US judge orders partial release of Georgia’s Trump election probe

Portions of special panel’s report on push to overturn 2020 presidential vote to be made public, but not recommendations on charges.

Donald Trump
Former US President Donald Trump has denied wrongdoing in the Georgia investigation [File: Kate Munsch/Reuters]

A judge in Georgia has ordered the partial release of a panel’s report on Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 United States presidential election results in the state.

The special grand jury’s report, which has been sealed since its existence was disclosed in January, could serve as the basis for potential prosecution of the former president and his associates.

In a ruling on Monday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney said the introduction and conclusion of the report will be released on Thursday along with a section in which the panel “discusses its concern that some witnesses may have lied under oath”.

But McBurney ruled in favour of withholding the public release of the panel’s recommendations on criminal charges, citing the due process rights of witnesses or potential defendants.

The judge issued his decision after a group of US news outlets had asked him to release the report last month, The New York Times reported.

Trump, who is seeking the White House again in 2024, has falsely claimed that widespread election fraud led to his loss to President Joe Biden in 2020. He was not subpoenaed and did not testify before the grand jury in Georgia.

The decision on whether to charge Trump is ultimately up to Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. During a hearing last month, Willis told McBurney that charging decisions were “imminent” and asked the judge not to release the report.

Willis launched her investigation shortly after Trump urged Georgia’s top election official during a call in January 2021 to “find” enough votes to deliver him a victory in the state.

Days later, a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in an effort to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s win.

“So look, 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 told state officials in the 2021 call that later leaked to the media.

In the same call, the then-president added: “The real truth is I won by 400,000 votes at least. So what are we going to do? I only need 11,000 votes, fellas. I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.”

A congressional panel that investigated the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack over the past two years has recommended criminal charges against Trump, citing his efforts to overturn the 2020 elections, including in Georgia.

The Department of Justice is also investigating Trump for his possible role in the Capitol riot.

If charged in Georgia, Trump would become the first former president to face criminal prosecution.

Trump, a Republican, has denied wrongdoing and accused Willis, an elected Democrat, of targeting him for political reasons. He also regularly reiterates the false claim that the 2020 election was “stolen”.

In the US legal system, a grand jury is typically made up of randomly selected citizens who are tasked with examining the validity of potential charges against defendants.

But Willis convened the special grand jury last year as an investigative tool, partly because it had the authority to subpoena witnesses. If the prosecutor decides to pursue charges, she would have to seek indictments from a regular grand jury.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies