Georgia grand jury report signals potential Trump indictment in 2020 election probe

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has yet to reach any final conclusions in her investigation.

A pedestrian walkway over a city street leads to the Fulton County court.
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The partial release of a Georgia special grand jury report provides a forceful new sign that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ investigation into the 2020 election is further along than any of the multiple criminal probes targeting Donald Trump.

Willis and a small team of Fulton County prosecutors are now actively poring over the voluminous evidence compiled by the special grand jury with the goal of bringing charges within the next few months, possibly by May, according to multiple sources familiar with the probe.

Willis has yet to reach any final conclusions about what she will do. But lawyers say the four pages of the report disclosed this week, scant on details as they were, increase the likelihood that Willis, widely known as a hard-nosed prosecutor, will end up indicting multiple players who sought to reverse Georgia’s 2020 vote, including the former president himself.

Judge Robert McBurney in his robes, at the microphone in court.
Fulton County, Ga., Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney instructs potential jurors during proceedings to seat a special purpose grand jury, May 2, 2022, in Atlanta. (Ben Gray/AP Photo)

“There’s no chance that she goes with no indictment of Trump,” said Don Samuel, a prominent Atlanta defense lawyer who has represented the Georgia General Assembly in the case.

Gwen Keyes Fleming, the former district attorney in neighboring DeKalb County, agreed that the released portions of the report — combined with evidence that is already public — suggest that an indictment of Trump may be forthcoming. “It seems unlikely she would indict others for tangential crimes and not reach the president,” she said.

And if she does, it could result “in the most politically charged criminal case in American history,” said Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor in Southern California. Not only would Willis be the first local district attorney to charge a former president with a crime, she would also be indicting a current top presidential contender in 2024, turning a prospective trial into a political circus that will hang over the presidential election and could pose potential security risks in downtown Atlanta.

“A lot of his supporters will see it as politically motivated, no matter what evidence she presents,” Rahmani said. “They’ll call it the 'weaponization' of government. Trump is not the mob or the cartel, but he inspires people on the political fringes who do crazy things. Right-wing protesters will show up outside the Fulton County DA’s Office if Trump is charged, that’s a given.”

A spokesman for Trump released a statement Thursday dismissing the idea that the former president is in legal jeopardy. The released sections of the report “have nothing to do with the president, because President Trump did absolutely nothing wrong,” the spokesman said.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis listens in court, holding a pen.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis at a hearing in Atlanta on Jan. 24 held to determine whether the final report by the special grand jury looking into possible interference in the 2020 presidential election could be released to the public. (John Bazemore/AP Photo)

Willis’s investigation is not the only potential criminal probe confronting the former president. Just this week, special counsel Jack Smith — appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in November — was reported to have subpoenaed former Vice President Mike Pence, a sign that his investigation into Trump’s role in the events of Jan. 6, 2021, is still very much active.

Meanwhile, Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, has reportedly begun presenting evidence to a New York grand jury about Trump’s payments of alleged hush money to the former porn star Stormy Daniels, on the grounds that it might have violated state law.

But Willis’s investigation has long been viewed as the most serious threat to Trump, because it began with a powerful piece of evidence: a tape of Trump’s phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021, in which he repeatedly urged the state’s top election official to “find” the necessary votes to flip the election results in that state and appeared to be threatening him with the prospect of criminal prosecution if he did not.

A recent report by the Brookings Institution asserted that Trump’s phone call alone could subject him to prosecution under a Georgia statute for criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, a felony that carries a penalty of one to three years in prison. (On his Truth Social platform, Trump recently claimed that his phone call with Raffensperger was “perfect,” and he has repeatedly denounced Willis as a “radical leftist” prosecutor out to get him.)

Majority counsel Norm Eisen seeks testimony from witnesses at a hearing.
Majority counsel Norm Eisen at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Dec. 4, 2019, in Washington, D.C. (Drew Angerer/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

But as Yahoo News and other outlets have reported, Willis is also exploring bringing broader conspiracy charges under Georgia’s expansive Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act that would encompass other conduct during Trump’s two-month-long pressure campaign to throw out the Georgia election results. Among those actions: potential false statements by Trump’s chief lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to Georgia legislative committees, and Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer’s secret designation of so-called “fake electors” pledged to Trump that were then presented to Congress and the National Archives.

The released portions of the grand jury report shed little light on Willis's intentions. The big headlines off the Thursday release were the special grand jury’s conclusion that “one or more” of the 75 witnesses whom they had heard from had lied under oath and its recommendation that Willis seek indictments where the evidence is “compelling.”

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a podium marked New Hampshire Republican Party, in front of an American flag and the state flag.
Former President Donald Trump addresses the New Hampshire Republican State Committee's Annual Meeting on Jan. 28 in Salem, N.H. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

But the fine print in the report clearly points to recommendations that go further than simply perjury. In the introduction, the grand jurors state that the report sets forth “our recommendations on indictments and relevant statutes, including votes by the Grand Jurors.” Notably, this refers to both indictments and statutes in the plural.

The report also summarily rejected Trump’s core claim that the 2020 election in Georgia was stolen from him by fraud. “We find by a unanimous vote that no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning that election,” the grand jurors declared.