Resolute Square

Fulton County District Attorney Responds to Trump

Trump's team is trying everything they can to derail Fani Willis' work toward justice and accountability; They're failing.
Credit: Photo by Ben Gray/via Getty Images
Published:May 18, 2023

*Published with the generous permission of Amee Vanderpool. Read more of her excellent work at Shero.

By Amee Vanderpool

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis filed a new motion this week in response to a previous motion from Donald Trump and “alternate” elector Cathy Latham, attempting to remove Willis from the case and exclude certain evidence. In March, Trump's attorneys asked Judge Robert McBurney of the Fulton County Superior Court to reject the special grand jury report that investigated any wrongdoing by Trump and his associates and to prevent any of the panel’s evidence from being used altogether. 

The Trump memo also requested that Judge McBurney bar Willis and her office from continuing to investigate or prosecute the case on the basis of political bias and to recuse himself from overseeing the adjudication moving forward. In the filing, attorneys for the former president argued that the grand jury panel had “a constant lack of clarity as to the law, [and] inconsistent applications of basic constitutional protections for individuals being brought before it.” Trump also alleged that Willis “was found to have an actual conflict, yet continued to pursue the investigation.”

District Attorney Willis responded on Monday by asking Judge McBurney to retain judicial supervision of the ongoing matter and urged that the Trump and Latham motions be dismissed or denied without holding a hearing. Willis argued that the earlier requests from Trump and Latham fail to meet the “exacting standards” for disqualifying a prosecutor. 

Willis also emphasized that Trump and Latham have failed to prove their claims that their own due process rights have been violated or that the grand jury process was “tainted” or the law governing it unconstitutional. Trump and Latham “are not content to follow the ordinary course of the law,” Willis wrote.

“They seek to ‘restrain’ a criminal investigation before any charges are filed or even sought; they ask that the judicial system place them above and apart from the common administration of the criminal law; and they do so by raising arguments for which they have no standing, or which they failed to timely join, or which they have already failed, or which have no basis in law at all,” the Fulton County District Attorney explained.

Trump’s lawyers issued a statement in response to the Monday filing by Willis, emphasizing that they plan to ask the court for time to file a response and saying, “The State’s reply was primarily procedural in nature and failed to address several of the critical substantive issues which were discussed at length in our brief and exhibits.” Willis has asked that Judge McBurney simply dismiss all of Trump’s recent requests without wasting any more time with another hearing. 

Additionally, a group of news outlets, including The Associated Press, have also filed a motion on Monday objecting to Trump’s request that the special grand jury report be “quashed and expunged from the record.” The media lawyers argued: “Not only is such a remedy unsupported by any legal basis, it would also be starkly at odds with the fundamental principles of this Nation and State.” The alliance of media groups emphasized that “The [Grand Jury] Report is a matter of the utmost public concern, and it should be released to the public in its entirety.”

In April, DA Willis filed a petition with the Court, requesting that Judge McBurney “disqualify Kimberly Burroughs Debrow in her simultaneous representation of multiple parties in this matter and prohibit her from any further participation in this matter, pursuant to Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct and other relevant law.”
Debrow was the attorney of record for 10 of the fake Georgia electors, most of whom are no longer cooperating with each other in the 26-month investigation into the actions of Trump and several of his allies. Willis has called the mass representation an “impracticable and ethical mess” and cited a glaring conflict of interest issue. 

Fani Willis also alleges that Debrow was present in April when several of her clients simultaneously told prosecutors that another of her “fake elector” clients had engaged in illegal conduct. Willis also claims that Debrow and another attorney never approached their clients with an offer of immunity that was made by the District Attorney’s Office last year.

While we await a ruling from Judge McBurney on the fitness of Debrow to continue her legal representation of several of Trump’s “fake electors,” we are now faced with this latest request from Trump to dismiss the prosecutor who has developed a substantial case against him. It is expected that District Attorney Willis will announce her decision to pursue or decline charges against Trump et al. in the coming days, but to secure an indictment, Willis will need to bring the case before a regular grand jury. 

Perhaps the best indicator of any impending prosecutorial timeline are the letters sent by Willis last month to local law enforcement leaders advising them to prepare for “heightened security” as she intends to announce charging decisions in the case between July 11 and Sept. 1. Regardless, we are currently awaiting several procedural rulings from Judge McBurney, including the issues discussed above, which could determine how quickly the case is charged.