A district attorney in Georgia on Jan. 24 urged a judge not to release a report from a grand jury investigating possible 2020 election interference, at least until she decides whether to charge anybody.
“At this time, in the interest of justice and the rights of not the state but others, we are asking that the report not be released,” Fani Willis, the Democrat district attorney of Fulton County, told Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney during a hearing.
In addition to wanting to make sure people, including “future defendants,” are “treated fairly,” Willis cited contents of the report that apparently show “decisions are imminent.”
Key allies of former President Donald Trump testified to the special grand jury, which McBurney approved in 2022 at the request of Willis, as the prosecutor works to determine whether any laws were violated in relation to the presidential election and its aftermath. Grand jurors wrapped up their work earlier this month, but the report has remained sealed so far.
Under Georgia law, special grand juries cannot bring charges but the grand jury in question was expected to recommend to Willis whether or not to charge certain people.
The grand jurors themselves want the report made public, and state law generally favors publication of such reports, McBurney said.
“We need to be guided by the statutes. They’re not there for optional consideration,” the judge said.
But Willis and her assistants put forth that the report was part of an ongoing criminal investigation and should thus not be unsealed.
“The content of the report should guide the analysis,” Donald Wakeford, a county prosecutor, argued.
Wakeford said the position would change after the charging decisions were made.
“What to do with the report … should come after the district attorney has had an opportunity to state I am not pursuing charges or I am pursuing charges or even I have sought charges, and here’s the indictment,” he said. “At that point, the relative stance, the status of everyone involved will be much clearer, and we will have a much better roadmap for how to handle secrecy or publication.”
“The report is is sure to be eventually disclosed, because the district attorney is not going to forever oppose it,” he added later.
A group of media outlets is seeking the publication of the report.
“We believe the report should be released now and in its entirety, and that approach is consistent with the way the American judicial system operates,” Thomas Clyde, a lawyer representing the outlets, told the judge.
“In other words, it is not unusual for a district attorney or a prosecuting authority to be generally uncomfortable with having to release information during the progress of a case—that occurs all the time. But the judicial system time and time again has said, when matters are brought to the court system, we are going to require them to be made public, because the faith of the public and the court system is much improved by operating in a public way.”
Clyde noted that the jurors themselves want the report published.
McBurney pushed back, wondering whether the situation fit the definition of extraordinary circumstances, which could lead to him ruling against its release. Clyde disagreed, saying in part that investigations can keep happening even after information has been disclosed.
McBurney opted against an immediate ruling.
He said he wanted to “think about this a little bit” before contacting the district attorney’s office and the media outlets with questions or concerns. After that, “we’ll figure out the best way to move forward with this,” he said.
Willis said 75 witnesses testified to the grand jury, but declined to name identities. Some of those who have testified are known, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Trump has denied wrongdoing, saying that actions, including a late 2020 call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger regarding election fraud concerns, were legitimate. He said in a recent statement the investigation was a “political witch hunt.”
From The Epoch Times