The arguments around releasing report on efforts to overturn 2020 election in Georgia
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
An update now on an investigation into failed efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia - a judge there heard arguments today about whether to release findings from a recently concluded grand jury. That grand jury looked into efforts by former President Trump and his allies to overturn the election result, which was that Joe Biden won. Sam Gringlas of WABE in Atlanta was in the courtroom for the hearing. Hey, Sam.
SAM GRINGLAS, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.
KELLY: So today's hearing - this was an opportunity, I guess, for various parties to argue good idea to release the grand jury report or terrible idea. The district attorney was in the latter camp, arguing against releasing it. Why?
GRINGLAS: Well, this special grand jury operated mostly in secret for the last eight months. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis very rarely even talked about the investigation in public. So it was kind of a moment when Willis walked into the courtroom today, but also not a huge surprise when she went on to tell the judge that the report should be kept secret, at least for right now.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
FANI WILLIS: We want to make sure that everyone is treated fairly. And we think, for future defendants to be treated fairly, it's not appropriate at this time to have this report released.
GRINGLAS: What Willis is saying is that the time to figure out what to do with this report is after she announces whether she's going to pursue any criminal charges. And she said today that decision - it's imminent. The special grand jury cannot issue indictments on their own, but they did hear from 75 witnesses. And they had the option to make some recommendations, which would be in this report.
KELLY: Was anyone arguing for releasing this report?
GRINGLAS: Well, we know that the jurors themselves voted to make it public. And then in court today, lawyers for a bunch of media outlets - they argued it should be released now, and they argued it should be released in full. Who we did not hear from in court today were lawyers for any witnesses or potential targets of the investigation, like one-time Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani or any of the false electors in Georgia. But it might have been pretty hard for them to argue specific pieces of this report shouldn't be released, considering that they have not gotten to see it.
KELLY: OK, so the special grand jury's work is done. I want to flip you back to this question of whether charges are going to be brought or not. What is that process?
GRINGLAS: Well, it really starts with District Attorney Fani Willis. If she does want to go after criminal charges, she will likely go in front of a standing grand jury. They meet twice every week. As far as who could be in the crosshairs, we know this investigation focused on efforts like organizing a slate of fake electors and pressuring election officials, as in that infamous Trump call to Georgia's secretary of state. Lawyers for Trump himself say he was not asked to appear for the special grand jury, but legal experts have told me that doesn't actually tell us much about whether he'll face charges in the end. So it's still a major question mark.
KELLY: Hmm. What is next, big picture, for the investigation?
GRINGLAS: Fulton County Judge Robert McBurney - he's going to have to make a decision on releasing this report. And he said there's not exactly a lot of precedent to go on, but Willis can move ahead with indictments whether this report is out or not. So indictments could come really fast. But even if that happens, Mary Louise, the rest of the legal process here is likely to go on for months, possibly years.
KELLY: Thank you, Sam.
GRINGLAS: Thanks, Mary Louise.
KELLY: Sam Gringlas of WABE in Atlanta. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.