Special’ grand jury probe in Georgia is attack on political rights

By Terry Evans
March 13, 2023

Casting aside any pretense at impartiality, special grand jury foreman Emily Kohrs has been on a “media tour” divulging selective details of the Democratic Party-run search for indictments targeting Donald Trump’s alleged interference in Georgia’s 2020 elections. A gleeful liberal media is presenting her comments as confirmation of progress in the seven-year drive to bring down the former president and prevent him from ever running again.

The liberals’ legal machinations, leaks and use of the FBI — as well as the “special” grand jury — are dealing blows to constitutional freedoms working people need to defend ourselves.

Convened by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, the special grand jury is part of a two-year-long “investigation” into Trump in Georgia. Willis is a Democrat, called a “pit bull in the courtroom” by cops who worked with her. The jury sat for eight months, called 75 witnesses, including subpoenaing former Trump administration officials. The reason this grand jury is “special” is that it had no power to indict anyone. It was set up as a giant fishing expedition to dig up dirt on Trump. Willis can now “recommend” charges to a regular grand jury, which she would also run.

Portions of the special grand jury report were released to the press Feb. 13, including its conclusion that “no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election.” Trump’s attorneys had alleged officials counted votes of 10,000 dead people, convicted felons and unregistered voters. The only specific reference to indictments in the excerpts says a majority of the panel’s members “believe that perjury may have been committed by one or more witnesses.”

Fulton County Judge Robert McBurney gave Kohrs the green light to discuss the jury’s deliberations. She proceeded to give out all kinds of “wink-wink” hints Trump was headed for indictment. Kohrs told NBC the list of recommended indictments “is not short” and includes names “you would recognize.” Regarding “the big name everyone keeps asking me about” — a thinly veiled reference to Trump — she told the Trump-hating CNN, “I don’t think you’ll be shocked.”

When reporters told her that Trump said the Feb. 13 grand jury report had exonerated him, they reported Kohrs rolled her eyes and burst out laughing. The grand jury never called Trump to testify and the released excerpts of its report don’t mention him.

She told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the jury heard tapes of Trump’s phone calls, saying it’s “amazing how many hours of footage you can find of that man on the phone.” She told them, “some of these that were privately recorded or recorded by a staffer.” She offered her opinions on which witnesses seemed happy to testify and which didn’t.

As the jury foreman, Kohrs swore in witnesses, she told the New York Times, claiming, “you can tell a lot about people in that 60 seconds.” She also revealed prosecutors invited her and other jurors to parties.

A number of liberal media commentators and prosecutors have said that Kohrs’ extensive comments may damage any actual attempt to charge Trump or others arising from Willis’ probe.

What is a grand jury?

After the American Revolution, working people fought to have protections against government attack written into the new Constitution. One was the establishment of the grand jury system, to place prosecutions into hands of fellow citizens, not the government.

This is part of the Bill of Rights Fifth Amendment, which establishes no one can be prosecuted for the same crime twice, nor compelled to give evidence against themselves, “nor be denied of life, liberty or property without due process of the law.” Each of these are vital protections that workers, farmers and other exploited producers need.

But as capitalist rule in the U.S. has grown to require more tools against working people, grand juries have been transformed into the opposite of what they were intended for. They’re a tool for prosecutors to organize fishing expeditions. District attorneys use grand juries to compel witnesses to testify, without a lawyer and with no cross-examination of your accuser allowed.

The government has a decadeslong record using the extraordinary powers granted to grand juries to target opponents, including working-class fighters. In 1936 federal prosecutors used a grand jury to frame up Pedro Albizu Campos and other Puerto Rican Nationalist Party leaders on thought-control “seditious conspiracy” charges. A federal grand jury was used to indict playwright Arthur Miller in 1957 after he refused to tell a congressional committee the names of Communist Party members he had met.

And a federal grand jury was used in 2010 to go after anti-war activists in Chicago and Minneapolis, leading to a raid on their homes by the FBI.

Crisis of bosses twin parties

Underlying the hostile and factional relations between Democrats and Republicans today are sharp challenges facing the capitalist rulers. They’re grappling with how to defend their declining domination of the imperialist world order amid accelerating conflicts with rivals like Beijing, which has intensified after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. They also face union and other working-class struggles that have broken out following years of the capitalist rulers dumping the economic crisis of their system on our backs.

Neither party has been able to win decisive majorities in Congress and chart a self-confident course for the ruling capitalist families. Both are wracked with internal divisions while engrossed in partisan assaults against the other in preparation for the 2024 election. Neither party has a clearly agreed-on candidate.

Both parties fear working people — the tens of millions Biden castigated as “MAGA Republicans” and “semi-fascists” last year, the same people Hillary Clinton labeled “deplorables.” This was clear last fall when a bipartisan Congress came together to ban rail workers from striking over safety and livable work conditions and imposing a contract they had voted down.

Kohrs’ media tour was one more front in the Democrats’ relentless drive to make Trump’s “crimes” the decisive issue in 2024. But whoever’s rights are targeted by the rulers today, it’s the exploited and oppressed who will be in the crosshairs tomorrow.