UPDATE (Jan. 24, 2023, 2:27 p.m. ET): During a hearing Tuesday, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis argued against the public release of a special grand jury's report into 2020 election interference. The judge is not expected to immediately issue a ruling on the case.
Will Donald Trump be charged with crimes? If so, for what? And when? And where?
These questions have been asked for years — and we’ll keep asking them until we have answers. And while a hearing slated for Tuesday at noon ET won’t necessarily provide those answers, it could help provide some clues — or, at least, it could lead to the release of a report that provides clues.
The hearing in Georgia is over whether the public can see the report by a special grand jury in Fulton County, which covers most of Atlanta. As we recall, the swing state was one of the potential crime scenes in then-President Donald Trump’s attempt to subvert the 2020 election. Trump pressed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” Republican votes that didn’t exist.
Like the Jan. 6 committee’s work, the Georgia report's details could make criminal charges in Georgia more difficult to ignore.
Whether the report is released is obviously separate from the question of whether Georgia charges will come. For that, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis would have to pursue them through another grand jury, because while the special grand jury whose report is at issue was tasked with conducting a criminal investigation into 2020 election interference, it wasn’t tasked with voting to indict the former president or anyone else. Instead, it was instructed to prepare a report on potential charges. How long it would take another grand jury to approve potential charges for Trump or anyone else — if such charges are deemed warranted — remains to be seen.
But if we do get to see the Georgia report, then, like the House Jan. 6 committee’s report and criminal referrals for Trump and others to the Justice Department for potential federal charges, it could provide details and a road map that help the public understand what those charges might entail. And like the Jan. 6 committee’s work, the Georgia report’s details could make criminal charges in Georgia more difficult to ignore.
It should be noted that the Georgia special grand jurors themselves have indicated that they want the report released, according to the Jan. 9 order from the judge overseeing the matter, Robert McBurney. That only intensifies the public’s already great interest in the matter. Unsurprisingly, media organizations are pushing the judge to publish the report, arguing that Georgia law requires release.
As for the Trump team, however, anyone hoping to hear from them at the hearing will be disappointed. A statement from the team ahead of the hearing oddly assumes the special grand jury concluded that the former president shouldn't be charged:
While we don't yet know what the special grand jury thinks, let's just say that is ... a dangerous assumption.
As MSNBC Daily columnist Joyce Vance wrote recently on the Georgia probe, “There are a wide range of potential charges available, from Georgia’s RICO statute, used for organized criminal activity, to state forgery charges.” As Vance noted, “Under Georgia law, it’s a crime to solicit another person to commit election fraud — for example, asking an election official to change votes or ‘find’ additional ballots.” Given that wide range of potential charges, any further insight we can get into them via the Georgia hearing and report — if it’s released — will help to better understand the legal jeopardy the former president faces in the Peach State.