NATIONAL NEWS

Georgia special grand jury report shows Graham and others spared from charges, and more new details

Sep 8, 2023, 12:24 PM

ATLANTA (AP) — Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is pursuing charges against roughly half of the people recommended to her by a special grand jury tasked with investigating efforts to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.

The decision to seek charges against 19 people, as opposed to the 39 suggested to her, was likely a combination of factors, from constitutional protections to streamlining her case against other defendants.

Ultimately, Willis decided against indicting Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; two former senators from Georgia, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue; and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, even as she pursued charges against former President Donald Trump, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Here are some of the takeaways from the long-awaited report:

DISCREPANCY BETWEEN RECOMMENDATIONS AND CHARGES

The stakes were high for Willis, an elected Democrat taking on some of the most powerful Republican politicians in the country. Her investigation was criticized by Trump and his Republican allies, who accused her of weaponizing the legal system for political gain. Meanwhile, critics of the former president were relying on her not to botch the case.

But the members of the special grand jury, operating in secrecy behind closed doors, didn’t have to contend with those pressures. They had no specific criminal law training and ultimately don’t have to prove the charges they recommended.

Asked why Willis may have chosen not to try to indict many of the people voted on by the special grand jury, Anthony Michael Kreis, a law professor at Georgia State University who has closely followed the case, said that, especially given Graham’s legal challenge over his possible protection under the “speech or debate” clause when called to testify before the special grand jury, the prosecutor may have wanted to avoid another protracted legal battle.

He surmised Perdue and Loeffler would also argue their participation had taken place in their official roles as federal officials.

Kreis also noted that Graham might well have been successful in an argument that a case against him be moved to federal court, which is something many of the indicted defendants are pursuing.

“That would just be an overreach, no matter what,” he said. “There just wasn’t enough evidence of criminality and stuff that fell outside the scope of his responsibilities as a senator.”

RECOMMENDED CHARGES INCLUDED VOTE BREAKDOWNS

Instructions for special grand juries are very broad, so the panel had a lot of discretion in how it structured its report.

The report includes a breakdown of the number of “yea” and “nay” votes, as well as abstentions, for each count for which the special grand jurors recommended charges.

On all the charges that were recommended against Trump, there was an overwhelming consensus of between 17 and 21 votes that he should be charged and only one “nay” vote each time.

The vote totals for recommending charges against Graham, Perdue and Loeffler were not as convincing. Special grand jurors voted against indicting most of the fake electors.

While juror vote tallies are important to obtain an indictment from a regular grand jury or a conviction at trial, the special grand jurors weren’t required to include them at all. And the special grand jury report contained vote totals only for charges that the panel ultimately recommended, not any that the panel rejected.

The report includes footnotes “where a juror requested the opportunity to clarify their vote for any reason.” For example, one juror thought there should be further investigation for one charge, and two believed the fake electors “should not be indicted for doing what they were misled to understand as their civic duty.”

One who voted against including Perdue and Loeffler in a racketeering charge believed that their post-election statements “while pandering to their political base, do not give rise to their being guilty of a criminal conspiracy.”

Perdue and Loeffler did not immediately return messages seeking comment Friday.

Kreis said Friday that Willis may have used some of the vote breakdowns to weigh whether she could ultimately successfully bring a case against the people being considered.

“If you have a jury and a group of folks who have pored over evidence for eight months and there’s still a 50-50 divide or a two-thirds divide … I don’t think that’s something that you’d look at and say, ‘We have a high probability of a conviction there,’” he said.

___

Kinnard reported from Columbia, South Carolina.

___

Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

National News

Associated Press

South Dakota anti-abortion group appeals ruling that dismissed its lawsuit over ballot initiative

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — An anti-abortion group in South Dakota is appealing to the state’s Supreme Court after a judge dismissed its lawsuit to take an abortion rights initiative off the November ballot. In a statement, Life Defense Fund Co-Chair Leslee Unruh said the group has asked for an expedited order from the court “because […]

1 hour ago

Eli Trujillo poses inside his barbershop in Cheyenne, Wyo., Thursday, July 18, 2024. Trujillo, 87, ...

Associated Press

Too old to work? Some Americans on the job late in life bristle at calls for Biden to step aside

NEW YORK (AP) — A swath of Americans watching President Biden is seeing something beyond debate-stage stumbles and prime-time miscues: Themselves. Debate about the 81-year-old Democrat’s fitness for another term is especially resonating with other older Americans who, like him, want to stay on the job. “People were telling me I should retire too,” says […]

1 hour ago

A passenger looks at a departures monitor at the Des Moines International Airport, Friday, July 19,...

Associated Press

A massive tech outage is causing worldwide disruptions. Here’s what we know

NEW YORK (AP) — Much of the world faced online disarray Friday as a widespread technology outage affected companies and services across industries — grounding flights, knocking banks and hospital systems offline and media outlets off air. At the heart of the massive disruption is CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm that provides software to scores of […]

1 hour ago

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands listening to the verdict in a glass cage of a ...

Associated Press

What to know about Evan Gershkovich’s conviction for espionage in Russia

The trial of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich ended Friday with his conviction on espionage charges that he, his employer and the U.S. government have dismissed as fabricated. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Here’s what we know about the secretive process. Where was the trial he ld? It took place in […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Former Trump executive Allen Weisselberg released from jail after serving perjury sentence

NEW YORK (AP) — Retired Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg was released from New York City’s Rikers Island jail on Friday after serving a sentence for lying under oath, according to online records. The former chief financial officer at Donald Trump’s real estate company pleaded guilty in March to committing perjury during his testimony in […]

3 hours ago

Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman speaks outside of the Milwaukee Police Department on Wednesda...

Associated Press

GOP convention sets the stage for the Democratic convention in Chicago, activists and police say

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Activists who marched outside the Republican National Convention are trumpeting their efforts, despite crowd estimates falling short. Milwaukee police are praising their cooperation with other agencies in convention security, even as Ohio officers face scrutiny for shooting and killing a man while in the city. Some activists and attendees say there was […]

3 hours ago

Georgia special grand jury report shows Graham and others spared from charges, and more new details