Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney has rejected former President Donald Trump’s bid to disqualify the lead prosecutor investigating allegations he interfered in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election, while also denying Mr. Trump’s attempt to block any indictments stemming from the probe.
Mr. McBurney issued his order (pdf) on July 31, dismissing Mr. Trump’s motion to preclude any state prosecuting agency from using evidence derived from the work of the Special Purpose Grand Jury (SPGJ) impaneled in the probe, rejecting a motion to quash the SPGJ final report, and denying a motion to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from the case.
In justifying his decision, the judge said that the evidence put forward by Mr. Trump’s legal team of potential conflict of interest in the case on the part of Ms. Willis does not justify her disqualification and that she is allowed to be “partisan in the case.”
“The prosecutor is not a neutral party and does not need to pretend to be: she has a cause she has sworn to pursue, and in that pursuit of justice, she ‘is necessarily a partisan in the case. If [s]he were compelled to proceed with the same circumspection as the judge and jury, there would be an end to the conviction of criminals,'” the judge wrote, citing the case of State v. Sutherland.
However, the judge said that Mr. Trump’s legal team has failed to show that Ms. Willis’ actions were biased, despite her communicating publicly about the case in tweets and press interviews, which he called “fairly routine—and legally unobjectionable.”
The judge also said that Mr. Trump’s bid to block the investigation was premature as no charges have yet been filed.
Mr. Trump’s legal team had argued in court filings that Ms. Willis should be disqualified from the case due to conflict of interest because she made investigating the former president part of her district attorney election campaign.
While Mr. Trump’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the court ruling, the former president has denied any wrongdoing and has called the investigation politically motivated.
Mr. Trump has maintained that he was robbed of an electoral win in 2020, in part due to voter fraud.
The former president’s attorneys filed a petition (pdf) in March, seeking to fend off the expected indictment from the criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump tried to illegally overturn the results of Georgia’s 2020 presidential vote.
Ms. Willis’ probe is focusing on a phone call Mr. Trump made to Republican Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in 2020, asking him to find enough votes to declare him the winner in that state.
“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” then-President Trump said to Mr. Raffensperger.
Mr. Trump, who has described the phone call with Mr. Raffensperger as “perfect,” has called Ms. Willis’ investigation a “strictly political witch hunt.”
Ms. Willis said in an earlier interview with The Washington Post that individuals involved in alleged efforts to overturn the election could face jail time.
“The allegations are very serious. If indicted and convicted, people are facing prison sentences,” Ms. Willis said.
The SPGJ report, which remains under seal pending charges in the case, reportedly includes charging recommendations, with Ms. Willis saying she intends to ask the grand jury to approve charges within weeks.
The case number in which Mr. McBurney issued a ruling on July 31 is 2022-EX-000024.
In mid-July, Mr. Trump’s legal team filed a separate motion (pdf) at the Fulton County Superior Court, requesting that Ms. Willis be disqualified from the case.
That request was based in part on extrajudicial social media posts that “expose that she is fundraising for her reelection campaign on the back of this case” against the former president, Mr. Trump’s attorneys argued.
The second request to quash the SPGJ report and disqualify Ms. Willis came in a separate case, Donald J. Trump v. Fani Willis, Robert McBurney.
In that case, a judge ordered a hearing for Aug. 10.
Other Trump Cases
The former president, who is the front runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is involved in a number of legal disputes.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is investigating Mr. Trump’s role in actions surrounding his challenges to the 2020 presidential election that culminated in a breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Mr. Trump said his attorneys met with U.S. Justice Department officials on July 27, in a sign charges could come soon.
Special counsel Jack Smith has accused Mr. Trump of unlawfully keeping classified national security documents when he left office in 2021 and of lying to officials who tried to recover them.
Mr. Trump on June 13 pleaded not guilty to those charges, which include alleged violations of the Espionage Act, which criminalizes unauthorized possession of defense information.
A New York grand jury has indicted Mr. Trump for allegedly falsifying business records in connection with a payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election.
Also in New York, Mr. Trump faces a civil lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, alleging fraud.
Mr. Trump recently took to his social media platform to denounce the various investigations focusing on him.
“I’m illegally being targeted by them,” Mr. Trump said in a post on Truth Social. “If I wasn’t leading by so much or if I wasn’t running, if I was just sort of taking it easy, none of this would happen.”
An average of the latest polls shows Mr. Trump far ahead of his nearest rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. As of July 31, Mr. Trump was leading Mr. DeSantis, 52.6 percent to 15.6 percent.
In a series of video messages posted on his social media platform, Mr. Trump labeled the various investigations targeting him as an effort to undermine his candidacy.
“These are crooked, corrupt people. It’s called election interference and we can’t let this take down our country because our country is going to hell and we have to turn it around,” Mr. Trump said.
Source: The Epoch Times