Georgia judge rejects Trump bid to quash grand jury report and disqualify district attorney


Washington — A Georgia judge has rejected former President Donald Trump’s request to quash a report by a special grand jury in Fulton County about his conduct after the 2020 election and to disqualify District Attorney Fani Willis from further involvement in the case. The ruling comes as Willis signals a decision on whether the former president will face charges could come soon.

In a nine-page ruling on Monday, Judge Robert McBurney of the Fulton County Superior Court said that Trump’s request to block the report was premature, since he has not been charged. Trump’s motion was joined by Cathleen Latham, one of the “alternate” electors in Georgia who claimed Trump won the state in 2020.

“Having reviewed the pleadings, the court now finds that neither Trump nor Latham enjoys standing to mount a challenge — at this pre-indictment phase of the proceedings — to the continued investigation into and potential prosecution of possible criminal interference in the 2020 general election in Georgia,” McBurney’s order said. “[W]hile being the subject (or even target) of a highly publicized criminal investigation is likely an unwelcome and unpleasant experience, no court ever has held that that status alone provides a basis for the courts to interfere with or halt the investigation.”

McBurney also said Willis has done nothing to warrant her recusal from the case.

“[T]he District Attorney’s Office has been doing a fairly routine — and legally unobjectionable — job of public relations in case that is anything but routine. None of what movants cite rises to the level of justifying disqualification,” he wrote, contrasting her public statements with “the stream of personal invective flowing from one of the movants.”

The special grand jury was convened in May 2022 to investigate alleged efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election in the state, which Joe Biden won. It issued a report earlier this year, with a unanimous finding that “no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning that election.” Portions of the report remain sealed.

Trump’s attorneys asked the court to quash the special grand jury’s findings in March, calling the report “confusing, flawed, and at times, blatantly unconstitutional.”

A new grand jury was convened in July to consider potential charges in the case. Willis, the district attorney, said over the weekend that a decision on charges would come soon.

“The work is accomplished,” Willis told Atlanta’s 11Alive news station. “We’ve been working for 2.5 years. We’re ready to go.”

Willis’ investigation began shortly after a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call between Trump and Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensberger. According to a recording of the call, Trump told Raffensperger, “I just want to find 11,780 votes” — the exact number of votes he would have needed to surpass Mr. Biden. It soon expanded into a sprawling probe of efforts to sway the election for Trump in the months after Mr. Biden’s win.

The former president has denied any wrongdoing, describing that January 2021 phone call as “perfect.” And in a February 2023 interview with CBS News, Trump’s attorneys defended the former president’s actions.

“We absolutely do not believe that our client did anything wrong, and if any indictments were to come down, those are faulty indictments. We will absolutely fight anything tooth and nail,” attorney Jennifer Little said at the time.

As with the other criminal investigations into him, the former president claims the Georgia probe is politically motivated. He already faces charges in a “hush money” case in New York state, as well as charges in special counsel Jack Smith’s case about Trump’s handling of classified documents. He has also acknowledged that he is a target of Smith’s parallel investigation into the aftermath of the November 2020 presidential election and alleged attempts to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power. 

Graham Kates contributed reporting.

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