Feb 17, 2023 - Podcasts

Georgia grand jury recommends perjury charges in Trump election probe

Part of a grand jury report on former President Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election was released yesterday in Georgia. And portions say the grand jury believes one or more witnesses committed perjury during their probe.

  • Plus, gender-affirming care is under attack nationwide — understanding what it means and where it’s being banned.

Guests: Axios' Emma Hurt and Oriana Gonzalez.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Naomi Shavin, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Friday, February 17th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Today: gender-affirming care is under attack nationwide — understanding what it means and where it’s being banned. But first, an Atlanta grand jury recommends perjury charges in the Trump 2020 election probe. That’s our one big thing.

Atlanta grand jury recommends perjury charges in the Trump 2020 election probe

NIALA: Part of a grand jury report on former President Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election was released yesterday in Georgia. The Atlanta investigation could result in criminal charges against the former President and his allies. And portions that just came out say the grand jury believes one or more witnesses committed perjury during their probe.

Here to go deeper for our Friday politics State of Play is Axios’ Emma Hurt – who is in Atlanta and has been covering this story. Hello Emma!

EMMA HURT: Hey, Niala.

NIALA: Emma, what do we know so far from this grand jury report?

EMMA: So to be clear and to set expectations, we got no names of witnesses. We learned that the grand jury did take a vote and unanimously after hearing seven months of testimony confirmed what we've heard many times that there was no widespread voter fraud in Georgia. And then this question of perjury also came up and the judge very specifically said, I'm gonna release this one section now. I'm gonna keep most of everything else secret. But it's notable because we can kind of tease out a little bit more about where the DA could go in her case now that perjury is in the mix.

NIALA: So that DA is Fulton County's Fani Willis. She's been leading the investigation. She pushed for the report to remain a secret. Why did the judge decide to release parts of it and why did she not want that?

EMMA: So she did push to keep it a secret. She said for now. This is a very weird thing that happened. It's a special grand jury investigative report focused on this one thing for seven months, and they heard testimony, but they only heard one side. This is not a two-sided report. This is only the DA asking witnesses questions. There's no cross-examination, and so there was fear that that might color any ability in the future for the DA to actually charge anyone. But on the other side of that, we do know that the grand jury itself asked that the report be made public.

NIALA: So let's go back to that perjury charge. Seven months of investigation, 75 witnesses, the majority of them under oath. What are the implications of a perjury charge by a grand jury?

EMMA: So I think to understand this, we have to understand the racketeering code of Georgia law. So a RICO, racketeering, this is a part of the code section that's designed to try to tackle organized crime, the mob, et cetera. And it's a really strong tool for prosecutors to use to try to prosecute a range of crimes towards one goal. And perjury is one of the quote racketeering activities that qualifies under Georgia code.

And this is all relevant because we know that Fani Willis is an expert in RICO in Georgia. She prosecuted an Atlanta public school's cheating scandal using this code section years ago, and she's actually also prosecuting a massive gang trial here on this code section. Now to be clear, we don't know this is exactly what she's doing, but many legal experts watching from the outside are suspecting that this is what she's doing, and so having perjury in the mix could help strengthen her case against any of these targets.

NIALA: Former President Trump was not a witness, so he could not be facing perjury charges. Is that case building up to criminal charges and could those be racketeering charges against the former president?

EMMA: Could be, anything could be right now, right? This has all been secret and we don't know. I heard someone say yesterday, it's like putting together a puzzle without having the box on the puzzle to guide you of what to do.

NIALA: Emma, put this in context of all of the other investigations that are ongoing, cause there's quite a few at this point against the former president.

EMMA: The overlap here would lie only with the January 6th investigation that we know the Department of Justice has underway. But what sets this one apart is that Fani Willis is the elected DA of Fulton County in Atlanta, and she's only answerable to Fulton County voters. Some have said that that leaves her a little freer than the Department of Justice might be from political pressure or worries about political ramifications. Willis doesn't necessarily have to worry about all of that from her perch here in Atlanta.

