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New details reveal Georgia special grand jury in Trump election case recommended charges for Lindsey Graham

Special grand jury recommended indicting Lindsey Graham
Georgia special grand jury recommended indicting Lindsey Graham, several others 01:59

In addition to recommending charges against former President Donald Trump, a Georgia special purpose grand jury that investigated efforts to overturn the 2020 election also indicated it believed charges should have been filed against South Carolina U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, and former Georgia U.S. Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

The 23 special purpose grand jurors had the ability to subpoena witnesses and recommend charges in this report, which they completed in January. They did not have the authority to indict. The report, which was largely sealed until Friday, was released because many of its recommendations came to fruition on Aug. 15, when a traditional grand jury indicted Trump and 18 others — although Graham, Perdue and Loeffler were ultimately not charged.

Trump and the other defendants in the case have all pleaded not guilty.

Most of the report, by a special purpose grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, had been ordered to be withheld from the public as the district attorney there considered charges against Trump and others in his orbit.

In a footnote, the report shared that one juror who voted against indictment of Perdue and Loeffler "believes that their statements following the November 2020 election, while pandering to their political base, do not give rise to their being guilty of a criminal conspiracy."

President Donald Trump and Senator Lindsey Graham
Former President Donald Trump watches as Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) addresses the crowd during a 2024 election campaign event in Columbia, South Carolina, on Jan. 28, 2023. LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images

Current Lt. Governor Burt Jones is also mentioned twice in the report, and the grand jury voted that he be recommended for charges to his involvement as one of 16 Georgia Republicans who falsely claimed to be the state's "duly elected and qualified" electors. 

However, last year Judge McBurney determined that Willis had a conflict of interest after hosting a fundraiser for Jones' Democratic opponent and was precluded from questioning him as part of her investigation, and thus prevented her from charging him as part of this case. Instead, the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia, a nonpartisan association of Georgia district attorneys, is expected to appoint another prosecutor to decide if any charges should be brought against Jones. 

"This document further demonstrates that this entire political circus has been done in pursuit of Fani Willis' personal gain. Meanwhile, she has ignored crime in the streets and the obvious crisis in Fulton County's jail," Jones said in a statement. "Fani is obviously focused on what's best for her political career, I'm focused on what's best for Georgia."

A majority of special purpose grand jurors recommended charges against 27 people "with respect to the national effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election." Among those were Graham, Loeffler and Perdue and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. In November 2020, Trump pardoned Flynn, who twice had entered guilty pleas to charges of lying to the FBI. 

Also included in the recommendations were several lawyers either on Trump's team or working in support of it, including Boris Epshteyn, Cleta Mitchell and Lin Wood. 

Loeffler tweeted a statement saying she makes "no apologies for serving my state by giving voice to millions of Americans who felt disenfranchised by 2020 — and I refuse to be intimidated by a two-tiered system of justice that seeks to systematically destroy conservatives across this country."

Jesse Binnall, an attorney for Michael Flynn, said in a statement, "Today's report reveals even more corruption by a politically-motivated prosecutor with one goal: to take down President Trump, his associates, and interfere in the 2024 election," adding, "This baseless witch hunt isn't based on the facts, or the law, or reality." 

Epshteyn, who remains a close adviser to Trump, declined to comment. Mitchell did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Wood said in a phone call with CBS News that "I didn't commit any crime," adding that he believed Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis made the "correct decision" by not charging him.

"I was not involved in a national effort to overturn the 2020 election. The only thing that I did was I filed two lawsuits in Georgia, in my name … those two cases were thrown out on standing," Wood said.

In a statement Friday, Trump spokesman Steven Cheung blasted Willis and the special grand jury process as "politically motivated" and "clearly biased," saying they "voted to indict dozens of innocent individuals, including former and sitting United States Senators, simply for raising concerns about election integrity and exercising their First Amendment Rights under the Constitution."

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks during a news conference on indictment In 2020 Election Case
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks during a news conference on Aug.14, 2023 in Atlanta after grand jury handed up an indictment naming former President Donald Trump and 18 allies in an alleged attempt to overturn the 2020 election results. / Getty Images

A Republican who testified before the special grand jury tells CBS News, "this report clearly highlights who's cooperated, who was likely given the opportunity to cooperate, and who ultimately found that one-sided loyalty to a disgraced President trumped their own self preservation."

The report had been shrouded in mystery since it was completed earlier this year and sealed, except for two small sections.

"Much has changed since that February order was entered," wrote Judge Robert McBurney in a Aug. 28 order indicating the report would be released Friday unless objections were raised by concerned parties. "As anyone with an internet connection now knows, the district attorney has indicted 19 individuals for their alleged participation in a 'racketeering enterprise' purportedly designed to interfere with the lawful administration of the 2020 general election in Georgia."

Over the course of about six months in 2022, the special purpose grand jury interviewed 75 witnesses, including current and former state and federal officials.

The special purpose grand jury recommended the report be made public.

A "'recommendation' is more than a mere suggestion or request: if a grand jury recommends publication, 'the judge shall order the publication,' McBurney wrote in his Aug. 28 order.

McBurney previously released two brief sections of the report. In one section, the special purpose grand jury wrote, "we find by a unanimous vote that no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning that election."

In a different section, they wrote that a "majority of the Grand Jury believes that perjury may have been committed by one or more witnesses testifying before it" and recommended that the district attorney seek "appropriate indictments." 

Two of the 19 defendants were charged with perjury, Cathleen Latham, a former chairwoman of the Coffee County, Georgia Republican Party, and Robert Cheeley, a local attorney.

Read the special purpose grand jury's report below:

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