(ATLANTA, Ga.) — After the foreperson of the Fulton County, Georgia, grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump and a push to overturn the 2020 election spoke out in several headline-making interviews, the judge overseeing the case told ABC News on Monday that jurors “can talk about the final report.”
But Judge Robert C. McBurney noted the matter can get “problematic” if jurors start to “synthesize the testimony” and the group’s thoughts on it.
McBurney said in an interview that after the grand jury submitted its report in January, he held a “farewell session,” at the request of the district attorney, in which he “reminded them of their oath, which is a statutory obligation that they not discuss with anyone outside their group their deliberations — that’s the one word that’s in the oath.”
McBurney emphasized that “it’s important for people to understand that witness testimony is not deliberations.”
“I explained you don’t talk about what the group discussed about the witnesses’ testimony, but you can talk about witness testimony,” he said. “You could talk about things that the assistant district attorneys told you. … And then finally, you can talk about the final report because that is the product of your deliberations, but it’s not your deliberations.”
Last week, the grand jury foreperson, Emily Kohrs, gave interviews to news outlets regarding her work as a juror, including confirming that the panel had recommended indictments against multiple people.
Kohrs also gave details on testimony from former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham and others in Trump’s orbit.
Kohrs’ statements sparked criticism from some, including Trump’s lawyers, who argued in an interview over the weekend that the investigation “has been compromised” and “if any indictments were to come down, those are faulty indictments.”
McBurney, however, emphasized that the special grand jury was essentially investigative and did not have the ability to bring indictments.
That decision that would ultimately rest with another grand jury, should Fulton County District Attorney Fanni Willis pursue a case. Trump has denied wrongdoing.
“This grand jury’s sole role was to prepare a report that was merely a set of recommendations for the district attorney — full stop. Nothing more,” McBurney said. “And so folks should think long and hard about what impact, at all, this special purpose grand jury’s work would have should there be an indictment down the road.”
“This grand jury could not and did not bring charges against anyone,” he reiterated.
McBurney declined to say if he saw anything in Kohrs’ public comments that overstepped his guidance or her oath. Kohrs hasn’t responded to ABC News’ request for comment.
The judge said people may be “more familiar with federal grand jurors and a more extensive oath of secrecy than is the case in Georgia.”
“It’s just important not to apply the wrong standard to grand jurors in this jurisdiction,” he said. “Their oath requires them to keep secret their deliberations, and it is a different oath than what federal grand jurors take.”
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