The Democratic district attorney of Fulton County, Georgia, Fani Willis, is leading a special grand jury investigation of the aftermath of the 2020 election in search of any crimes committed by former President Donald Trump — as well as many of his allies — in obvious hope of disqualifying him from seeking office again in the future.
Yet, according to the judge overseeing that grand jury probe, Willis may have actually disqualified herself from continuing to lead that investigation by way of her own clearly partisan actions, the Conservative Brief reported.
The judge keyed in on a fundraiser Willis had hosted for a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, Charlie Bailey, who is running to take on a Republican targeted by the probe, state Sen. Burt Jones — a situation the judge called “problematic.”
DA’s “problematic” partisan activity
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney held a hearing Thursday on a motion filed by Jones to have Willis removed as the lead prosecutor in the investigation because of the fundraiser she had hosted for Bailey in June, during which $32,000 had been raised for Bailey’s campaign.
“I don’t know that it’s an actual conflict, but … it’s a ‘what are you thinking’ moment,” McBurney said to Willis about hosting the fundraiser. “If we’re trying to maintain confidence that this investigation is pursuing facts in a non-partisan sense … That strikes me as problematic.”
“The concern I’m working through, is that it’s not a lower case ‘a’ appearance,” he continued. “It’s like a capital ‘a’ with flashy lights fundraiser with the district attorney for the political opponent of someone I’ve named a target of my investigation where I’m the legal adviser to the grand jury and I’m on national media almost nightly talking about this investigation. That’s problematic.”
No immediate ruling on removal over fundraiser
The attorney for Willis argued that the fundraiser wasn’t a conflict because Bailey hadn’t yet won the Democratic nomination and it was unclear if he would actually face off against Jones in the general election, and further asserted that Jones had been treated no differently than any other target of a grand jury probe.
Judge McBurney declined to rule on the matter right then but did signal that a decision would be forthcoming soon.
The Washington Examiner reported that Jones is alleged to have participated in a December 2020 hearing in which an alternate slate of Republican electors was chosen in case a court ruled in favor of GOP challenges to Georgia’s presidential election results.
Those 16 alternate electors were also subpoenaed by Willis’ grand jury but 11 of them were challenging those subpoenas. Judge McBurney, however, ruled that those electors must honor the subpoena and appear before the grand jury, though they could plead the Fifth Amendment to avoid incriminating themselves.
Judge warns against “October surprise” from DA
Law & Crime reported that Judge McBurney also more generally warned DA Willis against attempting any sort of “October surprise” by way of a release of a grand jury report or more subpoenas just before the election in November.
McBurney said of Willis’ grand jury, “If the work is completed such that it lands on or near the election, it will stay completed and in my office until it gets disclosed after the election.”