Trump Tries to Derail Georgia Grand Jury Investigation
Clearly feeling the heat from yet another potential pending criminal indictment—this time in Georgia—former President Donald Trump on Monday asked a judge to totally upend an Atlanta investigation that seeks to hold him accountable for trying to overturn state election results there in 2020.
Trump’s last-minute scramble hinges on the idea that he can’t get a fair trial now that so many Americans—potential jurors—have heard from Emily Kohrs, the overly excited grand jury foreperson who spoke to news outlets and dropped hints about oncoming indictments.
Kohrs’ comments “illuminate the lack of proper instruction and supervision over the grand jury relating to clear evidentiary matters which violates the notions of fundamental fairness and due process,” wrote Trump’s three lawyers, Drew Findling, Marissa Goldberg, and Jennifer Little.
Trump’s attempt follows the partial release in February of a special grand jury report, in which a panel of Georgians recommended that a local district attorney seek criminal charges against several people involved in the GOP effort to upend democratic principles.
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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis put together the special purpose grand jury as an initial step before presenting an actual criminal case before a grand jury that can indict Trump or anyone else involved in that scheme.
But in a Monday court filing, Trump’s legal defense team asked a judge to intervene by simply rejecting the report outright, preventing any other law enforcement effort from also using the evidence these special grand jurors gathered. That would include testimony from politicians and political operatives about how Trump sought to overturn the state election results and intimidate the state’s top elections official into going along with the plan.
In Monday’s legal memo, Trump’s team also asked that Willis “be disqualified from any further involvement in this matter.” For months, the former president has been accusing Willis, who is Black, of being a “racist” who is simply trying to take him down for political reasons.
Trump’s lawyers in Atlanta take issue with the way the DA has approached this investigation. While prosecutors normally put together a grand jury that meets in secret for a couple of months to decide whether to indict someone for an alleged crime, Willis decided to slow things down. She opted to employ a rarely used “special purpose” grand jury that could meet for a longer time, sift through more evidence, and essentially prepare a case for a regular grand jury. This preliminary panel of sorts doesn’t have the power to indict, but it can recommend indictments, as it did here.
Fulton County Grand Jury Finishes Final Report in Trump Probe
In their Monday memo, Trump’s lawyers seized on the fact that this legal process is so weird that the fruits of this labor should be tossed out entirely. They focused on the way the special purpose grand jury appears to be a civil exercise that was suddenly turned into a criminal matter by the judge supervising the panel, Judge Robert C.I. McBurney.
For example, they questioned the way the judge was able to force witnesses like Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to testify by declaring this panel a criminal grand jury—even though it did not have the power to indict, the way criminal grand juries do.
“The statutes governing the special purpose grand jury… are so standardless that they have invited arbitrary, amorphous enforcement by the [DA] and the supervising judge,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “This double bind cannot stand, as the distinction between criminal and civil has pertinent implications on the permissible testimony and evidence.”
Trump’s lawyers are also seeking to move that judge from the case, continuing the time-honored tradition of delaying investigations by personally attacking prosecutors, trying to swap judges, and lining up cases in front of friendly appointees.
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