Tag: georgia election case
Judge In Trump Georgia Case Says Willis Can Continue Prosecution

Judge In Trump Georgia Case Says Willis Can Continue Prosecution

March 15 (Reuters) - The Georgia judge overseeing Donald Trump's trial on charges of trying to overturn his election defeat in the U.S. state said that lead prosecutor Fani Willis can remain on the case, so long as she removes a deputy she had a personal relationship with.

Judge Scott McAfee's ruling was a blow to the Republican former U.S. president, who seeks to unseat Democratic President Joe Biden in a Nov. 5 election. Trump has sought to delay trials in the four criminal cases he faces until after the election.

McAfee's decision caps a tumultuous two months for Fulton County District Attorney Willis, whose romantic relationship with Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor she appointed to lead the case, was disclosed in a January court filing by a Trump co-defendant.

It also ends three months of contentious litigation and evidentiary hearings over the relationship that effectively paused the rest of the case, though McAfee has yet to set a trial date.

Defense lawyers said the relationship posed a conflict of interest and improperly enriched Willis and Wade, who vacationed together while Wade was drawing a government salary.

McAfee found the relationship did not pose a conflict of interest but said it created "a significant appearance of impropriety" that required either Willis or Wade to step aside.

Trump's lawyer Steve Sadow said in a statement that he respected the judge's ruling but believed it did "not afford appropriate significance to the prosecutorial misconduct of Willis and Wade."

Willis' office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in all the cases against him. He is accused in the Georgia case of illegally pressuring state officials to overturn his loss to Biden there in the 2020 presidential election.

He has so far been successful in delaying the start of any trial as he seeks to return to the White House.

One in four self-identified Republicans and about half of independents said they would not vote for Trump if he was convicted of a felony crime by a jury, according to a February Reuters/Ipsos poll. That would be a significant liability in a race where opinion polls show Trump and Biden essentially tied.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review Trump's bid for presidential immunity in a federal election interference case in Washington, which could delay that trial until after the election.

The judge in Trump's upcoming trial in New York on charges related to hush-money payments to a porn star during his 2016 campaign is weighing postponing the March 25 scheduled trial start after federal prosecutors turned over a mountain of new evidence.

Willis and Wade testified that their relationship did not begin until after Wade was hired. Prosecutors argued the affair was irrelevant because it did not harm the defendants.

Defense lawyers accused the prosecutors of lying to the court, saying the relationship began before Wade was hired. In court papers filed on Feb. 23, Trump's attorney cited location data from Wade’s cellphone suggesting he made numerous late-night visits to Willis’ home before she appointed him.

Trump is also under indictment in Florida over his handling of classified documents upon leaving office. The judge overseeing that case is weighing Trump's bid to move his May 20 trial date.

Reporting by Jack Queen in New York and Andrew Goudsward in Fort Pierce, Florida; editing by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis and Howard Goller

Georgia Judge: Trump Did It, But That's OK Because Oaths Don't Really Matter

Georgia Judge: Trump Did It, But That's OK Because Oaths Don't Really Matter

As if we had not been reminded before, the dismissal of six charges against defendants in the Georgia RICO case reminds us once again that the whole notion of taking an oath to support and defend the Constitution, including state constitutions, has apparently become a nullity in modern times. According to the judge in Georgia, if you’re required to take an oath, it’s just a ceremony, not an actual requirement to uphold the law – the law being the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of Georgia.

Defendants in the Georgia racketeering case, who include Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and Mark Meadows among others, were charged with 41 counts of violating Georgia’s law in that they “knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Donald Trump.” The judge in the case, Scott McAfee of Fulton Superior Court, has now dismissed six of those counts, not because the defendants didn’t take the actions they are charged with, but because those actions were not illegal enough. The judge found that the charges filed by the grand jury in Georgia did not spell out with adequate specificity why those actions were illegal.

All six charges relate to actions taken by the defendants to “solicit” various Georgia officials to violate their oaths of office. For example, Trump and Meadows called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and solicited him to “unlawfully influence the certified election returns.” Multiple defendants “solicited elected members of the Georgia Senate to violate their oaths of office on December 30, 2020, by requesting or importuning them to unlawfully appoint presidential electors.” Giuliani solicited members of the Georgia House of Representatives by “requesting or importuning them to unlawfully appoint presidential electors.”

You will note in the quotes from the indictment that the word “unlawfully” appears in each count of the indictment the judge dismissed. He’s not saying that what the defendants asked the Georgia officials to do was lawful, therefore the charges must be dismissed. No, he’s figured out a clever way around that. The judge is saying the charges must be dismissed because they don’t spell out how the illegal acts they were being asked to commit violated their oaths.

The law in Georgia prohibits any public officer from “willfully and intentionally violating the terms of his or her oath as prescribed by law.” The judge is saying that all the Georgia officials took their oaths of office, but Fani Willis’ grand jury has failed to spell out how what they were being asked to do violated those oaths. To illustrate the problem, as he sees it, the judge even favorably cites a case in Georgia where a conviction of a police officer was reversed “when a police officer’s oath did not expressly include a provision to uphold state law.” In another case, charges were dismissed in a drug possession case because the specific drug and its quantity were not specified.

Got that? In Georgia, you can swear to defend and protect the state Constitution, but that oath, at least in the case of the police officer in question, does not require you to “uphold state law.”

That this would utterly negate the whole idea of taking an oath doesn’t seem to have occurred to Judge McAfee, but moving on…

To sum up as briefly and bluntly as I can, the charges against Trump and the rest of them have been dismissed because the indictment against them does not spell out precisely how “unlawfully” doing something like appointing fake electors or “finding” enough votes for Trump to overturn the election violates the oaths of the Georgia officials being asked to commit those acts, even though the acts themselves are, as per the judge’s order dismissing the indictments, “unlawful.”

The judge took pains to point out that the United States Constitution “contains hundreds of clauses, any one of which can be the subject of a lifetime’s study,” so his message to Fani Willis is, get studying. If you want a new charge against Trump and his pals to stick, you’re going to have to find a clause they urged a Georgia official to violate.

The Supreme Court has been up to the same sort of thing in the series of decisions it has handed down eviscerating laws against the bribery of public officials. Their theory is that bribery hasn’t taken place, and thus the law hasn’t been broken, unless the person soliciting the public official to favor their interests by giving them a bribe spelled out in complete sentences what it is they want the official to do. For example, if a gangster is buying off a judge to find someone not guilty, it’s not enough for you to be the brother of the defendant and sit down with the judge and hand him money across the table. You’ve got to open your mouth and say the words: here’s some money to let my brother off.

This is the kind of double-reverse triple-salchow legal squiggling Donald Trump wants to use to beat the charges against him in Georgia. He’s not saying that he didn’t do it. He did. He’s not saying that what he did wasn't illegal. It was. He’s saying that it didn’t amount to causing others to violate their oaths in the exact same manner he was violating his.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

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Georgia DA’s Investigation Of Trump Sent To Grand Jury

Georgia DA’s Investigation Of Trump Sent To Grand Jury

ATLANTA — Fulton County prosecutors are expected to appear before a grand jury this week seeking subpoenas for documents and witnesses related to their investigation of former President Donald Trump and some of his top associates for possible election fraud, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned. Legal experts are split as to whether there's a strong case to be made, but most agree Trump's efforts to overturn Georgia's election results merit greater scrutiny. Fani Willis, Fulton's new district attorney, has said she's prepared to follow the evidence wherever it leads. Some believe the r...