Fulton County Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis photographed in her office on Jan. 4, 2022.
Ben Gray | AP
A judge Monday effectively barred a Georgia prosecutor from investigating Republican state Sen. Burt Jones — one in all 16 “fake electors” for former President Donald Trump — saying she was disqualified by hosting a campaign fundraiser for Jones’ political opponent.
In the identical order, Fulton County Judge Robert McBurney also denied a motion by 11 other Trump electors who sought to quash grand jury subpoenas to them issued on the behest of county District Attorney Fani Willis.
Willis may proceed to analyze those individuals — and Trump himself — for possible criminal meddling in Georgia’s 2020 election.
But McBurney’s order because it pertains to Jones, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, is an embarrassing loss for Willis, whose investigation is taken into account the most important threat to Trump by way of potential criminal liability.
McBurney’s ruling bars Willis and her special prosecution team from issuing a subpoena to Jones, from categorizing him as a subject or goal of the grand jury probe and from asking the grand jury to incorporate any advice about him in its final report.
Willis’ office shall be allowed to ask witnesses about Jones’ involvement in efforts to solid doubt on the 2020 election results.
But she may not use such evidence to develop a criminal case against him, if one is warranted, the judge ruled.
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As a substitute, that call shall be left as much as a special prosecutor’s office, as chosen by the state’s attorney general, McBurney ordered.
“An investigation of this significance, garnering the general public attention it necessarily does and touching so many political nerves in our society, can’t be burdened by legitimate doubts in regards to the District Attorney’s motives,” McBurney wrote in his order.
“The District Attorney doesn’t should be apolitical, but her investigations do,” the judge added.
Willis and the grand jury in Atlanta are eyeing efforts by Trump, his lawyers and other allies to get Georgia officials to overturn President Joe Biden’s popular election win in that state.
Since the president won Georgia, a slate of Biden electors for the Electoral College won the correct to solid ballots for him in that body, which under the U.S. Structure determines the winner of the national presidential election.
After the 2020 election, individuals who claimed to be electors for Trump in seven battleground states that he lost to Biden submitted certificates to the National Archives, setting the stage for a possible legal dispute over which slate of electors could be chosen to solid ballots.
And Trump in early January 2021 pressured Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” him enough votes in the favored election to reverse Biden’s win, which might in turn mean that Trump would give you the option to argue he was entitled to the state’s Electoral College delegates.
Last week, Willis’ office said in a court filing that the DA had notified all 16 of the false electors in Georgia that they were targets of her criminal investigation.
Eleven of the electors filed a motion to quash subpoenas looking for their testimony from the special grand jury that’s gathering evidence within the probe. Jones filed a motion to disqualify Willis from investigating him due to her support for his opponent within the 2022 midterm election.
McBurney in his order Monday said that Willis was “inside her rights as an elected official” to host a June 14 fundraiser for the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, Charlie Bailey, who won a runoff within the party’s primary every week after that event.
But “this selection … has consequences,” McBurney wrote.
“She has bestowed her office’s imprimatur upon Senator Jones’s opponent. And since then, she has publicly (in her pleadings) labeled Senator Jones a ‘goal’ of the grand jury’s investigation,” the judge wrote.
“This scenario creates plain — and actual and untenable — conflict. Any decision the District Attorney makes about Senator Jones in reference to the grand jury investigation is necessarily infected by it.”