ATLANTA – Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney said it was “purely random” that he presided over one of the nation’s most closely watched special purposes. Grand Jury InvestigationWhich was eyeing an attempt to oust former President Donald Trump and his allies 2020 election in Georgia
“It’s special, it’s different and I’ve never had to deal with it before,” McBurney told CBS News.
For about eight months, McBurney oversaw the special purpose grand jury, which was Dissolved in January. In February, he ordered the partial release of a grand jury report that found no widespread evidence of election fraud and said perjury “may have been committed by one or more witnesses”.
The 23-judge panel heard from 75 witnesses during the investigation, including subpoenaed members of the former president’s inner circle, such as former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former New York mayors and Trump’s personal attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Lindsay. Graham of South Carolina.
McBurney described the process as “educational,” quipping, “I learned a lot more about speech and debate than I thought I would.”
“I’ve been able to work with good attorneys from the district attorney’s office, from many witnesses, to deal with new issues, and I always like that — to avoid the similarities that a judge can face with the repetitive nature of criminal and civil cases.”
CBS News sat down with McBurney exclusively after the Atlanta Journal Constitution published interviews with five special grand jurors last week. This is the first group interview since jury foreperson Emily Kors broke her silence with several media outlets last month.
McBurney agreed to discuss his overall experience in litigation and the legal process. He told jurors they could talk about the report, what witnesses and prosecutors said but they could not discuss their deliberations.
“One of the conversations I had with grand jurors when they were dismissed was ‘what do we mean by deliberation,'” McBurney explained. “There’s no restriction on them sharing with you, their mother, their uncle, whoever they want,” said Michael Flynn when (the late Speaker of the Georgia House) David Ralston testified before you.
“What they can’t share is the deliberative process, and that’s where it gets complicated,” adds McBurney.
The judge declined to say whether any of the jurors’ statements crossed a line. In the AJC interview, the five judges gave a behind-the-scenes look at their experiences and revealed new evidence, including a phone call between former President Donald Trump and Ralston that called for him to call a special legislative session to overturn President Biden’s victory. The judges also discussed their decision not to subpoena the former president or invite him to testify voluntarily, although the team said it did not discuss subpoenaing Trump during its deliberations.
Kohrs received heavy criticism for his media blitz After suggesting possible charges and identifying some witnesses. He also told The Associated Press that the panel did not hear from the former president because “Trump is not the war we chose to fight.”
“We’ve lost 100% confidence in the process,” Georgia-based Trump attorney Drew Findling said. told CBS News last month. “We think this process has been compromised.”
Trump’s legal team File a proposal Monday to quash the special purpose grand jury report, prevent the use of any evidence derived from it and recuse the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office from the case. They requested another judge hear the motion instead of McBurney, citing the “propriety” of his conduct.
McBurney and the district attorney’s office declined to comment on the filing. The DA’s office previously said it did not know ahead of time whether Kohrs planned to do any media interviews and declined to comment on other juror interviews. Kohrs did not respond to CBS News’ request for comment.
While federal grand jury rules prohibit grand jurors from disclosing matters that occur before the panel, Georgia law is less strict and states that jurors “shall keep the deliberations of the grand jury confidential.” A bill has been introduced in the state legislature that would limit what special grand juries can say and impose penalties for unauthorized disclosures by forepersons and other special grand jury members.
Fulton County District Attorney Fanny Willis It is now deciding whether to pursue indictments and open a “regular” criminal grand jury for potential charges against Trump or others based on the grand jury’s recommendation. Willis launched the investigation in early 2021 shortly after the release of a recording of a phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, asking Raffensperger to “find” the votes needed to reverse his losses in the state.
McBurney worked briefly in the Fulton County DA’s Office. The Harvard-educated judge rose through the ranks as an assistant U.S. attorney before being nominated to the bench in 2012 by former Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.
“It’s of universal significance,” McBurney noted of the Fulton case. “It’s been a privilege to be involved and I hope my role hasn’t interfered with what really needs to happen which is moving the investigation forward in whatever direction.”