New witnesses. Audio of a third phone conversation between former President Donald Trump and a Georgia official. A bomb-sniffing dog.
Those are among the previously-undisclosed details from the Fulton County special grand jury’s eight-month criminal investigation that participants shared with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an exclusive interview.
The AJC recently interviewed five jurors — two women and three men — who examined whether Trump or his allies criminally interfered in Georgia’s 2020 elections. They agreed to share their experiences on the condition of anonymity, since many feared for their safety and privacy.
Their comments came weeks after Emily Kohrs, the jury forewoman, made national headlines for her forthcoming interviews about the group’s work. (Kohrs was not among the jurors interviewed for this story, though the participants largely corroborated details Kohrs shared with the AJC and other media outlets.)
Read the full story here. Below are some of the most noteworthy new details jurors shared:
Jurors confirmed that they heard audio from a recorded phone conversation between Trump and the late Georgia House Speaker David Ralston.
Ralston had previously told a North Georgia media outlet that he was contacted by Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in December 2020, but the existence of a tape had not been previously known.
Jurors said that during the conversation, the president asked Ralston to convene a special session of the legislature to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia.
The speaker “basically cut the president off,” one juror recalled. “He said, ‘I will do everything in my power that I think is appropriate.’ He just basically took the wind out of the sails. ‘Well, thank you,’ you know, is all the president could say.”
Ralston, who died in November, and other legislative leaders did not call a special session.
A former Ralston aide declined to comment for this story, and a Trump campaign spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
There are at least two other recorded phone calls between Trump and Georgia officials from that period. The president’s now-infamous January 2021 conversation with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was quickly leaked. Audio of his December 2020 call with Frances Watson, then an investigator with the secretary of state’s office who was conducting an audit of absentee ballots in Cobb County, also surfaced publicly.
The jurors said they heard testimony from former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, a close Trump ally who lost his re-election bid to Democrat Jon Ossoff in January 2021.
Perdue was questioned about a meeting at Truist Park in December 2020, during which he urged Gov. Brian Kemp to convene a special legislative session, a juror said.
Perdue did not respond to a request for comment. Jurors also said they spoke with Perdue’s colleague, former Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
Law enforcement was worried enough about the crowd Michael Flynn, Trump’s onetime national security adviser, associated with that it dispatched additional layers of security ahead of his testimony.
Officers had a bomb-sniffing German Shepherd inspect the grand jury room, a precaution they hadn’t used for any other witness. Meanwhile, sheriffs’ deputies and marshals carrying automatic weapons were stationed outside the courthouse.
Specifically, law enforcement was concerned about who might turn up to support Flynn, a prominent figure among far-right, conspiracy theorists and Christian nationalist groups. No bomb was found and there were no known incidents involving Flynn supporters.
Flynn refused to answer most of the questions posed by prosecutors, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination, jurors said.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham is a vocal Trump supporter. But when he testified before the grand jury, the South Carolina Republican sounded skeptical of the former president’s claims of election fraud. According to one of the grand jurors, Graham said that after the election “if somebody had told Trump that aliens came down and stole Trump ballots, that Trump would’ve believed it.”
Graham’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Jurors revealed that the first witness they heard from was Bo Rutledge, dean of the University of Georgia Law School. Rutledge, who appeared under subpoena, explained presidential election law and repeatedly told jurors he was nervous because he didn’t want to make mistakes.
Rutledge was an interesting choice for Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat. He once clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, among the most conservative members of the high court.
Jurors said they found Rutledge’s presentation — in which he explained the legal process after ballots after they’re cast — highly instructive.
Trump was not subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury, nor was he invited to testify voluntarily.
Jurors suggested the decision was made by prosecutors — not them. Some reasoned that he would likely have invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination, as he did repeatedly when he was deposed by the New York attorney general.
But one juror said that in hindsight, he wished that jurors had requested Trump’s testimony, especially after Manhattan prosecutors moved to do so in a separate criminal investigation.
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Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution