Breakdown

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

True crime investigations from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Veteran legal affairs journalist Bill Rankin takes you inside the courtroom to break down the story and the criminal justice system. This award-winning series investigates Georgia’s most important cases with fact-based reporting. Season 9 focuses on the historic special grand jury investigation of former President Donald Trump in Fulton County, Georgia, led by District Attorney Fani Willis. Learn more about our reporting at ajc.com/breakdown. read less

Our Editor's Take

The Breakdown podcast enters the courtroom to give listeners a detailed analysis of how justice happens in the United States. Longtime journalist Bill Rankin hosts. Rankin has investigated criminal legal proceedings for more than three decades. He is the legal affairs reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The newspaper brings this investigative true crime podcast to listeners. It promises authoritative examinations of Georgia's most intriguing and important cases.

Along with the facts, the Breakdown host explores each case's legal precedents and history. The podcast also exposes the inequities in the state's and nation's legal systems. Rankin makes it his responsibility to help uphold a fair justice system. Listeners will hear from a fair-minded and passionate source.

Each season discusses a legal story in Georgia. Past seasons include the trial of Ahmaud Arbery's killers. Another season talked about the Tex McIver murder trial. One season examined the grand jury investigation of former President Donald Trump.

Rankin presents listeners with more than the facts of the legal system. He emphasizes how vital it is to understand the culture that decides what is criminal. Episodes explore the mental health problems that the nation criminalizes. It also shows public opinion shapes who America calls guilty or innocent. How often is the person convicted guilty? How many innocents are behind bars? The Breakdown podcast is here to investigate these questions and many more. Listeners can rely on this trusted source to reveal what happens in the American court.

