Not only has the unspeakable finally been said at last. It has been said in court. Fulton County Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis suggested Tuesday to Superior Court Judge Robert McBurne that a decision on whether or not to seek indictments of former President Donald Trump is “imminent.”
Her connotative statement came at the beginning of a 90-minute hearing in which Judge McBurney considered a media request to release the special grand jury’s final report. Willis and her team reasoned that the report should be kept under seal for the time being. “The state understands the media’s inquiry and the world’s interest, but we have to be mindful of protecting future defendants’ rights,” DA Willis said. Without specifying who those future defendants might be, Willis said that decisions are “imminent.”
Willis and Donald Wakeford, the chief senior district attorney, briefly conferred. Amusingly, neither realised they did so in front of an open mic. “The future of defendants trump … ,” Wakeford began, presumably intending to say how the defendant’s future trumps some other consideration. Willis hastily interrupted him by telling Wakeford not to use the word “trump.”
At issue is the media’s keen interest in what the grand jury’s final report says. The report should give an insight into the case under consideration. Given that the grand jury heard Trump say in his own words on audio tape that he needed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes,” the exact number Trump needed to win Georgia, it’s hard to believe they would come to any other conclusion than to recommend indictment.
So the grand jury report may contain a recommendation to do what no one has ever done in the history of the United States: indict a former president. Willis needs to keep it secret for the time being. “At this time, in the interest of justice and the rights of not the state, but others,” Willis significantly told the judge, “we are asking that the report not be released.”
“There will be no rash decisions,” Judge McBurney said, adding that he would post a notice about any upcoming decision. “No one’s going to wake up with the court having disclosed the report on the front page of a newspaper,” the judge said.
As the decision on whether or not to release the grand jury’s final decision was fraught in court, Donald Trump defended his post-election conduct in Georgia with a hysteria-filled, bald faced pair of lies posted early Tuesday to his social media platform, “Truth” Social. “I was protesting a RIGGED & STOLEN Election, which evidence proves it was,” Trump proclaimed. “I won Georgia by a lot, but only needed a small number of votes from that total number. They cheated in many ways including STUFFING Ballots, ALL CAUGHT LIVE ON TAPE.”
Her statement is an indication that Fani Willis is thinking ahead. It is well that Willis is concerned with the rights of “others.” Those “others” may become defendants in a future trial, and the last thing the Fulton County District Attorney wants is to have the results of that trial overturned on appeal. So she is jealously guarding against any procedural goofs that might be used to suggest that the defendant didn’t get a fair trial from the very beginning.
All this bodes very ill for Donald Trump. If Georgia indicts Donald Trump in the next couple of weeks it could set off a chain reaction of indictments from the state of New York all the way to the Department of Justice. Given Donald Trump’s proven double bigotry against women and people of colour, it would be particularly glorious if the world’s first presidential indictment should come from a woman of colour. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.