A Georgia judge on Monday rejected Governor Brian Kemp’s offer to avoid testifying before the grand jury hearing evidence in an investigation into possible interference in the 2020 elections by then-President Donald Trump and others, but said he did not have to testify until the November election.
“The governor is in the midst of a re-election campaign and this criminal grand jury investigation should not be used by the district attorney, the governor’s opponent, or the governor himself to influence the outcome of this election,” said the Fulton County Superior Court judge. Robert McBurney wrote in his six pages decision. “Once the election is complete, the Court expects the Governor’s legal team to quickly arrange for his appearance.”
Kemp, a Republican who has come under fire from Trump for refusing his demands to help overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, takes on Democrat Stacey Abrams in the Nov. 8 election.
“Judge McBurney recognized the potential political impact of the timing of these proceedings and properly suspended the governor’s involvement until after the November election,” Kemp’s office said in a statement. “Just as we have done since April 2021, we will work with the prosecutor’s office and the judge to ensure that a full account of the governor’s limited role in the matters under investigation is up to the public. disposal of the special grand jury.”
A spokesman, Jeff DiSantis, said the prosecutor’s office believes the judge was “correct” to demand that Kemp testify and that he will not fight the delay. “The District Attorney’s Office will not be appealing this decision due to the short timeline between now and Election Day,” DiSantis said.
A special grand jury convened in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ investigation into 2020 election interference wanted to speak to Kemp about the pressure he had been under from the White House and others to overturn the results in the state, which Biden won by a narrow margin.
The Grand Jury issued the summons for Kemp’s testimony this month, after what McBurney described as weeks of “tortured and torturous” negotiations for a voluntary interview. The judge said “both parties share responsibility for torture and torture”.
Lawyers for state Attorney General Chris Carr’s office had argued that the subpoena should be overturned because Kemp had “sovereign immunity,” but the judge disagreed, holding that it applied only to civil actions and that the special grand jury was conducting a criminal investigation. Carr also alleged that Willis was pursuing Kemp’s testimony for improper political purposes (an allegation that Willis, a Democrat, denied) and argued that if the judge allowed questioning, it should be after the election.
Carr noted in court papers that because the grand jury has been cleared until next May, “concluding the inquest before the November 2022 election is not necessary.”
McBurney agreed, believing “the safe and sound course is to let the election proceed without further litigation or activity regarding the governor’s involvement in the work of the special purpose grand jury.”
In a separate decision On Monday, McBurney also denied an attorney offer Kenneth Chesebro to quash a subpoena for his testimony before the grand jury. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol said Chesebro was a supporter of a plan to offer “alternate voters” in states Trump lost, including Georgia.
In a court filing last month, Willis said Georgia’s 16 bogus voters were told they were targets of his investigation.
Chesebro, who was subpoenaed last month, argued he shouldn’t have to appear before the grand jury because “all of his expected testimony is protected by solicitor-client privilege.”
McBurney agreed that some of his testimony about his work for the Trump campaign would be privileged, but said other areas would not be prohibited, including his communications with Republican state officials and his “interactions with individuals.” in Georgia seeking to prepare a list of “alternate” voters weeks after the final vote count showed former President Trump lost by more than 10,000 votes.”
At a Monday press conference, Willis said she was optimistic the grand jury would complete its work before January.
“I think we’re about 60% of all the people we have to raise. I’m happy with the pace we’re going,” Willis said. “And I’m hopeful that by the end of this year, I’ll be able to send the grand jury on their way.