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Grand jury in Georgia Trump inquiry sees perjury by witnesses, but no vote fraud

Former president Donald Trump.MADDIE MCGARVEY/NYT

A special grand jury that investigated election interference by former President Donald Trump and his allies in Georgia said it saw possible evidence of perjury by “one or more” witnesses who testified before it, according to portions of the jury’s final report that were released Thursday. The jurors also unanimously rebutted claims of widespread fraud made by Trump after the 2020 election.

The investigation in Atlanta has been seen as one of the most significant legal threats to Trump, given his personal role in pressuring Georgia election officials to “find” him enough votes to overturn his loss in the state. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said recently that a decision on bringing charges was “imminent.”


The several pages of excerpts released by a judge, however, offered only a narrow window into the full scope of the jury’s conclusions, providing no indication of who it believed should be charged, or which violations of Georgia law, beyond perjury, may have taken place.

The special grand jury, which met for nearly seven months in a courthouse in downtown Atlanta, was charged with investigating the actions of Trump and some of his allies in Georgia after the November 2020 elections, and recommending whether indictments should be pursued by prosecutors.

The fact that the judge ordered extensive redactions of the special grand jury’s report to protect the due process rights of individuals under investigation indicated that the jurors had, in fact, recommended indictments. In the publicly released portions of the report, the jurors wrote that they were setting forth “our recommendations on indictments and relevant statutes.” But those specific recommendations were not included in what Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney released Thursday.

Even so, the released excerpts underscored the serious threat the Georgia inquiry may pose to Trump and his allies.

Trump portrayed their contents differently. In a post on Truth Social on Thursday afternoon, he wrote, “Thank you to the Special Grand Jury in the Great State of Georgia for your Patriotism & Courage. Total exoneration. The USA is very proud of you!!!”


With the special grand jury’s report in hand, Willis will determine whether to use its recommendations as a basis for bringing the case to a regular grand jury, which can issue indictments. In a January hearing about whether the full report should be made public, she spoke of “protecting future defendants’ rights,” suggesting that indictments were likely. In that hearing, Willis said that decisions on whether to seek indictment were “imminent,” but she has not specified what that means.

The excerpts indicate the full report is only nine pages, although it has at least one appendix as well. By contrast, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol produced an 845-page report. The Atlanta report was written by local grand jurors, who noted that their group did not include “election law experts or criminal lawyers.” They used their “collective best efforts,” they wrote, to “attend every session, listen to every witness and attempt to understand the facts as presented and the laws as explained.”

A majority of the grand jurors believed “that perjury may have been committed by one or more witnesses,” according to the excerpts from the report, and recommended that Willis “seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where the evidence is compelling.”

The jury also noted that it reached a unanimous conclusion that “no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning that election.” That conclusion, they wrote, came after they heard “extensive testimony on the subject of alleged election fraud” from poll workers, investigators, technical experts, state officials and even “persons still claiming that such fraud took place.”


A Trump spokesperson, Liz Harrington, expressed amusement over that finding. “LOL,” she wrote on Twitter, sharing accusations of fraud in the state that have been debunked.

Willis’ office has been conducting the criminal investigation for two years. When she asked the chief judge of the Fulton County Superior Court last January to convene a special grand jury, she wrote that her office “has received information indicating a reasonable probability” that Georgia’s administration of the 2020 election “was subject to possible criminal disruptions.”

Nearly 20 people known to have been named targets of Willis’ investigation could face charges, including Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s former personal lawyer, and David Shafer, head of the Georgia Republican Party. Other high-profile figures who were called to testify include Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Mark Meadows, who served as White House chief of staff at the time of the 2020 election.

The catalyst for the investigation was the call that Trump made Jan. 2, 2021, to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which he pressed Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, to recalculate the results and “find” 11,780 votes, or enough to overturn his loss in the state.


Trump, in a statement Thursday, correctly noted that the published excerpts “do not even mention President Trump’s name.” He said that it was his “constitutional duty to ensure election safety, security and integrity,” and that during his “perfect” phone calls to Georgia officials, “no one objected, even slightly protested, or hung up.”

But Raffensperger repeatedly told Trump on the call that the state’s results were accurate.

He later wrote in a book that “for the office of the secretary of state to ‘recalculate’ would mean we would somehow have to fudge the numbers. The president was asking me to do something that I knew was wrong, and I was not going to do that.”

Legal experts have said a number of Georgia criminal charges could apply to Trump’s call to Raffensperger, among them first-degree criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, which is a felony.

But the investigation also looked at a number of other issues. Another source of potential legal jeopardy for Trump, experts say, is his direct involvement in recruiting a slate of bogus presidential electors in the weeks after the 2020 election, a plan that played out even after President Joe Biden prevailed in three different counts of the vote.

“Donald Trump was already very likely to face charges in Georgia,” said Norman Eisen, a lawyer who served as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during the first impeachment and trial of Trump. He said the jury’s conclusion that there was no widespread election fraud “fatally wounds any defense he might have, any factual or legal defense that he might have for his misconduct.”


Clark D. Cunningham, a law professor at Georgia State University, said “although the portions released today do not name specific persons to be indicted, the document filed in court today nonetheless is of historic importance.”

The Atlanta investigation is not the only potential criminal entanglement facing Trump as he begins another run for the presidency. In November, the Justice Department named a special counsel, Jack Smith, to oversee two Trump-related criminal investigations. And last month, the Manhattan district attorney’s office began presenting evidence to a grand jury on whether Trump paid hush money to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign, laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months.

The released excerpts from the Atlanta grand jury report, though slim, laid out the extent of the work of the special grand jury, which comprised 26 members — including three alternates — and began hearing evidence behind closed doors in June. That work stretched into December and involved hearing from 75 witnesses, receiving testimony from investigators with the district attorney’s office and reviewing documents.

The excerpts indicate that the rest of the report includes the vote tallies on each topic the jurors considered in a “Yea/Nay/Abstain” format, with footnotes in some cases allowing certain jurors to clarify their votes. The portion kept private also includes an appendix listing the Georgia statutes in question.

The district attorney’s office has indicated that it supports the release of the full report, but not before its own decisions on indictments are made.

“Now is not the time,” said Donald Wakeford, a top prosecutor in the district attorney’s office, during the hearing last month. “The district attorney’s office is not opposed to the eventual release; it’s opposed to it right now.”