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Fulton County D.A. Slams House Judiciary Probe Into Georgia Indictment of Trump and Allies for 2020 Election; Fulton County Special Grand Jury Report Released; Special Grand Jury Recommended Charges for 39 People. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired September 08, 2023 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That the special grand jury believes was broken.
Now that we, of course, have seen the indictment, we'll be looking for any light, right, any daylight between what the special grand jury recommended and what the district attorney ultimately ended up doing. Because the special grand jury was used for about seven months to investigate this case and its recommendations are not binding. It's a little unusual in that way. So, we'll be looking to see if there were any differences.
And it's pretty significant that we're actually getting to see this today, Kate. I mean, there is no playbook. This is very unusual to be able to see a special grand jury report. I mean, most of them do not have the significant public interest that this one has, but it is significant that the judge has allowed us to see parts of this today.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And, Evan, what are the, I'll say, bigger legal implications from all of this?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, one of the interesting things that we, that this presents us with, right, is that there's still ongoing investigations in various parts, in the feds as well as in the states.
And it's-- you know, one of the unusual things is that, you know, you have the Georgia investigation, the Georgia grand jury, special grand jury, they heard testimony from a number of people, including people who did not and have not spoken to Jack Smith's investigation, for example.
And so one of the things that I know is going to present itself certainly in the coming months, Kate, is that federal prosecutors are going to want to see some of the work that went into this investigation, into the Fani Willis investigation, in part, because, you know, they're getting ready for their own trial. There might be additional defendants that might be named by Jack Smith's investigation in the coming weeks.
And so one of the, one of the things that I'm looking for when we see this is to see whether there's anybody here or there's anything here that, you know, might be of interest to others that are doing some of this similar investigations. Again, the feds are doing one, doing their own, but also some of the investigators in some of the other states that are looking at various efforts to overturn the election results in those states.
Again, some of that stuff could be indicative from what we see the Georgia grand jury produced in their work.
BOLDUAN: Yes, so interesting. Evan, Paula, thank you so much. Stay close. John?
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. With us now is CNN legal analyst Michael Moore and Tim Heaphy, former lead investigator on the January 6th committee and a former federal prosecutor.
Gentlemen, soon we're going to be out of the world of the hypothetical. We will get this special grand jury report and begin to go through it. And the first thing will be a simple math equation. There were 19 people charged in Georgia. Does the special grand jury report recommend charging more than that? If they do, Michael, what's the significance?
MICHAEL MOORE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'm glad to be with both of you. The significance is, remember, this is just an advisory body. And it's unusual to use a special grand jury in Georgia in a criminal case. And so we do not see this often. You see it in some administrative types investigations, but this is different.
I think probably in addition to the number of defendants or the recommendations for indictment, what may be troubling and what may, at the end of the day, provide good fodder for defense attorneys will be whether or not the judge releases those portions of the report where the grand jurors, special grand jurors found some of the witnesses to not be credible.
That really, I think, may pose a problem when we talk about influence and potential jurors in the criminal trial. I mean, what's it like to have a judicial body already determining that you're not telling the truth?
So, this could be a problem as it goes down the road. It's subject right now to some motions that are pending in Fulton County and it'll be interesting to see how they play out.
So, we'll be looking at the number of defendants and also those defendants who the special grand jury found might not have been truthful and how that plays out into the criminal case.
BERMAN: Tim, Counselor, isn't the why, or I should ask differently, is the why, why Fani Willis and the grand jury, not the special grand jury, if there are people who were not charged, ultimately, wouldn't it be interesting to know why she decided it wasn't worth bringing the charges if the special grand jury had recommended it?
TIM HEAPHY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, it would be interesting, but that won't be in the report, right? Look, in any large-scale criminal investigation involving a conspiracy, the decision as to who to charge isn't who's involved. It's practically what does the shape of the case sort of most make sense to portray to the jury.
There are practical considerations about numbers of defendants. She's already sort of stretching the outer edge of that by charging the 19 people that she did. That doesn't mean that the conspiracy is limited to those 19. There's discretion, prosecutorial discretion that informs that.
So, look, as Michael said, there may be some things in there that bear upon credibility and there may be additional evidence that gives both the defense and the world a better sense of what the evidence will be when this case is tried. But we will not get-- no question, we will not get in the report a window into the exercise of her discretion.
BERMAN: Tim, every attorney we've spoken to over the last several hours, particularly defense attorneys, in a way, they're salivating over this. They feel like getting this special grand jury report might give them helpful information to stage their defenses in Georgia. Why?
