UNITED STATES: A Georgia grand jury has issued a recommendation for criminal charges against Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham and several other associates of Donald Trump as part of their investigation into attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, according to a report released on Friday.
No charges were ultimately filed when Georgia prosecutors brought forth a comprehensive criminal case against Trump and 18 alleged co-conspirators.
The report stated that the special grand jury recommended charges against Graham, along with Georgia’s two US senators at the time, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, all of whom are members of the Republican Party, just like Trump.
Graham, a former Trump opponent turned golf pal, stated he was just carrying out his supervisory responsibilities as the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee when he urged Georgia officials to look over absentee votes following Trump’s loss.
At a press conference on Friday in South Carolina, he said, “We can’t criminalise senators doing their jobs. The next election, if I have questions, I’ll do the same thing.”
The report suggested pursuing charges against Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser to Trump, as well as Boris Epshteyn, an adviser, along with lawyers Lin Wood and Cleta Mitchell.
The six were among the 39 individuals with whom the special grand jury recommended charging in its report from December 15, which was kept under seal for nine months. In contrast to the eventual criminal indictment, it lacked specific claims.
Although the special grand jury lacked the authority to prosecute individuals, Willis used the material it collected to request that Trump and his 18 co-defendants be indicted by a regular grand jury last month.
Following the report’s publication on Friday, Trump said it demonstrated the political motivation behind Willis’s case. On social media, he posted, “They wanted to indict anybody who happened to be breathing at the time.”
Trump and the co-defendants in the case have entered pleas of not guilty. Similar to his stance in three previous criminal trials, Trump has consistently asserted his innocence and framed himself as a target of political persecution.
Democratic candidates defeated Loeffler and Perdue, both of whom were ardent Trump supporters, in the January 2021 runoff elections. Perdue subsequently experienced an unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 2022.
Jesse Binnall, Flynn’s attorney, stated in a statement that “this baseless witch hunt isn’t based on the facts, the law, or reality. An influential member of the far-right, Flynn had pushed Trump to use force to rig the 2020 election.”
Longtime Trump political advisor Epshteyn participated in attempts to get Trump’s election result overturned and has since advised the former president on the legal risks he is currently facing.
Wood, a conservative attorney who supported electoral conspiracy theories, denied any misconduct and expressed astonishment at hearing that the special grand jury had recommended charging him. He told the media, “I’m not quite sure why my name is in it.” Since then, he has retired due to disciplinary actions from the bar.
In 2021, Willis asked for a special grand jury to be established in order to support her inquiry. The jury subpoenaed testimony from 75 witnesses over the course of several months, including prominent Georgians like Governor Brian Kemp and Trump supporters like his former lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Graham.
It was not a unanimous decision by the special grand jury. It decided to indict Graham, Loeffler, and Perdue, respectively, by votes of 13–7, 14-6, and 17–4. Each of the votes cast for Graham and Loeffler had one abstention. Regarding the nationwide effort to rig the election, the grand jury decided 20-1 to prosecute Trump.
The indictment named thirty uncharged co-conspirators who allegedly participated in the scam but have not been charged. Despite his legal issues, Trump is still the overwhelming favourite to defeat Democratic President Joe Biden and win the Republican presidential nomination in 2020.
At Willis’s request, the special grand jury report was kept under wraps as she decided what charges to press. Judge Robert McBurney of Fulton County Superior Court said there was no longer any justification to keep it secret after the indictments were made public.