Thursday, April 11

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp argues to block subpoena to appear before grand jury investigating Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election results

Kemp’s attorneys argued that the Republican governor should be protected by sovereign immunity, executive privilege and attorney-client privilege. They added there were concerns about the investigation interfering with his re-election campaign this failed.

Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who is overseeing the special purpose grand jury, said he would take the arguments under advisement before he makes a ruling, but did not give a deadline for his decision.

Separately on Thursday, McBurney rejected another attempt to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from the investigation.

In court Thursday, Fulton County Special Prosecutor Nathan Wade said that the state’s position is that Kemp should be expected to testify “just as a host of the 30-plus witnesses” have done up until this point. Wade’s detail is the first indication of the amount of people who have testified so far.

The District Attorney’s office says that Kemp is not considered a target in the special grand jury’s investigation but is a “uniquely knowledgeable” witness to testify, including about a December 2020 phone call in which Trump allegedly tried to push Kemp to convince state legislators to overturn then-President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the state.

Trump also urged Kemp to “get tough” and improperly reject mail-in ballots — enough to “flip” the statewide results in November 2020 post-election tweets.

“The governor doesn’t think that he is beyond any reach of law. He’s just beyond the reach of this particular subpoena because there are other mechanisms if the state needs or wants to investigate the official activities of the governor, that legal authority does exist ,” Derek Bauer, one of the attorney’s representing Kemp, argued.

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Kemp, who is up for re-election in November, was initially scheduled to provide sworn recorded testimony for the special purpose grand jury this summer. He had been scheduled for a voluntary interview July 25, his lawyers said in a court filing, but the interview was “unilaterally cancelled” after Kemp’s legal team inquired about its scope.

Wade said in court on Thursday that they would treat the governor that just like they have treated other witnesses throughout the special grand jury process. The morning Kemp would come in for his witness testimony, they would share “buckets” of topics with him and his attorney that they would want to speak to him about.

Sen.  Graham tells judge that grand jury should not be allowed to question him on any topics laid out in subpoena

McBurney said in court Thursday that it was a “tried and true method that has worked for many similarly situated individuals.”

The district attorney’s office also said in court on Thursday that the governor’s counsel asked for specific requirements to be met before the interview, including getting all questions beforehand. It was after the breakdown in communication that the DA’s office issued a subpoena, Kemp’s lawyers said.

The Fulton County prosecutors have also requested any documentary or physical evidence from Gov. Kemp’s office that could explain what Trump or those working on his behalf were “thinking or doing” and any correspondence or communication between the parties, according to court filings.

The governor’s legal team claims that the request to appear in front of the special purpose grand jury is suspiciously timed to coincide with the “crescendo” in Kemp’s reelection campaign and is not “driven by genuine investigative need for information.”

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“This is happening, coincidentally or otherwise, as this high profile and politically charged investigation and Governor Kemp’s role in it are reaching a crescendo. The intersection of law and politics in this way, we believe shouldn’t be happening on the eve of an election, and despite our willingness to engage, we’re just asking that the rule of law be closely followed in this matter,” Kemp’s attorney Brian McEvoy said in court.

McBurney has previously said it would be very unlikely the report by the special purpose grand jury would come before the election and has promised that it would not be an “October surprise,” released close to November’s election.

Judge swats down effort to disqualify Willis from the investigation

Also Thursday, McBurney swatted down an effort from a handful of pro-Trump fake voters to have Willis disqualified from the investigation.

The group of 11 fake voters, who have been informed they are targets of the investigation in Georgia, had claimed that because the judge barred Willis from investigating Georgia GOP State Sen. Burt Jones, Willis should also be barred from investigating the rest of the GOP fake voters.

McBurney didn’t buy their argument.

The fake voters “have provided no evidence that the District Attorney (or any member of her staff) has done anything that suggests a possible political motivation for investigating them — beyond the banal observation that they are active Republicans and the District Attorney is not, McBurney wrote.

McBurney added that the nature of the probe — investigating the GOP’s efforts to upend the election results in the Peach State — was at its political heart in nature.

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“The process is inherently ‘political’ in the simple and unremarkable sense that politicians and leaders of a specific political party are alleged to have undertaken efforts to defeat the will of the Georgia electorate,” the judge wrote. “A prosecutor who pursues such a case is not automatically biased and partisan — and subject to disqualification — because of the common political affiliations of the subjects (and targets) of the investigation.”

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In a particularly pointed footnote, McBurney added that, “It eludes the undersigned how an investigation into allegations of Republican interference in the 2020 general election in Georgia would have any other list of targets than Republicans.”

The group of 11 fake electors have now twice attempted — and twice failed — to have Willis disqualified from the investigation she has been overseeing in Georgia.

CNN’s Niah Humphrey contributed to this report.

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