“While we don’t know what crimes Trump and his allies will be charged with, the expected indictments will bring desperately needed accountability and demonstrate that no one – not even the former president – is above the law.” – Brie Sparkman, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
The American people got a brief glimpse this week into the conclusions of a grand jury that spent a year investigating “possible attempts” by Donald Trump and his allies “to disrupt the lawful administration of the 2020 presidential elections in the State of Georgia.”
We learned that the grand jurors recommended perjury charges against “one or more of the witnesses” who testified before them. But it’s what that glimpse doesn’t reveal that is perhaps most revealing.
The judge who ordered that most of the report be withheld – “for now” – made it clear that his decision was based on protecting the due-process rights of those “who might now be named as indictment worthy.” It is only because the report does not identify those who may have lied to the grand jury that Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney allowed that conclusion to be publicly disclosed.
McBurney’s decision explicitly refers to “potential future defendants.” Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who convened the grand jury, also referred to “future defendants,” in her argument against releasing the full report.
Simply put, a grand jury report that recommended no charges against anyone could not possibly be considered a threat to the rights of future defendants. If the grand jury had concluded that no crimes – other than perjury by unnamed witnesses – were committed, we’d all be reading the full report right now.
It’s not clear whether those named in the report as potential future defendants were among those who testified – truthfully or untruthfully. McBurney’s order alludes both to those “not afforded the opportunity to appear before the grand jury” and to “those who did appear – willingly or not.”
Speculation about the identity of those singled out for indictment, however, should not overshadow the enormity of the misdeeds at the center of the investigation. In his January 2, 2021, call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, Trump recited a litany of falsehoods about the presidential election. Trump knew at the time that these were lies. In December 2020, researchers commissioned to dig up evidence of fraud in six states, including Georgia, told Trump his conspiracy theories were baseless. Emails show Trump knew the claims were untrue even as he swore to their truth under oath.
No matter what indictments result from the grand jury investigation, the facts reveal a breathtaking conspiracy of subversion among Trump and his inner circle, unprecedented in its scope and audacity.
The grand jury confirmed that Trump’s claims were baseless after hearing “extensive testimony” from Georgia poll workers, investigators, technical experts, state employees and elected officials – even those who continued to promote conspiracy theories.
Their conclusion establishes for the record that Trump’s coercion of Raffensberger to announce a “recalculation” that found exactly one more vote for Trump than his margin of loss was, in fact, an attempt to overturn the results of a lawful, legitimate election.
The investigation also examined false claims of election fraud to state lawmakers, the fake elector scheme, efforts by unauthorized individuals to access voting machines, and threats and harassment against election workers.
Though we don’t yet know what indictments the grand jury recommended against whom, we do know Trump is not one of those accused of committing perjury because he didn’t testify. At least one member of Trump’s inner circle who did appear, his former personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, also is a target of the investigation, along with 16 people involved in the fake elector scheme. Other witnesses include former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Absurdly, Trump called the revelation that one or more of his close associates likely lied under oath a “total exoneration,” somehow missing the implication that indictments are imminent. Will he continue to praise the jurors’ “Patriotism & Courage” after those indictments finally are announced?
Marc Morial is President and CEO of the National Urban League.