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S9 Ep. 26: The Forewoman Emerges
Mar 1 2023
S9 Ep. 26: The Forewoman Emerges
In a lengthy interview, Emily Kohrs, forewoman of the Fulton County special purpose grand jury, says the panel has recommended indictments. “It’s not a short list,” Kohrs, 30, said. Kohrs first emerged in an article published by The Associated Press the morning of Feb. 21. Hours later, she sat down for an interview at the offices of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She would later sit for TV interviews. In Episode 26 – “The Forewoman Emerges” – of Breakdown’s ninth season – “The Trump Grand Jury” – we hear Kohrs discuss the special grand jury investigation of possible criminal meddling with the 2020 presidential election. Kohrs talks about certain witnesses who appeared before the panel and reveals information never made public before. Drew Findling and Jennifer Little, Atlanta lawyers representing former President Donald Trump, also sit for an interview and criticize Kohrs for the comments she made and District Attorney Fani Willis for the way she has conducted the investigation. “This type of carnival clown-like atmosphere that was portrayed over the course of the last 36 hours takes away from the complete sanctity and the integrity and, for that matter, the reliability,” Findling said of the special grand jury. You can download the Breakdown podcast from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or your favorite podcasting platform. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
S9 Ep. 22: Its Work Is Done
Jan 17 2023
S9 Ep. 22: Its Work Is Done
The Fulton County special purpose grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump and his allies has finished its work. In an order signed Jan. 9, Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney said the special grand jury had finished writing its final report – which, if it recommends bringing charges against the former president, could be one of the most consequential legal documents in recent U.S. history. The most recent episode of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Breakdown podcast explores the ramifications of the dissolution of the special grand jury. It also ponders the question as to when the final report could be released and, if so, whether some information will have to be redacted before it is made public. The special grand jury, which cannot issue indictments, has been investigating whether possible crimes were committed here in Georgia after the 2020 presidential election. Episode 22 – “Its Work Is Done” – of Breakdown’s ninth season – “The Trump Grand Jury” – includes interviews with three former district attorneys who oversaw special purpose grand juries and who explain the statutes and case law governing them. And one thing becomes clear: because special grand juries are so rarely used, the process of what happens once one finishes its work is not at all that straightforward. You can download the Breakdown podcast from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or your favorite podcasting platform.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
S9 Ep. 21 Presentments
Dec 23 2022
S9 Ep. 21 Presentments
As the Fulton County special purpose grand jury investigation winds down, it’s highly likely it is putting together its report and recommendations, formally called a presentment. The most recent episode of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Breakdown podcast explores prior presentments issued by special grand juries and explains how the process plays out. Fulton’s special grand jury is investigating former President Donald Trump and his allies for possible criminal interference with the 2020 presidential election. It is not required to write up a presentment, but if it does, will it recommend criminal charges be brought? And will the presentment be made public right away? Or will it be delayed, as it was a decade ago over the objections by special grand jurors in neighboring DeKalb County. Episode 21 of Breakdown’s ninth season – ‘The Trump Grand Jury’ – also reports on the outcome of the legal battle waged by former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who sought to avoid being summoned to Atlanta and testify before the special grand jury. Bill and Tamar want to hear from you. Call anytime with your questions about the special purpose grand jury at (770)810-5297. We'll play back your question and answer it on a future episode of Breakdown. You can download the Breakdown podcast from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or your favorite podcasting platform. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
S9 Ep. 18: Eastman's prophecy
Nov 15 2022
S9 Ep. 18: Eastman's prophecy
In an email sent Dec. 31, 2020, attorney John Eastman shared a thought with fellow members of then-President Donald Trump’s legal team. “I have no doubt that an aggressive DA or U.S. Attorney some place will go after both the president and his lawyers once the dust settles on this,” Eastman wrote. Eastman, a former law school dean, was one of the architects behind the fake elector scheme and he authored legal memos detailing a plan in which Vice President Mike Pence could refuse to count some of President Joe Biden’s votes. As for his email, Eastman turned out to be right. He, the former president and other members of the legal team now find themselves under investigation by a Fulton County special purpose grand jury. Episode 18 of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Breakdown podcast explores the possible ramifications of emails exchanged between Eastman and other Trump lawyers. The emails were turned over to the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and obtained by the news organization Politico. The ninth season of Breakdown – “The Trump Grand Jury” – is closely following the special purpose grand jury probe of possible interference in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Episode 18 also covers the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision involving South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s attempt to avoid testifying before the special grand jury. And it explains what happened in a Virginia courtroom where former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also sought to avoid traveling to Atlanta to testify. You can download the Breakdown podcast from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or your favorite podcasting platform. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
S9 Ep.17: What Trump knew
Nov 1 2022
S9 Ep.17: What Trump knew
Could testimony from the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack help Fulton prosecutors prove criminal intent? The 17th episode of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's podcast "Breakdown — The Trump Grand Jury" looks at the testimony from the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Could any of the revelations help Fulton County prosecutors prove criminal intent in regards to former Donald Trump's interference with the 2020 elections in Georgia? The House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol produced hours of spellbinding television and its share of shocking revelations. Legal experts say it has also presented testimony that could help Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, should she decide to press charges against former President Donald Trump and his allies for interfering with the 2020 elections. Episode 17 - "What Trump Knew", Breakdown explores some of the testimony from the Select Committee hearings and explains why it could help prosecutors prove criminal intent. Key witnesses have been former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr; former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson; former acting U.S. deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue; Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Alyssa Fara, former White House director of strategic communications. This season, "The Trump Grand Jury," is closely following the special purpose grand jury in Fulton County that is investigating what happened in Georgia in the weeks following the 2020 presidential election. Breakdown's latest episode also takes listeners into a South Carolina courtroom where Mark Meadows, Trump's former chief of staff, tried to ward off an out-of-state material witness subpoena seeking his testimony before the special grand jury in Atlanta. You can download the Breakdown podcast from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or your favorite podcasting platform.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
