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Judge delays Brian Kemp’s testimony in Georgia probe until after November election

ATLANTA – The judge presiding over the Georgia grand jury investigation into possible election interference in 2020 delayed the governor’s testimony Monday. Brian Kemp until after the next election, as prosecutors continued to push for interviews with people close to former President Donald Trump.

After Joe Biden won Georgia in 2020, Trump and his allies tried to pressure Kemp (R) and other Republican officials in calls to overturn the election results. Kemp resisted, but also objected to a subpoena to brief the grand jury on the calls. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert CI McBurney ruled Monday that Kemp must testify, but delayed the governor’s appearance until “a date shortly after” Election Day in November.

Kemp, who is running for re-election against Democrat Stacey Abrams, requested the postponement, saying the investigation is politically motivated and could unfairly influence the election. Prosecutors have said that Kemp is considered a witness, not a target of the investigation.

The ruling came when Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said Monday that her team has completed interviews with more than half of the necessary witnesses and expects the grand jury to issue a report with recommendations before the end of the year. Willis could then decide whether she presses criminal charges.

“I am happy with the pace we are going,” she said after the ruling, while warning that “there can be no forecasts. As you know, many people fight our subpoenas without success. We will continue to fight to ensure that the grand jury and the public gets the truth.”

Georgia’s criminal investigation into Trump and his allies, explained

Late last week, Willis requested subpoenas for testimony from several people in Trump’s inner circle, including his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and a legal adviser active in Georgia, Sidney Powell.

In a separate ruling Monday, the judge ordered former Trump campaign lawyer Kenneth Chesebro to comply with a grand jury subpoena. While some of Chesebro’s communications with Trump are off limits to prosecutors’ cross-examination, the judge said Chesebro has relevant knowledge, for example, based on his interactions with “individuals in Georgia seeking to prepare a voter list.” alternatives’ weeks after the final election. the vote count” showed that Trump lost to Biden.

As the investigation has widened, there have been growing complaints that Willis, a Democrat, is politically motivated to seek testimony from high-profile Republicans.

Both the judge and the district attorney’s office have expressed sensitivity regarding the timing of the investigation. The judge’s decision to delay Kemp’s testimony came a week before Labor Day, the unofficial start of the general election campaign season.

Georgia judge skeptical of claims of political bias in 2020 election probe

Willis has publicly stated that he intends to avoid grand jury activity after the start of early voting in October, “a decision made specifically to avoid electoral distractions,” according to a court filing from your office.

In his six-page order, the judge acknowledged the potential effect of the investigation on the Nov. 8 race and said that no one, including Kemp himself, should use the investigation to influence the outcome of the election.

Prosecutors in Fulton County, Ga., have opened an investigation into former President Donald Trump and his allies’ attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. (Video: Mahlia Posey/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

“The sensible and prudent course is to let the election proceed without further litigation or other activities related to the governor’s involvement,” McBurney wrote.

The judge concluded: “Once the election is over, the Court expects the Governor’s legal team to make the necessary arrangements for his appearance.”

The decision is seen as a partial victory for Kemp, whose attorneys had sought to vacate the subpoena or, at a minimum, delay any grand jury appearance until after the election.

In response to the ruling, Kemp’s office said the judge “correctly withheld the governor’s involvement” until after the election. “We will work with the district attorney’s office and the judge to ensure that the special grand jury has at their disposal a full explanation of the governor’s limited role in the matters being investigated.”

Norman Eisen, a lawyer in Trump’s first impeachment trial who has written briefs supporting Willis’ position in the investigation, praised the ruling, saying it was unlikely to affect the timing of the investigation.

“It is a Solomonic resolution,” he said. “Willis gets the evidence on him and the governor sidesteps the political season.”

Eisen said Monday that Willis is interested in Kemp’s “first-hand evidence of what happened in the Trump-Kemp contacts before charges were filed, so there are no surprises at trial. That can be done just as well in November.”

McBurney had previously expressed skepticism about Republican arguments that the impeachment was politically motivated.

“It’s not my space” to focus on politics, McBurney said during a hearing last week as Kemp’s lawyers argued the subpoena had already become a political issue this election season. “I don’t think this is the right forum” to discuss the political ramifications of the case, the judge said.

Melissa Redmon, an assistant clinical professor at the University of Georgia School of Law, said “McBurney is doing everything he can to make sure citizens have confidence in the investigation,” including “keeping it out of electoral politics.”

McBurney had previously had prevented Willis from investigating a designated target in the case because he had raised funds for his political opponent. But the judge rejected an effort to disqualify Willis from investigating other Georgia Republican targets, ruling that a prosecutor “is not automatically biased and partisan, and subject to disqualification, because of the subjects’ (and targets’) common political affiliations.” Of the investigation. .”

In his order, McBurney rejected Kemp’s claim that his position as governor protects him from having to testify in what his attorneys described as a civil proceeding. McBurney emphasized that the special grand jury is undoubtedly investigating possible criminal activity and that its final report will recommend whether the district attorney must file criminal charges.

Kemp’s effort to delay or block his testimony is the The latest sign of tension between prosecutors and high-profile witnesses in the sweeping criminal investigation into alleged election interference by Trump and his allies.

Last week, a federal appeals court temporarily halted an order that would have required Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (RS.C.) to testify before a Georgia grand jury. Graham had formally appealed a judge’s order compelling him to testify last week, saying doing so would cause “irreparable harm” that would be “in contravention of his constitutional immunity.”

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily stayed his appearance, asking a lower court to consider whether Graham should be protected from answering some questions about his official duties as a U.S. senator. A federal judge set deadlines expedited to resolve the issues as soon as this week.

After seeking repeated delays, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s former lawyer, weighed in for six hours before the grand jury earlier this month. The panel also heard testimony from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) and his staff, Georgia Attorney General Christopher M. Carr (R), state legislators and local poll workers.

Newly filed records showed prosecutors are seeking testimony from people who can expand the scope of the Willis investigation.

Seeking Powell’s testimony, Willis, a former legal adviser to Trump, specifically cites Powell’s reported efforts to obtain data from restricted election systems in Coffee County, Georgia, in early January 2021.

In addition to Meadows and Powell, Willis recently sought subpoenas to testify in September from Phil Waldron, a cybersecurity expert, and Boris Epshteyn, a lawyer who works with Giuliani and others who sought to organize Trump’s electoral lists in states Biden won. .

Marimov and Hamburger reported from Washington. Amy B Wang contributed to this report.

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