Fulton County grand jury finishes final report in Trump election probe

A special Fulton County grand jury investigating whether then-President Donald Trump and his allies illegally tried to overturn his defeat in Georgia's presidential 2020 election has finished its final report.

Over about six months, the grand jurors have considered evidence and heard testimony from dozens of witnesses, including high-profile Trump associates and top state officials.

In a decision released Monday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who’s supervising the panel, said he reviewed the report and recommend to the court’s chief judge that the special grand jury be dissolved. 

McBurney has set a hearing for Jan. 24 at noon to determine if the final report will be released to the public.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and former President Donald Trump (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

The investigation is one of several that could result in criminal charges against the former president as he asks voters to return him to the White House in 2024. The special grand jury cannot issue indictments. Fulton County District Attorney Fani, who began investigating nearly two years ago, has said she will go where the facts lead. She could go to a regular grand jury to pursue charges.

The grand jury probe stems from a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the president suggested that the state’s top elections official, a fellow Republican, could "find" the votes needed to overturn his narrow loss in the state to Democrat Joe Biden.

A month later, Willis sent letters to Raffensperger and other top state officials instructing them to retain records because she was investigating "attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia General Election."

Trump told Raffensperger he needed 11,780 votes, one more than Biden won. That was a mistake, Cunningham said, because the specific and transactional nature of that comment makes it hard to say he was just generally urging Raffensperger to look into alleged fraud.

In her February 2021 letters to state leaders, Willis said she was looking into potential crimes that included "solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election’s administration."

For more than a year after opening the investigation, Willis revealed little. But, ironically, once the special grand jury began meeting in June, its proceedings shrouded in mandatory secrecy, hints about where the investigation was headed began to come out.

That’s because whenever Willis wanted to compel the testimony of someone who lives outside Georgia, she had to file paperwork in a public court docket explaining why that person was a "necessary and material witness." Additionally, anyone fighting a summons had to do so in public court filings and hearings.

In the paperwork Willis filed seeking to compel testimony from some Trump associates, she said she wanted to know about their communications with the Trump campaign and others "involved in the multi-state, coordinated efforts to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere."

Prominent Trump allies whose testimony was sought included former New York mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, as well as John Eastman and other lawyers who participated in Trump’s attempts to stay in power.

"We learned from the identity of the witnesses that this is a far-ranging conspiracy that she’s looking at," said Norm Eisen, who served as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during the first Trump impeachment and co-wrote a Brookings Institution report analyzing the "reported facts and applicable law" in the Fulton County investigation.

A number of Trump advisers and allies fought Willis’ attempts to bring them in for testimony, but Willis prevailed in most cases.

Willis had a notable misstep when she hosted a fundraiser for a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor even as her investigation zeroed in on the state’s fake electors, including Burt Jones, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. McBurney said that created "a plain — and actual and untenable — conflict" and ruled that Willis could not question or pursue charges against

Many believe Willis will pursue charges under the state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, commonly known as RICO. In a high-profile prosecution when she was an assistant district attorney, she used that law successfully to secure charges against Atlanta educators in a test cheating scandal. She has also used it more recently to target alleged gang activity.

The state RICO law, which is broader than the federal version, requires prosecutors to prove a pattern of criminal activity by an enterprise, which could be a single person or a group of associated individuals. It allows prosecutors to assert involvement in a pattern of criminality without having to prove that each person participated in every act.

As the special grand jury was working, Willis informed some people that they were targets of the investigation, including Giuliani and the state’s 16 fake electors. It’s possible others received similar notifications but haven’t disclosed that publicly.

Trump and his allies have consistently denied any wrongdoing, with the former president repeatedly describing his call with Raffensperger as "perfect" and dismissing Willis’ investigation as a "strictly political Witch Hunt!"

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.