A Georgia judge said Tuesday that he would not make any "rash decisions" about whether to release a report by a special grand jury on its investigation into whether then-President Donald Trump and his allies unlawfully tried to interfere with the 2020 election results.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney said he would rule later and reach out with any questions about the points made by the Fulton County district attorney's office and news organizations about the grand jury’s report, which is expected to include recommendations about possible criminal prosecution.
District Attorney Fani Willis argued that disclosing the report could violate the rights of potential defendants and negatively affect the ability to prosecute those who may be charged. She said the special grand jury heard from 75 witnesses.
“We want to make sure that everyone is treated fairly, and we think for future defendants to be treated fairly, it is not appropriate at this time for this report to be released,” Willis said.
If McBurney decides to disseminate the recently completed report, as the special grand jury urged, he must also determine whether any parts of it should be redacted.
A coalition of news organizations, including The Associated Press, argued in favor of releasing the report in full, saying in a filing Monday that the document “is a court record subject to a presumption of openness” under state court rules and the state and federal constitutions. The media group said public interest in the report is “extraordinary” and there “are no countervailing interests sufficient to overcome the presumption.”
Attorneys representing Trump in the investigation, meanwhile, told NBC News that they would not participate in Tuesday’s hearing and asserted that Trump had never been never subpoenaed or asked to voluntarily testify before the grand jury.
In their statement, Trump’s attorneys make no mention of any intention to fight the release of the report. “Therefore, we can 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,” they said.
Prosecutors argued in court Tuesday that whether to release the report should be discussed after the district attorney’s office has decided whether to seek charges. The district attorney’s office is not opposed to publicly releasing of the report eventually, prosecutor Donald Wakeford said, but “it is opposed to it right now.”
The original order granting Willis’ request for a special grand jury authorized the panel to “make recommendations concerning criminal prosecution as it shall see fit.” But it’s unclear just how specific those recommendations will be. The special grand jury did not have the power to issue indictments, and it will ultimately be up to Willis to decide whether to seek indictments from a regular grand jury.
A grand jury handbook produced by the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia says courts have repeatedly held that a grand jury “cannot include, in a report or general presentment, comments that charge or accuse identifiable person(s) of misconduct.” That can be done only in a charging document, like an indictment, the handbook says.
Willis called for the special grand jury last year because it has the authority to issue subpoenas for witnesses to testify. The panel has heard testimony from multiple figures in Trump’s inner circle, including attorney Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Top Georgia officials, such as Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — both Republicans whom Trump and his allies tried to pressure into overturning the 2020 election results — also testified.
Willis opened the investigation in early 2021 after a recording surfaced of a phone call that January between Trump and Raffensperger. Trump pressed Raffensperger to “find” the votes needed to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
"All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state,” Trump said in the call.
In a post on his social media platform Tuesday, Trump repeated his oft-stated claim that the call was "PERFECT, nothing done or said wrong."