HEAPHY: Yes, absolutely. It's a roadmap of the evidence that informed the D.A.'s decision to bring her case. You don't often get that. You get discovery from the government. But a report with conclusions and findings by a grand jury is kind of an unusual preview of sorts that the defense will absolutely mine for intelligence, for practical information about who might be showing up on a witness stand, but also sort of the theory of the case.
So, it is significant, and as Michael said, unusual that you get this kind of preview.
BERMAN: Michael, what and how much will we learn about possible cooperators and people who may have been granted immunity as part of this process?
MOORE: Well, you'll have a chance to really just line up side by side those people who ended up in the original indictment and those people who were discussed in front of the special purpose grand jury. So, if in the final indictment, you see 19, and then in the discussions with the special purpose grand jury, you see recommendations for 25, you're going to wonder about those other six people. And it won't take a rocket scientist to sort of ferret through who those people may be.
And so the defense bar will be digging into that. They'll be digging into background. They'll be figuring out who said what, who may have a deal. Nothing stops them from going to, once they determine who those individuals may be or if they're named, going straight to them and saying, hey, what, we want to talk to you about the case. And you'll find out pretty quick if they clam up or send you to their lawyer what their intentions may be, as far as cooperation with the state.
But, again, this is not normal in a criminal case in Georgia, especially in a superior court case. We do not have investigative grand jury powers for regular criminal grand jury. So, this is a little bit new. But I do think, and you can tell from some of the motions that have been filed by the defense attorneys, that they intend to use this fully to their advantage.
BERMAN: Okay. So, Tim, take that a little further. What's the first thing you do? This report comes out literally. I keep checking my computer minutes from now. We expected it at 10:00. It could happen at any time. It drops. You do what with it if you are a defense attorney?
HEAPHY: Look, it's meat on the bones. The bones here have been evident to everyone, to the world for months. That the core story that the committee on which I worked told, that's been amply reported is there. This is, though, additional detail. This is specific manifestations of the multipart plan to disrupt the joint session, who was contacted, who did what. So, there will be detail in there that the defense lawyers will want to mine for investigative leads, to help shape their potential response.
But to be clear, I don't believe there's going to be any bombshell here. There's no more bombshell or other shoe left to drop. Again, the core story here of intentional disruption, an attempt to circumvent the peaceful transfer of power, has been clear for a long time.
BERMAN: Michael, how quickly could we see something in this special grand jury report in a courtroom? Could it play in any of the various hearings that are taking place now and will take place in terms of removal or the severance or things like that?
MOORE: You may hear something as early as next know. The trial judge in Fulton County has basically said he's going to hold motion hearings every week, especially given that he's under the gun and the state is under the gun to present their prosecution of Mr. Cheseboro and Ms. Powell by the end of October.
And so he sort of set out this informal schedule to regularly have motion hearings. There is a motion pending from the two of the defendants right now as it relates to the releasing this report. So, I think you may hear something about it.
I think if there's information in it that tends to be prejudicial or, in some way, unfairly frame a particular defendant, you may hear a motion from them as well that will be filed. I don't think that'll be heard next week.
And, again, this very well may become a motion on whether or not the case should stand. I think you'll likely see some motions to dismiss the criminal indictment because of some irregularity that the defense claims happened before the special grand jury.
So, it's coming. It's just a matter of next week or a couple of weeks down the road.
BERMAN: All right, Michael Moore, Tim Heaphy, stand by, if you will. Again, we're waiting for this report to come out at any moment.
SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Scathing response from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis after House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan demanded information about her investigation into election interference in her state of Georgia.
Willis wrote to Jordan saying in part that his probe's obvious purpose to obstruct a Georgia criminal proceeding and to advance outrageous partisan misrepresentations. That is her message. That comes after the Congressman wrote to Willis telling her, you did not bring charges until two and a half years later, at a time when the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination was in full swing.
CNN's Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is joining us now. Manu, Fani, at this point, has dismissed the request to send documents. What does that do to the House Judiciary Committee and what is its power in all this?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's unclear exactly what the Judiciary Committee chairman, Jim Jordan, will do in response to this blistering letter from Fani Willis, the committee at the moment declining to comment about her response. Unclear whether or not Jordan would take steps to try to subpoena Fani Willis or subpoena documents. That certainly is something that under their purview they could do. We'll see. The House returns back into session next week. That will be one of the issues that they will be dealing with in the weeks going forward.
But Fani Willis made clear, in her view, that what Jordan was doing, she said, was unconstitutional. She said that it would step on states' rights. She said that they had no business, in Fani Willis' view of obstructing an ongoing criminal investigation. She said Donald Trump, just because he's a political candidate, is not above the law. And she rejected the contention that because these charges were brought in the midst of the election season, that that was the intent, saying that this was a long investigation and the charges were brought because of the fact that the investigation had concluded.
