Georgia court acknowledges early release of Trump document on website

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Fulton County Georgia court clerk on Tuesday acknowledged the early release on its website of a document about former President Donald Trump being criminally charged, as Reuters reported on Monday after seeing the document on the court’s public website.

A statement from the court clerk said the system was being tested before the grand jury voted later in the day on whether to indict Trump on charges of trying to overturn his election defeat.

Later on Tuesday, Ché Alexander, the Fulton County Clerk of Courts, acknowledged to Atlanta’s WSB-TV that she made a mistake as she was under pressure to make sure the release went smoothly, and that she hit send instead of pressing save. She added the document released earlier on Monday was not official and was simply a “work sample” and a “dry run.”

“I did a work sample in the system. And when I hit save, it went to the press queue,” she said in the interview.

She also said her office has received calls and emails with threats. It was not clear if she meant the threats were because of the mistaken release or the indictment of the former president.

On Monday, the court released a statement saying a media outlet had obtained a “fictitious” document.

But the statement from the court clerk on Tuesday did not use that word, saying: “While it may have appeared that something official had occurred because the document bore a case number and filing date, it did not include a signed ‘true’ or ‘no’ bill nor an official stamp with Clerk Alexander’s name, thereby making the document unofficial and a test sample only.”

In the interview with WSB-TV, Alexander clarified that she and her team decided to use “fictitious” to describe the mistakenly released document as a way to show that it was not the actual court document.

In its statement, the court said a media outlet utilizing “the Fulton County Press” queue obtained a docket sheet on Monday. The document obtained by Reuters was publicly available on the website the court uses to disseminate public records.

A Reuters spokesperson said: “Reuters accessed a document on the website the court uses to publicly post information relating to court proceedings. The document had a case number; said the case was open; referred directly to former President Donald Trump; and cited criminal charges that pertained to the grand jury investigation. At no point did Reuters have access to any information that was not available publicly.”

The 13 felony charges that the grand jury brought late on Monday against Trump matched those listed on the document that was posted on the court website earlier in the day and reported by Reuters before it disappeared.

The Georgia grand jury used a law developed to take down organized crime gangs to charge Republican Trump for trying to overturn his 2020 election defeat to Democrat Joe Biden.

The charges, brought on Monday by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, name Trump, the front-runner in the race for the 2024 Republican nomination, and 18 associates.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh and Jasper Ward; Editing by Scott Malone, Mary Milliken, Grant McCool and Christian Schmollinger)