The Atlanta Journal-Constitution interviewed five members of the Special Grand Jury investigation into election interference in Georgia’s 2020 elections. Under Georgia law, members of the unusual Special Grand Jury system can speak about anything which occurred during their investigation, including naming names of persons who testified and what they had to say under oath, they just can’t discuss their secret jury deliberations. (I don’t like this, but it is the law in Georgia).
Some of the highlights from this EXCLUSIVE: Behind the scenes of Trump grand jury; jurors hear 3rd leaked Trump call:
In an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, five of the 23 special grand jurors recounted what it was like to be a pivotal — but anonymous — part of one of the most momentous criminal investigations in U.S. history; one which could lead to indictments of former President Donald Trump and his allies.
Over two hours, in a windowless conference room, the jurorsshared never-before-heard details about their experiences serving on the panel, which met in private, often three times a week.
They described a process that was by turns fascinating, tedious and emotionally wrenching.
The grand jury was dissolved in January after submitting its final report.
The jurors who spoke to the AJC declined to talk about portions of the document which remain under seal, including who they recommended Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis indict. They also remained mum on their internal deliberations. In a previous interview with the AJC, jury foreperson Emily Kohrs said “it’s not a short list” when asked how many people the special grand jury suggested be indicted. (Kohrs was not among the jurors the AJC interviewed for this article.)
Several jurors said they decided to speak out for the first time in response to criticism leveled at the probe after Kohrs spoke to multiple media outlets last month. Some detractors, including Trump’s Georgia-based legal team, said that Kohrs’ remarks showcased an unprofessional, politically tainted criminal investigation.
The jurors, who stressed their aim was not to drag down Kohrs, underscored that they understood the gravity of their assignment and took care to be active participants and attend as many sessions as possible. They said the investigation was somber and thorough.
“I just felt like we, as a group, were portrayed as not serious,” one of the jurors said. “That really bothered me because that’s not how I felt. I took it very seriously. I showed up, did what I was supposed to do, did not do what I was asked not to do, you know?”
They indicated they held the DA’s team of prosecutors and investigators in high regard.
They also divulged details from the investigation that had yet to become public.
One was that they had heard a recording of a phone call Trump placed to late Georgia House Speaker David Ralston in which the president asked the fellow Republican to convene a special session of the Legislature to overturn Democrat JoeBiden’s narrow victory in Georgia.
MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell analyzes exclusive new reporting from The Atlanta-Journal Constitution about the Fulton County grand jury that investigated former President Donald Trump and his allies’ attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia, including the claim from one of the former grand jurors that what will come out of the investigation is “gonna be massive.”
One juror said Ralston proved to be “an amazing politician.”
The speaker “basically cut the president off. He said, ‘I will do everything in my power that I think is appropriate.’ … He just basically took the wind out of the sails,” the juror said. “‘Well, thank you,’ you know, is all the president could say.”
Ralston, who died in November, and other legislative leaders did not call a special session. A former Ralston aide declined to comment for this story, and a Trump campaign spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Ralston had previously told a North Georgia media outlet that he was contacted by Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in December 2020, but the existence of a tape had not been previously known.
There are at least two other recorded phone calls between Trump and Georgia officials from that period. The president’s now-infamous January 2021 conversation with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was quickly leaked. Audio of his December 2020 call with Frances Watson, then an investigator with the secretary of state’s office who was conducting an audit of absentee ballots in Cobb County, also surfaced publicly.
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When witnesses appeared before them, the jurors in the front row were so close they could have reached out and touched them.
One of the jurors described how the 75 witnesses they heard from or were told about fell into three buckets. The first set, who they questioned early on, were generally forthcoming. The second was witnesses who needed to receive subpoenas but were willing to talk. The third was people who clearly did not want to be there and had fought their summons. They were the last witnesses jurors heard from, and many had at least at one point been close to Trump.
“It was like night and day when that second group finished and we got to the third,” the juror said. “The tone in the room completely changed, like overnight.”
Prosecutors generally took the lead on questioning witnesses and recommending who to subpoena, but jurors would step in to ask their own questions. Jurors said prosecutors took pains not to give their opinions, only offering guidance on what was illegal under the law. Several jurors said prosecutors never tipped their hand about who might be charged.