She went on to say this in her very blistering response to the House Judiciary Committee chairman. She said, your job description as a legislator does not include criminal law enforcement nor does it include supervising a specific criminal trial because you believe that doing so will promote your partisan political objectives.
Now, Fani Willis is-- the Judiciary Committee is trying to figure out whether or not she, in any way, coordinated with the Justice Department, Jack Smith's office, of course, who has brought separate charges in separate cases on the federal level against the former president.
She went on to say that her office did receive about $12 million in federal grants, but saying that those are for other issues, such as fighting crime on the streets, dealing with sexual assault, going after people who are accused of sexual assault and the like, and warning them not to try to get rid of those federal funds. But as you can see here, this fight between the two sides intensifying. We'll see if the Judiciary Committee chairman decides to push back or decides to move on.
SIDNER: Yes. In her letter, it is very clear. I mean, she is slapping him with some cases that went to the Supreme Court saying that basically the Congressional power is not unchecked, like there has to be some checks and balances. This will be interesting to watch as these cases go forward.
Manu Raju, thank you so much for everything. John or Kate? Kate?
BOLDUAN: coming up for us, Donald Trump pitching in and trying to raise money for Rudy Giuliani and the mounting legal bills that he is facing. We have new details on that.
We are also just hearing the control room telling me in my ear right now that we are-- the full report and unredacted report from the special grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, has just been released.
Let me get over to CNN's Paula Reid. The control room is telling me, as I'm standing here, Paula, that has just come out. What are you learning?
REID: I haven't actually seen it yet, Kate, but I want to talk a little bit about why we're able to view this report today and potentially see any difference between what the special grand jury recommended and what the district attorney, Fani Willis, actually did.
Now, it is not a usual course of action for special grand jury reports to be released to the public, but after the indictment, CNN and other media outlets renewed their push to release this to the public. And the judge concluded, in one of his orders, he said, look, now that the indictment is out, he didn't see any need for this to continue to be redacted.
So, now that we have this, we're going to be poring over it. Specifically, we're looking at any place where the district attorney deviated from what was recommended by the special grand jury.
Now, Kate, the special grand jury was used for about seven months to investigate this. They heard from dozens and dozens of witnesses in this case, but their recommendations were not binding on the district attorney. And before moving on to a regular grand jury for an indictment, the district attorney needed to make an assessment of whether the recommendations that were made by the special grand jury were supported by enough evidence to successfully convict someone in court.
So, that's really what we're looking for today. Were there any recommendations, particularly of anyone high-profile or notable, that the district attorney opted not to follow through with?
So, that's the number one thing we're going to be looking for as we pour through this. But, again, a historic moment being able to see this grand jury report, not something usually available to the public.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. All right, Paula, stand by, you're going to get your hands on the report.
Let me get over to Evan Perez. I think while you've been talking, Evan's been able to start going through this. Evan, what are you seeing?
PEREZ: Yes. Look, I mean, there are a number of recommendations. Some of them line up exactly with what the district attorney and her team ended up deciding that they had enough evidence to be able to bring.
And one of the things that's interesting is there is a Section 7 of the report where they mention-- they say with respect to the national effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election focus on efforts in Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia, the grand jury recommends that the D.A. seek indictments of the following persons.
And one of the names that stands out immediately here, obviously, beyond Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Kenneth Cheseboro, people who are-- and the former president, Donald Trump. We also see the name number 11 listed here, Lindsey Graham, who is sitting senator, who is still the senator, obviously from South Carolina, who was very much involved in some of the efforts to talk to Georgia officials, trying to find ways for them to say that there was fraud in the election.
One of the things right off the bat that the grand jury finds, one of their initial findings, is that there was no widespread fraud in the state of Georgia in the 2020 elections. So, one of the names, again, sticking out here in one of the recommendations.
Again, this is under Section 7 of the report, page 6, you see the list of names. Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Kenneth Chesebro, all of them charged, Donald Trump, Cleta Mitchell, a former lawyer who was involved with the former president, she is on this list, Jenna Ellis, of course, she has already been charged, Mark Meadows, also who has been charged, David Shafer has been charged, Ray Smith, Lynn Wood, someone who was not charged in the end, Lindsey Graham and Sidney Powell, they list a total of 30 people who they believe should have been charged. This is the special purpose grand jury that they believe should have been charged as part of the national scheme by the former president and some of his allies to overturn the election results.
Again, what the grand jury was saying is that this was beyond just the state of Georgia. This was an effort that went to all these other states, including Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia, according to the special purpose grand jury.
