Judge delays ruling on release of Georgia election interference probe report
Written by ABC Audio ALL RIGHTS RESERVED on January 24, 2023
(FULTON COUNTY, Ga.) — The judge hearing arguments over whether or not to publicly release the report by the Georgia grand jury investigating efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election said Tuesday that he will take all arguments under consideration and “circle back” with a decision at a later date.
Fulton County Judge Robert McBurney heard arguments Tuesday regarding the public release the long-anticipated confidential report, which the grand jury submitted earlier this month, according to court records, after probing the matter for months.
“My proposal is that I think about this a little bit and then contact both groups,” McBurney said. “There will be no rash decisions.”
Earlier in the hearing, the district attorney leading the probe told the judge that she opposes the public release of the grand jury’s report.
“In this case, the state understands the media’s inquiry and the world’s interest,” Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told McBurney. “But we have to be mindful of protecting future defendants’ rights. We want to make sure that everyone is being fairly, and we think for future defendants to be treated fairly, it is not appropriate for this report to be released.”
“Decisions are imminent,” Willis said.
Donald Wakeford, a prosecutor in the DA’s office, also argued that release would be “dangerous” to the people “who may or may not be named in the report for various reasons.”
“It’s also a disservice to the witnesses who came to the grand jury and spoke the truth to the grand jury,” Wakeford said.
Prosecutors said that 75 witnesses were interviewed as part of the probe.
Thomas Clyde, a lawyer representing a coalition of media outlets that includes ABC News, urged Judge McBurney to order the release of the report based on existing case law and “a genuine public interest in what these jurors found.”
“We believe the report should be released now and in its entirety,” Clyde said. “It is not unusual for the [district attorney] … to release information during the progress of its case.”
Clyde cited several examples in which “special purpose” grand jury reports were made public, and argued that none of the material likely included in the report would justify keeping it sealed.
Though the grand jury does not have the ability to return an indictment, it can make recommendations concerning criminal prosecution. Another grand jury would bring any possible charges, should they be recommended.
The central question regarding the report: Did the grand jury recommend criminal charges for Donald Trump and his allies?
Attorneys for Trump said in a statement on Monday that they would not be participating in Tuesday’s hearing — and did not expect charge recommendations.
“On behalf of President Trump, we will not be present nor participating in Tuesday’s hearing regarding the possible release of the special purpose grand jury’s report,” said the statement. “To date, we have never been a part of this process. The grand jury compelled the testimony of dozens of other, often high-ranking, officials during the investigation, but never found it important to speak with the President. He was never subpoenaed nor asked to come in voluntarily by this grand jury or anyone in the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office.”
Attorneys in the statement said they therefore “assume that the grand jury did their job and looked at the facts and the law, as we have, and concluded there were no violations of the law by President Trump” — although there’s no indication if that’s true or not.
Willis officially launched the probe in February 2021, sparked in part by the now-infamous Jan. 2, 2021, phone call Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Trump pleaded with Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes,” the exact number Trump needed to win Georgia.
Trump has repeatedly defended his call to Raffensperger, calling it “perfect.”
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