Judge Robert McBurney of Fulton County, Georgia’s courts has denied a push from former President Donald Trump — in which one of Trump’s so-called alternate electors from the state in 2020 joined — that would have seen the disqualification of local District Attorney Fani Willis from the criminal investigation she’s been leading into attempts after the 2020 presidential election to meddle with its outcome.
Trump also wanted to block the usage in any future prosecution from a state investigative team of findings from a widely publicized special grand jury that previously heard evidence and presented still mostly private recommendations amid the Willis probe. Thirdly, he also sought a block on that report ever being released. On these two other fronts, McBurney has also denied Trump’s pushes, finding that he and Cathleen Latham (the pro-Trump elector from 2020) lacked the necessary standing to pursue the kind of relief against the special grand jury’s report that they wanted, meaning a block on its use. Since no charges against either had yet been issued, the basis for their contention remained a hypothetical, McBurney argued.
McBurney also spoke more broadly about his interest in deferring the question of whether to block any prosecution of Trump, Latham, or others, telling his ruling’s readers that the judiciary ought to stay out of the executive functions of developing and bringing charges, only involving itself afterwards. The idea of intervening in the process of an investigation and potential charges closely mirrors concerns that spread during Trump’s time as president of his potential impacts on the orderly administration of the federal Department of Justice.
“After formal charges are brought, the locus of power, authority, and jurisdiction shifts to the courts,” McBurney wrote in his ruling, issued this week. “Arguments like those being made prematurely in the pending motions can be more effectively (and reasonably) presented and ruled upon when the full picture of who is being charged with what has been painted. Guessing at what that picture might look like before the investigative dots are connected may be a popular game for the media and blogosphere, but it is not a proper role for the courts and formal legal argumentation.” He also concluded that Willis and key members of her team hadn’t demonstrated actionable political animus towards Trump, instead engaging in relatively routine public relations around their high-profile investigation.