Trump’s bid to quash Georgia probe rejected by judge as charges loom

Trump’s bid to quash Georgia probe rejected by judge as charges loom

Trump’s bid to quash Georgia probe rejected by judge as charges loom By Reuters

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Published Jul 31, 2023 09:48AM ET
Updated Jul 31, 2023 03:06PM ET

(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during the Turning Point Action Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. July 15, 2023. REUTERS/Marco Bello/File Photo

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) -A Georgia judge on Monday rejected former U.S. President Donald Trump’s bid to quash an investigation into whether he illegally interfered with the state’s 2020 election, just days before criminal charges are expected to be filed.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney denied Trump’s request to disqualify the lead prosecutor, block any potential indictments and throw out a special grand jury report that included recommendations on whom to charge.

The report has remained sealed under McBurney’s orders pending charges in the case, one of many legal troubles Trump faces. Separately in Miami, a Trump aide appeared in federal court on Monday to face charges he tried to help the former president hide classified documents by deleting security camera footage.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has indicated she intends to ask a grand jury to approve charges sometime in the next three weeks, telling judges that her staff will mostly work remotely as a safety precaution.

Security barricades were erected outside the county courthouse last week.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing and accused Willis, an elected Democrat, of political motives. A spokesperson and his Georgia-based legal team did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokesperson for Willis declined to comment. In an interview with an Atlanta-based NBC affiliate on Saturday, Willis said her office was prepared to seek charges.

“The work is accomplished,” she told WXIA. “We’ve been working for 2-1/2 years. We’re ready to go.”

Trump’s lawyers have filed a separate long-shot bid to disqualify Willis that will be heard by another judge next week. That motion was assigned to a judge from another county because it names McBurney in addition to Willis; as a result, all Fulton County judges were recused from hearing it.

Willis has been investigating Trump’s attempt to reverse the 2020 election outcome since January 2021, shortly after Trump was recorded on a phone call asking the state’s top election official to “find” enough votes to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.

The wide-ranging probe has also examined the conduct of Trump’s attorneys, including Rudy Giuliani, and a group of individuals who served as alternate electors in an unsuccessful effort to have the state’s electoral votes awarded to Trump rather than Biden.

The special grand jury was convened at Willis’s request to aid in her investigation. The jury, which had subpoena power but not the authority to issue charges, heard testimony from dozens of witnesses.

Trump has falsely claimed the election in Georgia and elsewhere was marred by widespread fraud, despite dozens of court rulings finding no evidence to support it.

In his nine-page decision, McBurney said Trump’s bid to block the probe was premature, given that no charges had yet been filed, and that he would have ample opportunity to challenge the propriety of the investigation if and when he faces an indictment.

McBurney also said Trump had not shown Willis had acted in a biased fashion, despite granting press interviews and tweeting about the case.

“The drumbeat from the district attorney has been neither partisan (in the political sense) nor personal, in marked and refreshing contrast to the stream of personal invective flowing from one of the movants,” he wrote.

Trump’s bid to quash Georgia probe rejected by judge as charges loom

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