Georgia Prosecutor Fights Trump Effort to Remove Her from Election Probe

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An Atlanta-area prosecutor investigating whether Donald Trump and his allies broke the law when they sought to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia asked a judge Monday to dismiss a motion by Trump’s attorneys seeking to throw out evidence gathered by a special-purpose grand jury, claiming the former president is trying to block an investigation before “any charges are filed.”

The prosecution filing was in response to a March 20 motion by Trump’s Georgia-based legal team that sought to block the release of a final report issued in January by the special grand jury and “preclude the use of any evidence derived” from its investigation, claiming it was “conducted under an unconstitutional statute” and “through an illegal and unconstitutional process” that violated Trump’s due-process rights.

In a response filed late Monday afternoon, Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) said the motion — which was joined last month by Cathy Latham, a Georgia Republican and alternate Trump elector who has been named as a target in the investigation — was “procedurally flawed and advance arguments that lack merit.”

Willis wrote in the filing that Trump and Latham “are not content to follow the ordinary course of the law. They seek to ‘restrain’ a criminal investigation before any charges are filed or even sought; they ask that the judicial system place them above and apart from the common administration of the criminal law; and they do so by raising arguments for which they have no standing, or which they failed to timely join, or which they have already failed, or which have no basis in law at all.”

The special-purpose grand jury impaneled to investigate the case heard from 75 witnesses over several months last year before issuing a final report in January that recommended charges but remains mostly sealed pending a charging decision by Willis. Because the special grand jury did not have the power to issue indictments — only recommendations — Willis would have to present her case to a regular grand jury that can issue criminal indictments if she chooses to do that.

Trump’s attorneys — Drew Findling, Jennifer Little and Marissa Goldberg — have also sought to recuse Willis’s office and to prevent prosecutors from pursuing “any further proceedings in this matter,” including indictments, claiming Willis violated “prosecutorial standards” and Trump’s constitutional rights in part by publicly commenting on the case.

“The whole world has watched the process of the [special-purpose grand jury] unfold and what they have witnessed was a process that was confusing, flawed and, at times, blatantly unconstitutional,” the 483-page filing from Trump’s attorneys read. “Given the scrutiny and the gravity of the investigation and those individuals involved — namely, the movant President Donald J. Trump — this process should have been handled correctly, fairly, and with deference to the law and the highest ethical standards.”

In her response, Willis pushed back on those claims — questioning why Trump had waited until now to lodge complaints about the process and her office’s handling of the case.

“Far from raising this issue promptly, Mr. Trump has waited years, until after the conclusion of an entire [special-purpose grand jury] investigation, when the [Fulton County District Attorney’s Office’s] own investigation has moved into its latter stages,” Willis wrote.

Willis defended her public comments about the investigation, claiming her remarks were “conditional, vague, comments regarding ‘allegations,’ or general statements about the investigation and the reason for its pursuit.” Trump and Latham “have not (and cannot) show the sort of pervasive misconduct required for disqualification,” Willis wrote.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who oversaw the special grand jury, had ordered Willis to respond the Trump and Latham motions by Monday. Trump’s legal team has asked for a hearing on its requests to block the grand jury evidence and remove the district attorney’s office from the investigation — though it was not clear Monday evening if McBurney would grant a hearing or when he might rule.

In a statement, Trump’s legal team said that Willis “failed to address several of the critical substantive issues” raised in its motion and that it planned to ask McBurney for permission to file a response.

Trump’s lawyers have also asked that McBurney be removed from the case, arguing he violated the rights of witnesses and those involved in the investigation by giving improper legal guidance — including to the grand jurors. They have asked the Fulton County chief judge to call a hearing on that matter, but McBurney continues to oversee the case.

The back and forth comes after Willis revealed in letters to state and local law enforcement that she plans to announce whether she will file charges in the case between July 11 and Sept. 1 and cited a “need for heightened security and preparedness in coming months due to this pending announcement.”

The letters were the strongest hint yet that Willis may file criminal charges in the high-profile case, which not only has cast scrutiny on the actions of Trump and his closest allies but also has ensnared a host of prominent Republicans, including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).

Source: The Washington Post