After the leader of an Atlanta-based special grand jury that investigated whether former President Donald Trump and his allies illegally interfered in the Georgia 2020 election stirred controversy with a media tour this week, the judge in the case is speaking out.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who oversaw the special grand jury, participated in an interview Wednesday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) after the forewoman, Emily Kohrs, divulged multiple indictments had been recommended and shared anecdotes from the panel’s months-long effort to gather evidence.
“They cannot discuss their deliberations,” McBurney said, alluding to the instructions he gave members of the grand jury about discussing their work with the media and others.
“So the question becomes what deliberations are, and I explained that would be the discussions they had amongst themselves when it was just the grand jurors in the room … when they were discussing what do we do with what we’ve learned,” he continued.
According to the report, McBurney said the grand jurors can talk about what transpired if a prosecutor or witness was in the grand jury room.
“That’s not deliberations,” the judge said. “That’s presentation. And they’re not prohibited from talking about that, nor are they prohibited from talking about the fruit of their deliberations, which would be the final report.”
Last week, the judge released portions of the special grand jury’s report, including a section that said a “majority” of the panel’s members believes perjury was committed by one or more witnesses. Details about their recommendations for any charges remain sealed. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat, may soon use their findings to pursue charges by impaneling a separate, regular grand jury.
Kohrs, a 30-year-old resident of Georgia’s Fulton County, appeared for a series of media interviews on Tuesday and offered an insider’s view into the special grand jury’s investigation, which included hearing from 75 witnesses.
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Although Kohrs did not identify anyone who may have been recommended for charges and did not get into specific alleged crimes, she told NBC News the special grand jury’s series of recommended indictments is “not a short list” and said Trump “might” be included in it. With a smile, Kohrs talked about how she thought it would have been “really cool” to swear-in Trump following a subpoena.
Kohrs told AJC the panel decided against subpoenaing the former president due to considerations about limited time and resources. And during an interview on CNN, Kohrs said she would be “sad” and “frustrated” if the district attorney decides against pursuing charges.
Georgia grand jury foreperson: “I will be sad” if the DA decides against bringing charges against Trump … I will be frustrated if nothing happens.” pic.twitter.com/9RfusUCjUX
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) February 22, 2023
The public display prompted a number of legal experts to warn Kohrs may be creating problems for prosecutors putting together any criminal cases. CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig, who is a former federal and state prosecutor, predicted Trump will file a motion to dismiss using Kohrs’ comments if there is an indictment. He called the situation a “prosecutor’s nightmare.”
Trump’s defense attorneys, Drew Findling and Jennifer Little, told AJC on Wednesday they are considering legal options. They argued Kohrs acted inappropriately by revealing the special grand jury recommended indictments and discussing why the panel did not subpoena Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing.
“Not only did her comments go way too far, but they also touched upon the very thing that under Georgia law you are not allowed to talk about and that is deliberations.” Little said.
The district attorney’s office has told the media Willis did not know in advance that Kohrs was going to speak with the media. The Associated Press, one of the news outlets that interviewed the forewoman, reported its team found Kohrs’ name on subpoenas obtained through open records requests.
Trump himself took aim at Kohrs and the investigation as a whole on his Truth Social platform on Wednesday.
“This Georgia case is ridiculous, a strictly political continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt of all time,” Trump said. “Now you have an extremely energetic young woman, the (get this!) ‘foreperson’ of the Racist D.A.’s Special Grand Jury, going around and doing a Media Tour revealing, incredibly, the Grand Jury’s inner workings & thoughts. This is not JUSTICE, this is an illegal Kangaroo Court.”