We're still going through this document. But, again, one of the first initial things that sticks out is some of the names that you see here. They listed 30 names to be charged here. We only know of 19, of course, that have been charged. And we have to read through to see why they made that decision, what's the purpose of what they believe were those findings. Kate? BOLDUAN: Absolutely. I'm going to give you time to continue reading through this. I'm looking through this as well. But as importantly, one of the big questions has been, is the number in this full report different than the number of people that Fani Willis eventually indicted? And the answer is yes, John. They recommend 30 names here to face charges. We know that is 11 more than the 19 that Fani Willis is now seeking to prosecute.
BERMAN: 11, and 3 of them were U.S. Senators. One is a sitting U.S. Senator. That is Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The special grand jury report also recommended charges against then Georgia Senators Kelly Loeffler and then Georgia Senator David Perdue.
Michael Moore, attorney, is back with us right now. Michael, again, we all need to read much more closely what went into this report, why specifically they thought they should bring charges against Lindsey Graham. We know Lindsey Graham did make a phone call to Georgia, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.
But until we know firmly why they wanted to charge, let me ask you the difficulty in bringing charges for something like this against a sitting U.S. Senator and two former U.S. Senators. Why would that be hard? What might make Fani Willis not want to bring those charges?
MOORE: Well, one thing that's in the report that we'll have to look at a little more closely deals with the number of people who voted to charge versus who voted to not charge or abstain from the particular charge.
And I noticed that there are some individuals who were not in the 19 who had a number of votes against them. One of those was Lindsay Graham. His was not a unanimous vote by the special purpose grand jury to include him in the indictment.
So, you have to deal with things like the speech and debate clause. You remember that Lindsey Graham and other lawmakers challenged subpoenas. They went to federal court about that. There are certain issues that were surrounding whether or not the state could get information, and it may simply be that the D.A. looked at it and said, look, we are not at a place where we've even been able to convince all of our special purpose grand jury that we need to bring this indictment. We think that it may become more of a political case than necessarily a criminal case if we try to overreach into every sitting Republican federal official in the Senate, in the state of Georgia. So, we're not going to do that.
There can be a number of reasons that that decision was made. I think probably as much as anything else, it dealt with access to information, what they could get as this special purpose grand jury went forward, and whether or not those individuals contributed specifically to the narrative of the efforts to overturn the election that went on from the day after the vote through January, whether or not those specific individuals were tied in some way and they had evidence about them that they could present to a trial jury. And we don't know that.
This is not a transcript, by the way, for the viewers. This is not something that we're getting to read every word that was spoken in this special purpose grand jury. We're not able to see specific details of evidence presented. It's almost a summary type form where we're allowed to kind of see what conclusions they reach, and then we'll draw our own inferences from those conclusions.
BERMAN: Yes, I'm thumbing through it right now, and that's exactly right. In terms of the actual details, what jumps out are the names, not necessarily the actions or testimony to that end of what those actions were.
To what extent does this indicate that Fani Willis wanted a somewhat narrow case? And I asked that she brought charges against 90 people. That's a lot, but it's not 30, and it's not against sitting U.S. Senators. Does this indicate that she did want to keep it narrow where appropriate?
MOORE: I don't think there's any way to call her case narrow, even the case that she has ended up with. Once you use the word RICO, you've basically woven one of the biggest fishing nets you can weave, and you're just trying to catch as many fish as you can catch.
And that's why RICO is such a powerful tool for prosecutors because it allows them to basically dirty up everybody else with the other people's conduct. And so I don't see that the 19 would make me think she's tried to narrow the case.
I really think at the end of the day, she probably looked at it, making some decisions about is this going to be even more labeled a case of politics or is it going to be labeled a case of actually some criminal conduct? And had she included the two highest ranking federal officials in the state at the time in the indictment, at some point, sort of the stench of politics can come over the entire criminal case. Certainly, that's some of what the defense is trying to do now. But it would have added to that had she included two senators that she may not have had enough information about.
And so you'll recall the call that Lindsey Graham made to the secretary as he tried to talk about, can you do something with the votes? And where are the votes? And his explanations have maybe answered some of that question and what he was calling about, how he was calling for the Senate and everything. But that, to me, that's a case she just had to use her own discretion on.
I don't know what information she may have had available to on Purdue and Loeffler. And, again, without seeing sort of the -- we're not seeing the engine of what went on in the special purpose grand jury, we're just able to see the exterior of the car. So, we don't know kind of what made it run. We're not able to see the specific allegations, statements, comments, testimony of these witnesses. We're just able to see sort of the finished product in looking at it, and then we know which part she decided she was going to take. So, that's kind of what we know at this point. BERMAN: And again, just to be clear, as we are looking through this and reading it, it now is becoming clear they recommended charges against 39 people. Not 30, 39, which would be 20 more than they ultimately did bring charges against.