Among the most compelling witnesses, various jurors said, were Fulton County poll workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss, who had received death threats after being singled out by Trump and his then-attorney Giuliani. Another mentioned Eric Coomer, the onetime executive for Dominion Voting Systems, who left his job after being vilified. Also mentioned was Tricia Raffensperger, the wife of Georgia’s secretary of state, who broke down when describing the vitriol and threats leveled at her, one juror said.
Former. U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler each testified. Both lost runoff bids which took place as Trump railed against election fraud in the state.
Perdue, a key Trump ally, was asked about a meeting at Truist Park in December 2020, a juror said. During that encounter, Perdue told Gov. Brian Kemp he wanted the legislature to convene a special session, which Trump was seeking to challenge Biden’s victory. [Enough for an indictment?]
One grand juror recalled U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s testimony about Trump’s state of mind in the months after the 2020 election.
“He said that during that time, if somebody had told Trump that aliens came down and stole Trump ballots, that Trump would’ve believed it,” the juror said.
Some of the more trying days were when a witness invoked his or her Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions.
Two of the jurors estimated that as many as 10 witnesses invoked their Fifth Amendment rights, some doing so even when asked to describe their education. In the prior interview, foreperson Kohrs said high-profile witnesses like Flynn, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Giuliani refused to answer some, if not most, of prosecutors’ questions. [Likely indictments for these Coup Plotters.]
Another juror said the panel was told repeatedly by prosecutors that they should not perceive someone invoking his or her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination as an admission of guilt.
“They were very passionate about saying: ‘I need you to understand that,” she said.
A notable moment came as prosecutors were questioning a witness who said he possessed additional evidence of election fraud at his office.
“‘I mentioned something like, ‘oh, I’d like to see that.’ One of the DA’s team stood up immediately, left, came back in and he handed a subpoena to the witness still sitting there,” a juror recounted, declining to disclose who the witness was.
Jurors’ accounts of the proceedings largely aligned with Kohrs’. But one area where they differed involved the jury’s role in the decision not to subpoena or voluntarily ask Trump to testify. One of the male grand jurors pushed back on Kohrs’ use of the collective “we” during her previous interviews.
“I think the president just was one where we chose to focus our energies elsewhere, because it would be more productive in the long run,” Kohrs previously told the AJC.
That statement raised questions among some critics about whether Kohrs had improperly disclosed jury deliberations. But the other jurors told the AJC that the group had never discussed summoning Trump during its deliberations, suggesting it was prosecutors’ decision. In response, Kohrs said in a text that she “trust(ed) their recollection. And honestly with so much we talked about, it’s definitely possible I got it mixed up a bit.”
One of the jurors said he believed the special grand jury already had the information it needed and that Trump had he been summoned would likely have invoked the Fifth Amendment, which he reportedly did more than 400 times when he sat for a deposition last summer with the New York Attorney General’s office.
But the same juror said, “with the benefit of hindsight, we should have sent a voluntary invitation to former President Trump and just invited him.” He said he changed his mind after the Manhattan DA asked Trump to appear before that grand jury investigating hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. [This is required by New York law. Trump declined to testify.]
Jurors said it took them four days to complete their final report, although they noted it had been a work in progress. Prosecutors provided a list of relevant laws, but the jurors said they wrote the report themselves.
On Feb. 1, they gathered at the courthouse again for a mandatory meeting to discuss their “continuing obligations” as jurors. Willis thanked them for their service. McBurney told them they were allowed to publicly discuss witnesses, what prosecutors said and what was in the final report but not the substance of their deliberations.
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The group said they had no idea what Willis planned to do in response to their recommendations. But many described an increased regard for the elections system and the people who run it.
“I can honestly give a damn of whoever goes to jail, you know, like personally,” one juror said. “I care more about there being more respect in the system for the work that people do to make sure elections are free and fair.”
Said another juror: “I tell my wife if every person in America knew every single word of information we knew, this country would not be divided as it is right now.”
The grand jurors said they understand why the public release of their full final report needs to wait until Willis makes indictment decisions.
“A lot’s gonna come out sooner or later,” one of the jurors said. “And it’s gonna be massive. It’s gonna be massive.”
Do tell! C’mon Fani, indict these insurrectionist traitors. Restore my faith in justice.
What do you think?