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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Bill Rankin, Tamar Hallerman

Trump asks Georgia’s top court to quash grand jury report, disqualify Fulton DA

Weeks before he’s expected to be indicted in Fulton County, former President Donald Trump revived his push to disqualify District Attorney Fani Willis from investigating him for election interference.

In a petition filed before the Georgia Supreme Court, Trump’s attorneys also sought to quash the final report of a special purpose grand jury that recommended people be indicted. Additionally, they requested a ruling that would forbid Willis from using any evidence obtained by the investigative jury, which heard testimony from about 75 witnesses between May 2022 and Jan. 2023.

The motion filed on Thursday asks Georgia’s highest court to put a halt to any ongoing proceedings “related to and flowing from the special purpose grand jury’s investigation until this matter can be resolved.” This would include any consideration of a possible indictment for alleged criminal meddling in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election by one of two regular Fulton grand juries that were seated on Tuesday.

Trump’s attorneys — Drew Findling, Marissa Goldberg and Jennifer Little — acknowledged that the state Supreme Court had never once taken on such a request for extraordinary relief in the four decades it has had jurisdiction to do so. But the motion said if Trump’s case “is not sufficiently extraordinary for this court to exercise jurisdiction, no case could be.”

“Even in an extraordinarily novel case of national significance, one would expect matters to take their normal procedural course within a reasonable time,” the motion said. “But nothing about these processes have been normal or reasonable. And the all-but-unavoidable conclusion is that the anomalies below are because petitioner is President Donald J. Trump.”

In March, Trump’s attorneys filed a motion in Fulton Superior Court also asking officials to disqualify Willis and toss out the special grand jury’s findings. They noted this time that Judge Robert McBurney, the supervising judge of the special grand jury, has yet to rule on the motion and that Willis has notified local court officials and law enforcement she is likely to seek an indictment at some point between July 31st and Aug. 18th.

“Stranded between the supervising judge’s protracted passivity and the district attorney’s looming indictment, (Trump) has no meaningful option other than to seek this court’s intervention,” the motion said.

Willis’s office previously said Trump’s arguments for dismissal were barred by lack of standing, untimeliness and other procedural flaws. The Republican’s efforts were premature because no one has been charged with a crime yet, prosecutors said.

“If an investigation results in actual criminal charges against (Trump), the justice system ensures they will have no shortage of available remedies to pursue,” the DA’s May response argued.

Trump’s lawyers also filed a similar motion in Fulton Superior Court on Friday, saying they did so out of an abundance of caution.

A spokesman from the DA’s office declined to comment on the state Supreme Court filing. McBurney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Both motions contend that Willis and McBurney “at every turn” have trampled on the procedural safeguards and rights of Trump and others under investigation.

“The whole of the process is now incurably infected,” the motion said. “And nothing that follows could be legally sound or publicly respectable.”

It asserted that the Georgia statute allowing for the operation of special grand juries was unconstitutionally vague. It said that publication of excerpts of the final report would violate the former president’s rights to fundamental fairness and due process and lead to “irremediable injury” to his reputation as he runs for the GOP nomination for president for a third time.

“(Trump) now sits on a precipice,” his lawyers’ motion said. “A regular Fulton County grand jury could return an indictment any day that will have been based on a report and predicate investigative process that were wholly without authority.”

Trump’s attorneys also echoed arguments made previously by Willis’s opponents — but rejected by several judges — that the special grand jury’s proceedings were civil, not criminal, in nature. As a result, they said Willis was able to access evidence she should have been barred from because of that mischaracterization. They also contended that Willis should have been disqualified from the entire investigation, not just the portion involving Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, after she held a fundraiser for Jones’s Democratic opponent last summer.

Trump was joined in his initial motion by Cathy Latham, the former head of the Coffee County GOP who served as an “alternate” Trump elector. Latham, who also greeted data technicians who copied confidential elections data from voting machines in Coffee County in Jan. 2021, was not a party to Friday’s petition.


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