kemp, also appeared before the panel.
Graham told reporters Thursday that he has not been contacted by authorities regarding his testimony. “I’m confident I testified openly and honestly,” he said.
The partial release of the grand jury’s report was ordered Monday by McBurney, who oversaw the special grand jury. During a hearing last month, prosecutors urged him not to release the report until they decide on charges, while a coalition of media organizations, including the AP, pushed for the entire report to be made public immediately.
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, Willis pressed to keep the report fully sealed, telling the judge that charging decisions were “imminent.”
The report’s partial release comes against the backdrop of other investigations into alleged efforts by Trump and his supporters to contest the 2020 election results in key battleground states.
While there were relatively few details in Thursday’s release, it does provide some insight into the panel’s process. The report’s introduction says an “overwhelming majority” of the information that the grand jury received “was delivered in person under oath.” It also noted that no one on the panel was an election law expert or criminal lawyer.
Based on witnesses called to testify before the special grand jury, it is clear that Willis is focusing on several areas.
• 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.
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 urging 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 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.
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 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 alternate electors plan 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.
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 alternate Republican electors — a group that includes David Shafer, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party.
Information for this article was contributed by Kate Brumback and Kevin Freking of The Associated Press and by Holly Bailey of The Washington Post.