A Georgia judge did not immediately rule Tuesday on the public release of a grand jury’s investigation into former President Donald Trump’s attempt to interfere in the 2020 election, even as the prosecutor overseeing the inquiry said decisions on possible charges are “imminent.”
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, in her first public remarks since the grand jury completed its eight-month inquiry two weeks ago, argued against instant disclosure of the panel’s findings, citing potential damage to an ongoing investigation and potential targets.
“In this case, the state understands… the world’s interest, but we have to be mindful of protecting future defendants’ rights,” Willis told Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney who called the hearing.
Here are the top takeaways from Tuesday’s hearing:
Judge says there will not be ‘rash decisions’
At the end of the 90-minute hearing, McBurney said the matter required more consideration.
“There will be no rash decisions,” McBurney said, citing the extraordinary nature of the investigation.
The judge also signaled that even a decision to release the report, would not necessarily result in the document’s immediate disclosure.
Depending on the decision, McBurney said he would give prosecutors and the media consortium time to consider a possible appeal.
Prosecutor said it would be ‘dangerous’ to release report
Fulton County prosecutor Donald Wakeford signaled the grand jury’s findings were so sensitive that they should not be disclosed while the investigation is ongoing.
Since the report was provided to the district attorney earlier this month, Wakeford said there had been “no opportunity” to assess how its contents could assist prosecutors in deciding whether criminal charges should be brought.
“It’s dangerous,” Wakeford argued.
Media organizations pushed for the judge to release the report
Prosecutors strongly opposed efforts by a consortium of media organizations, citing an “extraordinary” public interest in the inquiry that has featured testimony from 75 witnesses, including some of Trump’s closest former aides and advisers.
Thomas Clyde, an attorney representing the media group, including USA TODAY, argued that “public faith” in the court system is at stake in the document’s prompt disclosure, asserting that prosecutors had not made the case for continuing secrecy.
“We believe the report should be released now and in its entirety,” Clyde told McBurney. “There hasn’t been any suggestion, evidence, or demonstration that there should be a sealing in this case.”
Trump lawyers skip hearing
The hearing was, in part, of note for who did not participate.
Attorneys for the former president did not take part, saying Monday that “we have never been a part of this process.”
“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,” attorneys Drew Findling and Marissa Goldberg said in a brief statement.
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What was the focus of the Georgia investigation?
Shortly after Trump’s Jan. 2, 2021 conversation with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which the former president urged Georgia’s top election official to “find 11,780 votes” to tilt the 2020 statewide election in his favor, Willis launched the investigation. It expanded into a wide-ranging examination of election fraud.
Willis has said authorities have been investigating possible election fraud, conspiracy, oath of office violations, racketeering and election-related violence.
Some of Trump’s most senior advisers, including personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, have been among the 75 witnesses to be summoned before the special grand jury.
As part of the inquiry, prosecutors have been examining the submission of an alternate slate of electors by Republicans in Georgia, one of seven states in which officials allegedly sought to reverse Trump’s defeat.
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Trump faces other criminal investigations
The Georgia inquiry is one of four known criminal investigations threatening the former president: A special prosecutor, appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland, is overseeing inquiries into election fraud and Trump’s unauthorized retention of sensitive government documents.
In New York, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is continuing an investigation into the operation of Trump’s namesake real estate business.
That criminal inquiry has run parallel to a civil probe headed by New York Attorney General Letitia James who has filed a lawsuit against Trump and his adult children, seeking $250 million in penalties and other sanctions that would effectively shutter the Trump Organization in New York.