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The partial release of a special jury report on Thursday could provide one of the most significant insights yet into a long-running Georgia investigation investigating whether Donald Trump and his allies committed a crime in their efforts to overturn the presidential election. Here’s everything you need to know about that hearing and what to expect next.
Related: Trump’s political fate may have been decided — by a grand jury in Georgia
What exactly happens on Thursday?
Since May last year, a special grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, has been investigating whether Donald Trump committed a crime under state law when he attempted to overturn the 2020 election by pressuring state officials to try to secure Joe Biden’s victory in the stands.
The grand jury concluded its work in January. On Thursday, three parts of the grand jury’s report to the Fulton County District Attorney will be made public. Those three sections are the report’s introduction, conclusion, and a section discussing whether witnesses appearing before the grand jury may have lied.
The revelation comes after a court ruling in January in which media organizations urged a Fulton County judge to make the full report public. Prosecutors resisted the full release until they made a decision on whether to press charges — a decision the Fulton County district attorney said was “upcoming.”
On Monday, Fulton County Judge Robert McBurney ordered the release of the three sections, but said releasing the full report could jeopardize the due process rights of people who may be named in it.
The special grand jury — which consisted of 23 jurors and three alternates — recommended that its report be made public.
Will we know on Thursday if Trump will be charged with a felony?
Not necessary. The special grand jury likely made a recommendation on whether or not to press charges against Fani Willis, a Democrat serving in her first term as Fulton district attorney. Willis can go to a regular grand jury and press charges. The portions released Thursday may provide a glimpse into the grand jury’s thinking.
Why is this such a large investigation?
Trump and allies have yet to face criminal consequences for their efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The Fulton County investigation could mark the first time charges have been brought against Trump and allies for those efforts. The US House committee investigating the January 6 attacks also issued a criminal referral to the Justice Department, which is also investigating Trump’s actions after the 2020 election.
What is a Special Purpose Grand Jury?
A special grand jury sits to investigate one subject and has no time limit. It can subpoena witnesses, unlike a regular grand jury, but cannot indict anyone. Instead, it makes a recommendation to prosecutors on whether or not to proceed with charges.
A regular grand jury sits for a set amount of time and hears a wide variety of cases. It may eventually issue an indictment.
Why is all this happening in Fulton County, Georgia?
After the 2020 election, Donald Trump and his allies have repeatedly tried to get Georgia state officials to overturn the 2020 election. Many of those actions took place in Atlanta, Fulton County.
Those efforts include Trump’s infamous phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger requesting that the election be overturned. “All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, that’s another one we have because we won the state,” Trump told Raffensperger, who declined the request.
In 2020, Trump campaign officials also appeared at a legislative hearing in Georgia and advanced false allegations of fraud.
Willis has also told Rudy Giuliani, who played a key role in spreading misleading election information in Georgia and elsewhere, that he is a target of her investigation. Other targets are said to be those who took part in Georgia’s attempt to send fake presidential voters to Congress. Those targets include David Shafer, the chairman of the Georgia GOP, and Burt Jones, a 2020 Republican senator who is now the state’s lieutenant governor.
Willis’ investigation also reportedly includes a phone call from Senator Lindsey Graham to Raffensperger in which Graham asked if Raffensperger had the authority to throw away absentee ballots. Willis is also looking into efforts to remove BJ Pak, the former US attorney with jurisdiction over Atlanta, who refused to join Trump’s efforts to overturn the election.
Related: Grand jury in Georgia 2020 Trump election probe completes work
What criminal charges could Trump face?
There is a menu of legal charges that may be available to prosecutors, legal experts have noted. Georgia law makes it illegal to knowingly solicit, order, or induce another person to engage in electoral fraud. Another state statute makes it a crime to interfere with an election official while they are trying to carry out their official duties.
Willis may also prosecute RICO – Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations – charges against Trump and his allies. Relying on RICO, Willis was able to charge multiple defendants at once, showing they were part of a wider conspiracy to disrupt the election. Willis has used the statute in the past and hired an attorney who specializes in RICO cases to assist with the Trump investigation.
Who testified before the special grand jury?
The grand jury heard from 75 witnesses. Elected top officials, both nationally and in Georgia, have appeared before the panel. It has heard testimony from Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Raffensperger, as well as Giuliani, Graham and Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff. The last three went to court to avoid appearing. All three were unsuccessful.