S9 Ep 16: The Phony Slate
Oct 25 2022
S9 Ep 16: The Phony Slate
When 16 Georgia Republicans met at the state Capitol on Dec. 14, 2020, they cast Electoral College votes for Donald Trump, who had not won the state’s presidential election. The 16th episode of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Breakdown podcast – “The Trump Grand Jury” — revisits what happened that day and the consequences going forward. The false electors cast their votes the same day 16 Democrats, the official Electoral College electors, publicly cast votes for the man who’d been certified as the victor: President Joe Biden. Fulton County prosecutors heading the special purpose grand jury investigation of former president Trump and his allies have notified the 16 fake electors that they are targets of the probe. This means they could be criminally charged for what they did. In the episode “The Fake Electors,” Breakdown hears from three reporters — the AJC’s Greg Bluestein, Channel 2 Action News’ Richard Elliot and independent journalist George Chidi — who stumbled across the GOP meeting where the GOP “electors” cast votes that were later sent to Congress and the National Archives. The podcast also interviews legal experts who are closely following the case and who give their takes on what occurred. Among those members of the phony slate of Republican electors trying to overturn Biden’s victory was state Sen. Burt Jones, the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor. This summer, Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney handed Jones a victory by disqualifying the Fulton DA’s office from further investigating him because District Attorney Fani Willis hosted a fundraiser for Jones’ opponent, Democrat Charlie Bailey. But Jones is not in the clear yet. The Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia now has jurisdiction and could appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Jones. This means Jones, who is leading in the polls in the race for lieutenant governor, could face a possible indictment. You can download the Breakdown podcast from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or your favorite podcasting platform. You can also stream it above. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
S9 Ep 15: It's Newt's turn
Oct 18 2022
S9 Ep 15: It's Newt's turn
The latest episode of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Breakdown podcast focuses on new out-of-state material witness subpoenas issued by the Fulton County special purpose grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump and his allies. The most notable to receive them are former national security advisor Michael Flynn and former Georgia congressman and House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Also on the list are one of Trump’s former senior advisors, a cyber investigations consultant and a police chaplain from Illinois. The special purpose grand jury, which convened in May, is investigating alleged interference with the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Gingrich has been an election denier since shortly after the 2020 election as evidenced by an interview he gave to Fox News. Democrats stole “five or six states,” Gingrich said. “In Fulton County, Georgia, we believe these people are thieves. We believe the machines are corrupt.” Gingrich’s subpoena says he was involved with the Trump campaign in a plan to air TV ads that “repeated and relied upon false claims about fraud in the 2020 election” and which encouraged viewers “to contact their state officials and pressure them to challenge and overturn the results of the election.” In November 2020, Trump pardoned Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to giving false statements to the FBI during an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Just weeks later, Flynn appeared on Newsmax and said Trump won the 2020 election. Flynn also said Trump “could take military capabilities and he could place them in states and basically rerun an election in each of those states.” You can download the Breakdown podcast from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or your favorite podcasting platform. You can also stream it on your computer above. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
S9 Ep 12: Breakdown Bonus: What happened in Coffee County, Georgia
Sep 27 2022
S9 Ep 12: Breakdown Bonus: What happened in Coffee County, Georgia
The latest episode of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s “Breakdown” podcast takes a close look at the data breach at the Coffee County elections office which occurred one day after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Podcast hosts Bill Rankin and Tamar Hallerman interview Mark Niesse, the AJC’s elections and voting rights expert. Niesse has covered the wild developments surrounding the Coffee County data breach on Jan. 7, 2021, since news of it first surfaced. He explains how it happened, why news of it first came to light this past May and why state elections officials should be alarmed. The Fulton County special purpose grand jury, which is investigating former President Donald Trump and his allies, has issued subpoenas to Sidney Powell and the data firm SullivanStrickler. Powell, who was once a lawyer for the Trump campaign, oversaw the breach and hired the data firm. Niesse, who was at the Cobb County audit of absentee ballots, also recalls the unusual and sudden visit by former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Meadows was told he could not go inside to see what was going on. And Niesse also discusses the state legislative hearings he covered in December 2020 when Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani testified and presented now-debunked evidence of voter fraud. Separately, the 12th episode of “The Trump Grand Jury” also explains why the Fulton special grand jury may be interested in hearing from former Georgia congressman and House Speaker Newt Gingrich. You can download the Breakdown podcast from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or your favorite podcasting platform. You can also stream it on your computer above. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
S9 Ep 10: Closing In
Sep 7 2022
S9 Ep 10: Closing In
The Fulton County special purpose grand jury investigation is closing in on former President Donald Trump. Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff and close advisor, has been served an out-of-state witness subpoena to appear before the grand jury. The 10th episode of “The Trump Grand Jury,” the ninth season of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Breakdown podcast, explores the ramifications of Meadows’ subpoena. The special purpose grand jury has been meeting since May to investigate Trump and his allies over what happened in Georgia in the months following the 2020 presidential election. Others, including lawyer Sidney Powell, who briefly represented the Trump campaign, have also been served out-of-state subpoenas. All the while, District Attorney Fani Willis continues her string of courtroom victories against witnesses who have tried to assert privileges and immunities as a way of not appearing before the 23-person special purpose grand jury. Episode 10 covers a court hearing pitting lawyers for Gov. Brian Kemp against Fulton prosecutors as well as Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney’s cleverly written ruling that is issued just a few days later. The episode also covers developments in the subpoenas issued to Trump’s inner circle of attorneys and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. You can download the Breakdown podcast from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or your favorite podcasting platform. You can also stream it on your computer from ajc.com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices