Trump attorneys: Special grand jury probe ‘a clown show’
Feb. 23, 2023 Updated Thu., Feb. 23, 2023 at 9:48 p.m.
ATLANTA – The Georgia-based legal team representing Donald Trump accused Fulton County prosecutors of running a “clown-like” investigation into whether the former president and his allies criminally interfered in the state’s 2020 elections.
Defense attorneys Drew Findling and Jennifer Little said interviews earlier this week by the forewoman of the special grand jury, which was impaneled last spring to aid prosecutors, undermined the credibility of the probe. They indicated they were keeping their legal options open, including potentially filing court motions in response.
“This type of carnival, clown-like atmosphere that was portrayed over the course of the last 36 hours takes away from the complete sanctity and the integrity and, for that matter, the reliability” of the investigation, Findling told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution late Wednesday.
In remarks on Tuesday to the AJC and other media outlets, forewoman Emily Kohrs said she and fellow jurors recommended that multiple people be charged with crimes. She declined, however, to state whom the panel named and which specific laws they believed might have been broken.
“It’s not a short list,” said Kohrs, who added that “you’re not going to be shocked” by any of the names given.
Little and Findling said Kohrs’ statements paint a picture of an investigation that was unprofessional and overly chummy between jurors and the office of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. They cited anecdotes Kohrs gave to reporters, including that she once swore in a witness while holding a Ninja Turtle ice pop, that a juror brought in newspaper articles about the investigation as it was underway and suggesting that she might have drawn negative inferences about witnesses who cited their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
“You want folks to have faith and trust in not only the system, but in the results of your investigation,” Little said. “How can anyone looking at what we’ve now seen have faith and trust in the results of this investigation?
The special grand jury, which met for eight months and was dissolved in January, heard testimony from 75 witnesses, collected thousands of pages of evidence and issued a set of recommendations in a final report, portions of which were released last week.
Willis, who has the final word on indictments, said last month that charging decisions were “imminent.”
The sharp comments Wednesday night marked the first time Findling and Little agreed to interviews about the criminal probe since being hired by Trump six months ago. Their remarks signal a new, more combative stance as the 2-year-old investigation in Atlanta enters a new phase.
Hours earlier, Trump went on the offense against Kohrs, and the investigation more broadly, on his social media platform, Truth Social.
“This Georgia case is ridiculous, a strictly political continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt of all time,” he wrote Wednesday. “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.”
A Willis spokesman declined to comment for this story. But the DA’s office confirmed that it had not been informed in advance that Kohrs was planning to speak to the media.
Kohrs did not return a request for comment on Wednesday evening.
Little alleged that, in media interviews, Kohrs said things she was not allowed to disclose.
“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. As an example, Little noted that Kohrs explained why the special grand jury did not subpoena Trump to testify.
Kohrs told the AJC it was a battle the special grand jury didn’t want to wage since jurors expected Trump would cite the Fifth Amendment, as he reportedly did some 440 times last summer during a deposition in New York.
Kohrs crossed a line when she shared that the special grand jury had recommended that multiple people be indicted, Findling said, because that was the result of the jury’s deliberations. “Deliberations is utilizing the law to reach that decision,” he said.
McBurney weighs in
Findling’s and Little’s takes on the special grand jury process were quite different than that of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who oversaw the grand jury.
In a Wednesday interview, McBurney said he met with the special grand jurors at the end of their service to explain what they may legally discuss with anyone, not just the news media.
“They cannot discuss their deliberations,” he said. “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,” said McBurney.
But if an assistant DA or a witness is in the grand jury room, they can talk about what happened then, the judge said.
“That’s not deliberations,” he 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.”
In a Feb. 13 order, McBurney concluded that “by all appearances, the special purpose grand jury did its work by the book.”
He also wrote that, as grand juries typically operate, it was a “one-sided exploration” but that “does not mean that the district attorney’s investigative process was flawed or improper or in anyway unconstitutional.”
The Trump attorneys said other developments undermined the probe, which was launched two years ago this month. Among them were media interviews given by Willis; a political cartoon Willis tweeted that depicted her as a fisherwoman catching a be-finned caricature of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was a witness in the probe; and a Fulton judge disqualifying Willis and her office from investigating a named target due to a conflict of interest.
“The public should know that whether you call this a special purpose grand jury or not, this is not the way that a grand jury is supposed to operate,” Findling said.
Findling told the AJC that, as a result, there may be court motions filed on Trump’s behalf.
“This team is considering a wide variety of potential motions,” He said. “Whether or not it’s – when the timing of those take place is to be determined. But we’re on top of every conceivable legal issue that’s involved in this case. … Everything’s up for consideration right now.”
Throughout their interview, Findling and Little steadfastly defended Trump’s innocence.
“Let’s be really clear about one thing,” Findling said. “We think it could be a travesty for there to be criminal charges in this case, because we are resolute in the fact that our client is completely innocent.”
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