Legal expert: Fulton DA Fani Willis "gearing up to indict" Trump after grand jury probe concludes

The special grand jury has finished its work and submitted its recommendations to the district attorney

Published January 9, 2023 1:04PM (EST)

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Minden-Tahoe Airport on October 08, 2022 in Minden, Nevada. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Minden-Tahoe Airport on October 08, 2022 in Minden, Nevada. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The special grand jury in Atlanta that spent the last eight months investigating whether former President Donald Trump and his allies committed crimes while trying to overturn Georgia's 2020 presidential election has finished its work. 

Fulton Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney wrote in a brief order on Monday that the grand jury was dissolved as it fulfilled its duties to his satisfaction, and that a majority of Superior Court judges who reviewed the grand jury's final report agreed. 

"The Court thanks the grand jurors for their dedication, professionalism, and significant commitment of time and attention to this important matter. It was no small sacrifice to serve," McBurney wrote.

The end of the special grand jury brings prosecutors one step closer to possible criminal charges against Trump and his associates. 

The special grand jury — made up of 23 members and three alternates — heard testimony from dozens of witnesses over the span of six months, including various people close to the former president and high-ranking Georgia state officials. Trump's former personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and ex-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows were among the witnesses. The case may bring legal trouble for Trump as he begins his 2024 presidential campaign. 

The grand jurors were granted power to subpoena evidence and witness testimony in order to "investigate any and all facts and circumstances relating directly or indirectly to alleged violations of the laws of the State of Georgia." The group was not given the ability to issue indictments due to state law, but can issue a final report recommending actions to be taken. 

Grand juries in Georgia are authorized to publish their reports and the jurors on this case voted to recommend that their report be published, McBurney confirmed in his order.

The judge added that he will hold a hearing on Jan. 24 to allow the relevant parties — including the Fulton District Attorney's office that advised the jury, news outlets, and those investigated — to present their case as to whether or not the grand jury's report should be made publicly available. 

The final report would contain a summary of the grand jury's findings and may include recommendations on whether anyone in the case should be indicted. However, the final decision on whether to press charges would fall on Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who must present evidence before another, regular grand jury that has the authority to indict. 

The report is expected to become public at some point, but if McBurney chooses to keep it private until the case is closed, it may not be in the public domain for months, or even years. Even if it is released, portions of it could be redacted for a time.

Willis opened the investigation in early 2021 after a phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger surfaced. In the call, the former president suggested that the election official could "find" the 11,780 votes needed to overturn the state election. 

Willis has used several pieces of evidence to focus the case, including other phone calls between Georgia officials and Trump allies and false statements made by Trump associates in front of legislative committees. Willis also investigated a panel of 16 Republicans who signed a certificate falsely declaring that Trump had won the state of Georgia, the sudden resignation of the U.S. attorney in Atlanta in January 2021, and attempts to pressure an election worker in Fulton County. 

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Trump and his associates have consistently denied any wrongdoing in the case, with the former president going so far as to call his conversation with Raffensperger "perfect" and calling the investigation a "strictly political Witch Hunt!"

Giuliani's lawyers have confirmed that he may face possible criminal charges, and the 16 Republicans who signed the certificate were also informed that they are targets of the investigation.

Willis previously informed state officials that her office would probe potential violations of Georgia law including criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, intentional interference with the performance of election duties, conspiracy and racketeering. Other possible crimes that may have been committed, as proposed by legal experts from the Brookings Institute, include false certification, influencing witnesses and computer trespass.

Several people fought their summons in court, including Graham, and others invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Many Trump critics see this probe as a key opportunity to hold the former president accountable for what they believe to be coordinated efforts to undermine the democratic process. Should the case move forward, Trump's attorneys are expected to fight Willis at every corner, which could extend proceedings for months. 

Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, predicted that Willis is already "gearing up to indict Donald Trump."

"[The] DOJ has more resources and the Mar-a-Lago documents case appears to be stronger," Mariotti wrote on Twitter. "But it looks like any DOJ prosecution will likely be proceeding after the Fulton County case."

By Samaa Khullar

Samaa Khullar is a former news fellow at Salon with a background in Middle Eastern history and politics. She is a graduate of New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism institute and is pursuing investigative reporting.

MORE FROM Samaa Khullar

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Donald Trump Fani Willis Lindsey Graham Mark Meadows Politics Rudy Giuliani