Trump lawyers in Georgia seek to overturn special grand jury report
ATLANTA — As former President Donald J. Trump awaits a possible indictment in New York, his attorneys on Monday pushed back against another criminal investigation swirling around him in Georgia, filing a motion to quash a special grand jury’s final report. which examined whether Mr. Trump and some of his allies interfered in the state’s 2020 election results.
The motion, filed in Atlanta, also seeks to suppress any evidence or testimony arising from the special grand jury’s investigation and asks that the office of Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County prosecutor, be disqualified from the case.
Noting that “the whole world watched” the Georgia investigation unfold, the motion describes the grand jury proceedings as “confusing, flawed and, at times, patently unconstitutional.”
Over the weekend, Mr Trump said in a social media post that he would be arrested on Tuesday as part of an investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney into a silent payment he made to a porn star, and called on his supporters to protest. A Justice Department special counsel is also investigating Mr. Trump’s handling of classified documents he kept at his home in Florida, as well as his efforts to overturn the national election results and his conduct related to the riot. January 6 in the United States. Capitol.
In Georgia, Mr. Trump is considered to have two main legal risks: calls he made in the weeks after the 2020 election to pressure state officials to overturn the results there below, and his direct involvement in efforts to assemble an alternative list of voters, even after three vote counts, affirmed President Biden’s victory in the state. Experts said Ms. Willis appears to be building a case that could target several defendants charged with conspiracy to commit voter fraud or racketeering-related charges.
The motion was filed on Monday by Drew Findling, Jennifer Little and Marissa Goldberg, attorneys for Mr. Trump in the Georgia case.
Among other things, the motion says that Ms. Willis had made numerous public statements that showed bias; that the judge presiding in the case, Robert CI McBurney of the Superior Court of Fulton County, made prejudicial statements; and that Georgia’s laws governing special grand juries are so vague that they are unconstitutional.
“The results of the investigation are unreliable and should therefore be expunged in view of the constitutional violations,” the motion reads.
A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office declined to comment on Monday. But several jurists who have followed the case closely have expressed doubts about the success of the motion. Clark D. Cunningham, a law and ethics professor at Georgia State University, said the filing seemed premature.
Understanding Georgia’s Election Interference Investigation
Mr. Trump must wait to present the arguments asserted in his court filing until “when (and if) he is actually charged,” Mr. Cunningham wrote in an email, noting that even then he could be difficult to derail the process.
He noted that the state High Court called the dismissal of an indictment an “extreme punishment, used sparingly to remedy unlawful government conduct.”
Norman Eisen, a lawyer who served as special adviser to the House Judiciary Committee during Mr Trump’s first impeachment, said the former president “has a half-century of taking a spaghetti against the wall approach to plead”. He throws everything out there to see what sticks. In this case, I don’t think it will stick.
The 23-member Fulton County Special Grand Jury was sworn in last May and met behind closed doors for months, hearing testimony from 75 witnesses. They had no power to issue indictments; instead, they produced a report with recommendations to Ms. Willis’ office on whether to charge and against whom. Parts of the report were released in February, but key sections remain sealed, including those detailing who the jury said should be charged and for what crimes.
In interviews late last month with a number of media outlets, jury chairperson Emily Kohrs did not release specific details about the jury’s recommendations, although she did discuss aspects of her work. and told the New York Times that the jury had recommended indictments for more than a dozen people. When asked if Mr Trump was among them, she did not answer directly but said: “You’re not going to be shocked. It’s not rocket science.
In her series of interviews, Ms Kohrs, 30, said she was trying to carefully follow the rules set out by Judge McBurney. He did not stop the jurors from speaking, although he told them not to discuss their private deliberations. Last week, five other jurors discussed aspects of their jobs in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In an interview after Ms Kohrs spoke publicly, Mr Trump’s lawyers argued that she had “poisoned” the case by disclosing a number of matters which they said constituted “deliberations”. But Judge McBurney, in an interview in late February, said the “deliberations” only covered discussions the jurors had had privately in the jury room. Other aspects of their work could be discussed publicly, he said, including anything that ended up in their final report.
Even given this leeway, the six jurors who spoke to the media declined to discuss those they had named as deserving of indictment. Any criminal indictments would be issued by a regular grand jury.
In some of Ms. Kohrs’ television interviews, she has occasionally used light and playful language, prompting some critics to accuse the grand jury’s deliberations of not having the gravity befitting a criminal investigation into a former president. Ms. Kohrs was even the subject of a “Saturday Night Live” skit.
But some legal experts said they doubted Ms Kohrs’ comments would have much effect on Georgia’s case.
Mr Trump’s lawyers argued in their motion that jurors’ public comments revealed their work was ‘tainted by inappropriate influences’, noting that they were allowed to read news articles on the matter while on duty . The motion also argued, based on some of Ms. Kohrs’ statements, that jurors drew negative inferences about witnesses who refused to answer questions citing their Fifth Amendment rights.
Judge McBurney noted in the February interview that special purpose grand juries operate differently from trial juries, which are instructed not to consider anything outside of the evidence presented in court.
“The district attorney’s office conducting an investigation before a special purpose grand jury, any special purpose grand jury, is free to present to that special purpose grand jury whatever he or she chooses. Witnesses, documents – they might decide to play a movie if it was somehow relevant,” he said.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers also argue that Georgia’s laws governing special grand juries are so vague that they threaten due process rights.
Lawyers noted, in particular, that Georgia law is vague about whether special grand juries can be criminal or solely civil in nature. They challenged Justice McBurney’s decision that the jury in that case was a criminal jury – a decision, they said, that “had broad constitutional and procedural implications”.
Among other things, this ruling allowed the special grand jury to compel the testimony of out-of-state witnesses, which would not have been allowed if it was investigating a civil case. (A number of high-profile witnesses in the case attempted to challenge their subpoenas on the grounds that the special grand jury was a civilian body, with varying success.)
The motion also claimed that Judge McBurney’s decision last July to block Ms. Willis’ office from investigating Lt. Governor Burt Jones – a Republican and Trump ally who at the time was a state senator and candidate in his current position – should apply to all persons under investigation in the case. (Ms. Willis had headlined a fundraiser for Mr. Jones’ Democratic rival in the race for lieutenant governor.)
The lawyers requested that a judge other than Justice McBurney hear their motion.
Mr. Trump has frequently accused Ms. Willis of conducting a “witch hunt” with the investigation, and the motion bolstered the argument that she had been biased against Mr. Trump. In a number of interviews with news outlets, according to the motion, she had made statements that violated prosecutorial standards and created a “substantial likelihood of material harm” to the special grand jury.
The motion also slammed Ms Willis’ campaign Twitter account for posting ‘a biased political cartoon’ in July that depicted her in a boat with a fishing rod, ‘fishing a recently subpoenaed witness out of a swamp “.
He also said his office was arbitrary in designating some witnesses, but not others, as “targets” for the investigation.
Mr. Trump announced a new presidential campaign in November and he leads his Republican opponents in most polls. But his legal troubles present him with challenges that have little, if any, precedent in American history. No president, current or former, has ever been charged with a crime.
Ahead of his public statements over the weekend anticipating an impending indictment in New York, Mr. Trump sent numerous fundraising emails criticizing the prosecutors in the various cases against him and portraying himself as a victim of partisan forces. “The left has made America the ‘investigative capital of the world,’ as our country’s enemies brilliantly plot their next move to destroy our nation,” he said in one such email. March 13.