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Georgia grand jury recommends perjury indictments in Trump election probe, finds no 'widespread fraud' in 2020

The DA leading the case said last month that charging decisions were "imminent."

February 16, 2023, 12:53 PM

The Fulton County, Georgia, grand jury investigating efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election has recommended to prosecutors that they seek indictments against witnesses who they believe may have lied during their testimony, according to excerpts of the grand jury's report released Thursday.

"A majority of the grand jury believes that perjury may have been committed by one or more witnesses testifying before it," the grand jury wrote in the report. "The Grand Jury recommends that the District Attorney seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where the evidence is compelling."

The excerpt from the report does not list any names of those who grand jury members believe may have committed perjury.

Separately, the grand jury also found "by a unanimous vote that no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning that election."

Outside of this, in the few paragraphs that were released of the report's introduction, conclusion, and section on perjury, there were no details revealed regarding whether or not the grand jury recommended changes for anyone related to efforts to overturn the election.

The report does not name any potential targets for indictment, nor does it offer any rationale for its allegations of perjury. It does not mention Trump by name, nor any of the 75 witnesses interviewed as part of their probe.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Trump said, "The long awaited important sections of the Georgia report, which do not even mention President Trump's name, have nothing to do with the President because President Trump did absolutely nothing wrong. The President participated in two perfect phone calls regarding election integrity in Georgia, which he is entitled to do -- in fact, as President, it was President Trump's Constitutional duty to ensure election safety, security, and integrity."

PHOTO: In this Jan. 4, 2022, file photo, Fulton County Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis is shown in her office in Atlanta.
In this Jan. 4, 2022, file photo, Fulton County Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis is shown in her office in Atlanta.
Ben Gray/AP, FILE

Excerpts from the report were released following an order earlier this week from the Georgia judge overseeing the case. The majority of the long-anticipated report -- the final product of a monthslong grand jury investigation into potential 2020 election interference in the state -- remains sealed on order of Fulton County Judge Robert McBurney.

McBurney's ruling came after he heard arguments last month over whether or not to publicly release the report. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis argued for the report to remain sealed, saying that it was important to "be mindful of protecting future defendants' rights."

Willis also said during the hearing that charging decisions were "imminent."

Thomas Clyde, a lawyer representing a coalition of media outlets that includes ABC News, urged McBurney to order the release of the report based on existing case law and "a genuine public interest in what these jurors found."

Though the special grand jury does not have the power to bring indictments, it has the power to make recommendations regarding potential charges. It would then be up to the district attorney to determine whether or not to pursue them.

According to the order from the judge, the full report provided just that: "a roster of who should (or should not) be indicted, and for what, in relation to the conduct (and aftermath) of the 2020 general election in Georgia," McBurney wrote.

Those recommendations, however, are "for the District Attorney's eyes only -- for now," McBurney ordered.

Willis on Monday told Atlanta ABC News affiliate WSB that she was "very pleased" with the order.

Ambassador Norman Eisen (ret.), a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institute who served as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee from 2019 to 2020, told ABC News that despite the judge shielding most of the report, "it's clear from the judge's order that the grand jury recommended charges."

"The question is: I don't think that if people are being charged, Trump can logically be left out, because he was the ringleader," Eisen told ABC News. "He was the mastermind of the plots."

Eisen pointed to McBurney's note that the report gave recommendations regarding "who should (or should not) be indicted, and for what."

"Really, if no one was being indicted, there would be no need to say, 'for what,'" Eisen said. "That second clause only makes sense if someone is getting indicted."

In a statement before last month's hearing to determine the report's release, attorneys representing Trump in the matter said they did not expect to see charges recommended for the former president.

"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," Trump's attorneys said in a statement. "He was never subpoenaed nor asked to come in voluntarily by this grand jury or anyone in the Fulton County District Attorney's Office."

Therefore, the attorneys said, they "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.

Attorneys representing Trump did not respond to ABC News' request for comment ahead of the report's release.

PHOTO: Former President Donald Trump addresses the crowd during a 2024 election campaign event in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 28, 2023.
Former President Donald Trump addresses the crowd during a 2024 election campaign event in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 28, 2023.
Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Regarding the grand jury's concerns that some witnesses may have lied under oath during their testimony, Eisen said the district attorney could further pursue those witnesses.

"I don't think Fani Willis is going to let witnesses get away with perjury before her grand jury," Eisen said. "She can use that to coerce the liars to tell the truth and cooperate. By lying they've given her leverage over them."

The special grand jury, which was seated in May 2022, was composed of 26 members of the public who heard testimony from over 75 witnesses, prosecutors said.

Those who were subpoenaed and appeared before the grand jury included some of Trump's closest allies and supporters, including attorneys Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, who unsuccessfully fought his subpoena up to the United State Supreme Court.

Giuliani, along with 16 so-called "fake electors" who allegedly participated in a scheme to overturn the state's election results, were notified last year that they were considered "targets" of the investigation.

Responding to the notification of his status as a target of the probe, Giuliani said, "I appeared in Georgia as attorney for Donald J. Trump -- so I'm going to be prosecuted for what I did as an attorney?"

The Justice Department is also examining the allegations involving fake electors as part of its own separate investigation, sources have told ABC News.

Attorneys for the electors have denied any wrongdoing in their actions.

"They cannot have and did not commit any crime as a matter of fact and law," attorney Holly Pierson, who represents 11 of the alleged fake electors, wrote in a court filing.

The jury was seated last May as part of Willis' criminal probe into allegations of election interference, which was launched in February 2021. The investigation was 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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