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Trump investigation: Georgia court releases parts of report, fears perjury

Jurors believe at least one of the 75 witnesses could have lied under oath

Donald trump election campaign (File) Former President Donald Trump waves after announcing he is running for president for the third time as he speaks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach | Reuters

Parts of a report by a special grand jury that investigated whether then-President Donald Trump and his allies committed any crimes while trying to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia have been made public.

The report's introduction and conclusion, along with a section in which the grand jurors expressed concerns that some witnesses may have lied under oath were released Thursday. But any recommendations on potential criminal charges will remain under wraps for now.

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 him not to release the report until they decide on charges, while a coalition of media organizations, including The Associated Press, 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.

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.

The special grand jury, which was requested by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to aid her investigation, did 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.

The Guardian reported that the grand jurors, through an unanimous vote determined that no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning that election. However, jurors fear at least one of the 75 witnesses it heard may have lied under oath. “A majority of the Grand Jury believes that perjury may have been committed by one or more witnesses testifying before it. The Grand Jury recommends that the District Attorney seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where the evidence is compelling,” the publication reported quoting the report.

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 US Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Top Georgia officials, such as Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Governor Brian Kemp, 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. 

Georgia tipped to Biden by about 12,000 votes, making him the first Democratic presidential candidate to win there since 1992.

Trump and his allies have made unproven claims of widespread voter fraud and have repeatedly berated Raffensperger and Kemp for not acting to overturn his loss. 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 January 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 AP last month that he felt very confident that he would not be indicted.

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.

Willis is also investigating 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 and the abrupt resignation of the US attorney in Atlanta in January 2021.

Willis last summer sent letters informing some people, including Giuliani and the state's 16 fake electors, that they could face criminal charges.

(With PTI inputs.) 

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