ATLANTA (AP) — The judge presiding over a special grand jury that is investigating possible illegal attempts to influence Georgia’s 2020 election is getting into a fight over whether Republican Governor Brian Kemp should testify before the panel.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who is overseeing the special grand jury, has scheduled a hearing for Thursday morning following a dispute between the governor’s attorneys and the Fulton County District Attorney’s team of prosecutors. , Fani Willis, have escalated from tense emails to court filings in recent weeks. .
The increasingly heated rhetoric is unfolding as the Republican governor, who is seeking re-election in the fall, tries to avoid speaking to a special grand jury investigating whether former President Donald Trump and his allies violated any laws as they sought to overturn the narrow election. of Trump. loss to Democrat Joe Biden. Kemp’s lawyers accused Willis, a Democrat, of seeking his testimony for “improper political purposes,” an allegation the prosecutor vehemently denies.
Willis’ investigation was prompted by a January 2021 phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which the then-president suggested that the state’s top election official could “find” the votes needed to reverse his election. loss.
Raffensperger and a few other state officials have already appeared before the special grand jury, but Kemp is one of several potential witnesses who are fighting orders to testify.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, RS.C., whose calls to Raffensperger and his team in the weeks after the election are of interest to prosecutors, was due to testify earlier this week, but a federal appeals court put that on hold while he fight your subpoena.
A judge in Texas last week ordered attorney and podcaster Jacki Pick to travel to Atlanta to testify, and her attempt to challenge that order was denied Tuesday by an appeals court. Pick, who is also known as Jacki Deason, made a presentation before a Georgia legislative committee in December 2020 in which she alleged fraud by election officials at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
Willis said he is considering calling Trump himself to appear before the grand jury, a step that would surely spark a legal fight. The high-stakes investigation is one of a series of serious legal threats facing the former president.
Willis told Kemp’s attorney Brian McEvoy in a June email that she and her team wanted to ask the governor, among other things, about the Trump-Raffensperger connection. Trump also called Kemp in December 2020 asking him to order a special legislative session to secure the state’s electoral votes for him.
After an agreement to have the governor sit down for a taped interview collapsed, the district attorney’s office secured a subpoena for the governor to testify on Aug. 18, according to court documents. The day before he testified, Kemp’s lawyers filed a motion to overturn that subpoena.
During Thursday’s hearing, McBurney will determine whether Kemp should comply with the subpoena.
Kemp’s lawyers argue that he is protected from testifying about his official duties by “sovereign immunity,” a principle that says the state cannot be prosecuted without his consent. They also cited executive privilege, saying that any material related to the deliberative process and the governor’s communications is protected. And they lifted the attorney-client privilege, saying the governor routinely sought advice from attorneys in his office regarding the 2020 election and shouldn’t have to testify about it.
Willis’ team argued that sovereign immunity and executive privilege do not apply in this case and that they would avoid any topic that might be subject to attorney-client privilege.
Associated Press writer Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.