Trump attorneys: Fulton DA is raising political cash off her investigation

Entire Fulton judicial branch has been recused from ruling on Trump’s original motion to bar Fani Willis from more investigation.
Published: Jul. 21, 2023 at 1:54 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2023 at 4:50 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Former President Donald Trump’s Atlanta attorneys are making yet another attempt to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from further investigations into his alleged 2020 election meddling in Georgia.

On Thursday, Trump’s attorneys filed a motion in Fulton County Superior Court, arguing Willis should be disqualified from her investigation because she allegedly is using the case to raise re-election funds.

“She has personally inserted herself into Twitter campaigns requesting donations and followers while referencing her prosecution of this case,” the filing said. “What’s more, she retweeted a political cartoon depicting Petitioner in a negative light.

“For a District Attorney to personally request donations and followers based on the prosecution or investigation of one named individual, especially when it heightens public condemnation of the accused, is clear evidence of conflict,” the filing said. “The District Attorney’s desire to fund her reelection incentivizes her to pursue Petitioner more aggressively than she otherwise might.”

Trump’s Atlanta-based attorneys - Drew Findling, Jennifer Little and Marissa Goldberg - also filed a lawsuit in the same court and named Fulton Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney. Trump’s attorneys are seeking to force McBurney to rule on a motion they made back in March that also aims to disqualify Willis from her investigation. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville has recused the entire Fulton judicial branch from ruling on Trump’s original motion to disqualify Willis from more investigation.

Earlier this week, the Georgia Supreme Court has rejected a petition filed by the former president attorneys to quash a Fulton County special grand jury report into his alleged 2020 election interference.

The court issued the five-page opinion late Monday afternoon, saying the nation’s 45th president had not demonstrated the “extraordinary circumstances” that would require their intervention.

Two weeks ago, Trump’s attorneys also asked the Georgia Supreme Court and the Fulton County Superior Court to block further investigation from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. The state’s high court also dismissed that request on Monday.

Earlier this year, according to Fulton County Superior Court filings, Trump’s attorneys made the same requests.

On Tuesday, a grand jury was seated in Atlanta that is likely considering whether criminal charges are appropriate for Trump or or his Republican allies for alleged efforts to overturn Trump’s 2020 narrow election loss in Georgia.

Last year, Willis opened a criminal investigation “into attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia General Election.” Months later, a special grand jury with subpoena power was seated in May 2022. In court filings, she alleged “a multi-state, coordinated plan by the Trump campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere,” a contest that eventually saw Joe Biden become the first Democrat to win Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992.

In an April 24 letter, Willis warned Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat of “charging decisions” coming this summer in connection with her investigation; she also notified Fulton County deputies she will announce charges from her investigation sometime between July 11 and Sept. 1.

Willis also has notified Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville her office plans to work remotely during the first three weeks of August and asking no trials be scheduled during that time.

Fulton County deputies were in Miami last month as Trump appeared in federal court in his latest round of legal challenges.

The deputies were there to observe how local law enforcement authorities were preparing before, during and after Trump’s arraignment, when he became the first ex-president in history to be criminally charged by the federal government he once oversaw.

Earlier this year, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charged Trump with alleged hush money payments made to porn actress Stephanie Clifford and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, whom he feared would go public with claims that they had extramarital sexual encounters with him.

A Manhattan grand jury has been probing Trump’s involvement in a $130,000 payment made in 2016 to the porn actor Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about a sexual encounter she said she had with him years earlier.

Willis has said her grand jury heard from 75 witnesses. Some of the more notable figures were Gov. Brian Kemp; Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr; Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger; former lieutenant governor Geoff Duncan; former White House official Mark Meadows; former U.S. House speaker and Georgia congressman Newt Gingrich; and Republican South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Trump has accused Willis of conducting a “strictly political witch hunt.” Trump announced his 2024 White House candidacy last November.

Last year, Raffensperger told a congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that Trump’s claims of 2020 election fraud “were false.”

Raffensperger, along with Gabriel Sterling, the office’s chief operating officer, appeared before the Democrat-led House Select Committee’s nationally televised public hearings. Raffensperger told the committee that the 2020 election went “remarkably smooth,” with average ballot-casting wait times between two to three minutes statewide. “I felt we had a successful election,” he said.

Last month, Georgia’s State Election Board closed its investigation into alleged malfeasance during the 2020 election at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta. According to a statement from Raffensperger’s office, numerous allegations made against the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections, and specifically, two election workers, were false and unsubstantiated.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has attacked both Bragg’s and Willis’ investigations. Any conviction from Bragg, Florida Special Counsel Jack Smith, or Willis would not prevent Trump from running for or winning the presidency in 2024.

Earlier this year, Willis said she plans to make a “historical decision” this summer from her special grand jury investigation.

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