Michael Moore, please stand by. We're going to continue to read through this. In the meantime, I'm going to go to Sara.
SIDNER: This is pretty incredible when you look at some of the names on here.
We're talking about two former senators, former Senator David Purdue of Georgia, former U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, and a sitting U.S. senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham.
Let me go now to Manu Raju. When you look at these names -- now, look, they are not charged. Fani Willis did not decide to go forward in charging them, but a grand jury said that they should be, in their mind, charged. What is this going to do politically? Like what is happening on the Hill right now?
RAJU: Yes. Well, look, Senator Lindsey Graham is gone, as other senators are. They're not in session today. But this is all focused around that conversation that Lindsey Graham had with Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, in the aftermath of the 2020 election.
I recall that Raffensperger had said that he felt pressured, intimidated to try -- by that phone call and by Trump allies, to essentially try to get rid of votes and try to help Donald Trump win the election.
Now, when this all happened back in 2020, I actually had a conversation with Lindsey Graham about all of this, and he denied that he tried to pressure or strong arm Brad Raffensperger in any way. He simply said he was trying to ask about the mail-in voting system in Georgia, the signature verification system.
And he said his focus was not about discarding legally valid ballots in 2020 in the presidential election. He said he was trying to get some more attention about the Senate races that were upcoming in January. Recall those two runoffs that ultimately determine control of the Senate after Republicans lost those two seats. He said that was his focus on that. And he denied all that the implication that he was trying to force Brad Raffensperger to do something illegal. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): What I'm very concerned about is that if you're going to continue to vote by mail, that we need to know what systems work and what don't. It's up to the people of Georgia. And I think I have every right in the world to reach out and say, how does it work?
And that's what I did. I thought a pretty good conversation.
RAJU: I mean, he thinks it's an implicit threat.
GRAHAM: I categorically reject that. That wasn't my intent and that wasn't the purpose of the conversation to throw out ballots. We're talking about an election we haven't even had yet, which is the Senate races. That was my focus. How do you verify signatures? We've got a new Senate race coming up. Is there anything we can do to make it better?
RAJU: So, you were concerned about the Senate races more than what was happening --
GRAHAM: That's what the whole thing was about. I mean, they've got a process. You can't change the law retroactively. So, there's just no way to do that. Whatever system was in place for the presidential election, we're going to live with. The whole conversation was about the Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, ultimately, Lindsey Graham did testify before the grand jury in George after he tried to fight a subpoena, did not want to come and testify. He did. It's unclear exactly what he said to that grand jury if it differs from that explanation in any way.
I did talk to him after that testimony. He would not really comment about what he said to the grand jury other than that he said he cooperated and he wasn't expected to be charged in any way.
Now, on the David Perdue situation, the former senator who recommended -- there were charges recommended against him, along with Kelly Loeffler, he did urge Brian Kemp, the governor of Georgia, to convene a special session to look into the 2020 election results as he pushed those false claims of fraud.
And also at that same meeting was Kelly Loeffler. That was a January 2020 -- a meeting that was after the 2020 elections, and when they met with Brian Kemp. It's unclear if that's all part of this potential or recommendation that these individuals be charged here, but that was one effort as well.
But as you can see from that conversation, Sara, that I had with Lindsey Graham, he denied he did anything wrong. He claimed he was just focused on the Senate race and not trying to get rid of those illegal ballots. It's unclear why, though, the special grand jury may have viewed things differently.
SIDNER: Yes. We will have to look through this and try to see if we can find some of those answers. Manu Raju, thank you so much for your reporting. It was really interesting hearing again from Lindsey Graham on his thoughts on this.
I want to go now to our Dana Bash, who has been standing by and I'm sure poring through all of this. I first want to start with listening to this important moment where Wolf Blitzer spoke with the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, on some of the issues that are now coming up in this unredacted grand jury report. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You described to The Washington Post a conversation you had with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on Friday. You came away with the impression that he essentially wanted you to look for ways to toss out mail in ballots. What exactly did he say to you?
SECRETARY OF STATE BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R-GA): Well, he asked if the ballots could be matched back to the voters. And then I got the sense it implied that then you could throw those out and he really would look at the counties with the highest frequent error of signatures. So, that's the impression that I got.
BLITZER: I just want to be clear on this, Mr. Secretary.
You say Senator Graham wanted you to find ways to get rid of legally cast ballots? Because CNN asked him about these allegations, he denied them.