NIALA: Emma Hurt is an Axios Politics reporter based in Atlanta. Thanks, Emma.

EMMA: Thanks for having me, Niala.

NIALA: Coming up, understanding gender-affirming care in the U.S.


Gender-affirming care is under attack nationwide

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.

As more states enact restrictions on gender affirming care, the terms in the public discourse more than ever, and also has many confused. So we wanted to talk through exactly what it means and its role in U.S. policy right now.

Utah became the first state this year to enact a ban on gender affirming healthcare for transgender minors. And this week, South Dakota passed a similar law. Arizona has a ban set to take effect next month, and at least five other states could enact similar bans soon. In all more than 90 bills related to trans healthcare have been introduced across the country.

As these laws go into effect, they've been met with legal challenges in condemnation, including from the White House, and some states are considering trans refugee laws, to enshrine access to this care. Healthcare reporter, Oriana Gonzalez joins us now.

Oriana, what exactly is gender affirming care and what does it encompass?

ORIANA GONZALEZ: So several medical associations define gender affirming care as basically a range of social, uh, psychological, behavioral and medical interventions that are designed to support and affirm a person's gender identity when it conflicts with the gender that they were assigned at birth. And some of these interventions particularly the medical ones, include hormone therapy, puberty, blockers, uh, counseling, and potentially even, gender affirming surgery.

Major medical associations as well as for example, the World Health Organization actually say that gender affirming care is deemed medically necessary and potentially life-saving for transgender youth and for transgender people in general.

NIALA: You said that some medical associations consider this care lifesaving. Can you explain more about why they use that term?

ORIANA: Major medical associations like the American Medical Association, the American academy of Pediatrics, uh, the World Health Organization, they considered us to be lifesaving because transgender people, non-binary folk, and gender diverse people have high rates of suicidality, for example, and having access to gender affirming care, uh, helps treat these mental health concerns.

NIALA: So now that we understand some of this, is this science reflected in many of the bills that include bans that we're seeing across several states?

ORIANA: No. Most of these, uh, bills look to ban gender affirming care for minors. And they're specifically looking at, for example, hormone uh, therapy, puberty blockers, and in particular, uh, surgeries. And the thing is that when we're talking about gender affirming surgeries, they're not offered to minors. So it's kind of unnecessary to have a ban to surgeries when normally minors aren't offered this type of care. Usually they start with hormone therapy or puberty blockers, because the changes that can happen in puberty, can have negative effects, on transgender folk. So when we're talking about transgender people, the earlier that they can get treatment, the better it can be to transition or for them to just move forward.

NIALA: You reported that lawmakers in at least 21 states are working on so-called trans refugee laws, which would allow transgender people to seek care in another state and avoid criminal prosecution. What are you watching for there?

ORIANA: What we're seeing in California, Connecticut, Illinois, and Massachusetts, is that they already enacted laws that are, as you mentioned, trans refugee laws. They are actually combination laws, they're supposed to protect trans people in the state as well as people that are accessing abortion, uh, in the state.

Um, but in general, what we're seeing right now is probably very similar to what we're seeing in the abortion landscape, that it's red states are banning this type of care, and as a result, blue states are responding and are trying to protect people, not only in those states that want to access this type of care, but potentially people traveling to blue States to access this type of care.

NIALA: Oriana Gonzalez is a healthcare reporter for Axios, and she's covered this quite a bit. We'll include a link to some of her stories in our show notes. Thanks, Oriana.

ORIANA: Thanks.

NIALA: That’s all for this week. Axios Today is produced by Fonda Mwangi, Naomi Shavin and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Our senior sound engineer is Alex Sugiura. Alexandra Botti is our supervising producer.

Aja Whitaker-Moore is Axios’ Executive Editor and Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’ editor in chief.

I’m Niala Boodhoo. Stay safe, enjoy your weekend - and because of President’s Day - we’re back with the news for you on Tuesday.

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