Trump attorneys attack Georgia grand jury and prosecutor

ATLANTA (AP) — Lawyers for former President Donald Trump are attacking a special grand jury and prosecutors investigating him in Georgia, asking a state court to throw out his report and all testimony from the investigation and the Fulton District Attorney County, Fani Willis, from the sequel to investigate or prosecute Trump.

Attorneys Jennifer Little and Drew Findling wrote in the filing filed Monday that the special grand jury “included a persistent lack of legal clarity, inconsistent applications of basic constitutional protections to individuals brought before them, and prosecution that has been identified an actual conflict, however, continued the investigation.”

Jeff DiSantis, a spokesman for Willis, said the prosecutor would answer the allegations in court but declined to comment further.

The filing is an attempt by Trump to avoid one of the numerous legal challenges he faces. Trump said Saturday that he expects his indictment and arrest within days in a New York grand jury investigation into hush money payments to women who allegedly had sexual encounters with the former president. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg recently offered Trump to testify before the grand jury.

Trump also faces two criminal investigations by the US Department of Justice. One is examining his efforts to reverse the results of the 2020 election in parallel with the Georgia probe.

A special counsel for the Justice Department has also presented evidence before a grand jury investigating Trump’s possession of hundreds of classified documents at his Florida estate.

If successful, the Georgia challenge could nullify the entire investigation and require a new prosecutor who could not use any of the information gathered by Willis’ team.

The Georgia filing argues that Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney misinterpreted Georgia law to state that the grand jury could conduct a special-purpose criminal investigation with resulting stronger subpoena powers , allowing her to compel Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and witnesses from other states to testify.

“This erroneous decision had far-reaching constitutional and procedural ramifications, and the resulting taint invalidates the constitutionality and validity of the entire proceeding,” the attorneys wrote.

The attorneys also argue that the grand jury failed to adequately protect the due process rights of witnesses who cannot be compelled to testify in Georgia before a regular grand jury that is considering indicting them.

Trump’s attorneys asked for another judge alongside McBurney to hear their claims. The arguments about breaking precedent could also suggest appeals are likely, which could stall the Georgia trial after Willis said at a hearing in January that decisions on whether to bring charges were “imminent.” .

In a call with reporters discussing the various legal cases involving Trump, Norm Eisen — who co-authored a Brookings Institution report analyzing the Fulton County investigation — called the files “invalid” and “borderline frivolous.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” Eisen said. “They question the legality of special grand juries in Georgia. … it would be like standing in front of the US Supreme Court and saying, ‘This is an illegal facility.’”

The filing also alleges that McBurney made a mistake by not excluding Willis and her office from the entire investigation when he ruled in July that Willis could not press charges against Burt Jones, now Georgia’s lieutenant governor. Jones, then a state senator, was one of 16 Georgia Republicans who signed a charter that falsely said Trump had won the state and declared themselves “duly elected and qualified” voters in the state. McBurney disqualified Willis for hosting a fundraiser for Jones’ unsuccessful Democratic opponent in the lieutenant governor’s race, creating a conflict of interest.

“The rights of President Trump and others affected by this investigation are now subject to the discretion of prosecutors and the decision-making of a law enforcement agency, which itself the Supervisor Judge has acknowledged is an actual, disqualifying conflict,” the attorneys wrote . That’s just unsustainable.”

They also accused Willis of repeatedly granting news interviews, citing a list of 39 media appearances and saying her comments cast “a shadow of bias on her office and the entire investigation.”

Trump’s attorneys similarly argued that interviews given by the foreman and other grand jurors were intended to undermine the case. The Associated Press first interviewed foreman Emily Kohrs, a story that was followed by news outlet interviews. She said the panel recommended charging numerous people, but declined to say who. Other grand jurors, who declined to be named later, spoke to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The attorneys said those interviews would taint future jury pools and “contrary to notions of basic fairness and due process,” while showing jurors wrongly accused witnesses of invoking their Fifth Amendment right to a to avoid self-incrimination.

It is ultimately up to Willis to decide whether to go to a regular grand jury to plead one or more charges in the case. She launched the Georgia probe in early 2021, shortly after a recording of a phone call between Trump and a senior state official was released. During that Jan. 2, 2021 phone call, Trump suggested that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger could “find” the votes needed to reverse his narrow loss in the state.

The special grand jury, meeting in May 2022, heard from about 75 witnesses and reviewed other evidence before completing its work in December. It had no power to bring charges, but instead produced a report with recommendations for Willis. McBurney ordered most of this report to be kept under wraps.


Associated Press writer Meg Kinnard of Columbia, South Carolina contributed to this report.