The judge presiding over the Fulton County grand jury investigation into the 2020 election and former President Donald Trump’s alleged attempt to change the outcome in Georgia slammed District Attorney Fani Willis on Thursday for participating in a fundraiser for a Democrat political candidate.
Willis took part in a fundraiser for Georgia lieutenant governor candidate Charlie Bailey, a Democrat, in June, the Washington Examiner reports. Bailey is running against Republican Burt Jones, who is the subject of a criminal investigation by Willis’ office.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney reproached Willis but stopped short of removing her from that aspect of the investigation, the Examiner reports.
"I don't know that it's an actual conflict, but … it's a 'What are you thinking?' moment," McBurney said during a hearing Thursday, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "If we're trying to maintain confidence that this investigation is pursuing facts in a nonpartisan sense … that strikes me as problematic."
"The concern I'm working through is that it's not a lowercase 'a' appearance," McBurney 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."
Jones' attorneys have claimed that the fundraiser Willis attended brought in $32,000 for his Democrat opponent and asked the judge to order the Fulton County DA's office to assign another prosecutor to his case. They were in court Thursday for a hearing on a motion filed to disqualify Willis.
A lawyer for Willis contended that it was not clear who the Democrat nominee would be at the time Willis attended the fundraiser, as Bailey was facing a runoff, according to the Journal-Constitution.
Willis' lawyers also pointed out that she had not treated Jones any differently than other subjects of the investigation.
The judge said his decision on Jones' disqualification motion would be imminent.
According to the Examiner, Jones was present at a meeting in December 2020 where 16 Georgia Republicans were declared alternate electors. The group could potentially be called on to replace the official electors if challenges to the 2020 election won in court. The grand jury has subpoenaed the alternate electors to testify in court proceedings.
Of the 16, 11 alternate electors had tried to quash their subpoenas, with their attorneys arguing that they were ignorant of plans to "misuse" their votes.
Jones was not named as a plaintiff in the challenge brought by the 11 alternate electors.
McBurney ruled on Thursday that the electors must answer their subpoenas, but could invoke their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, according to the Journal-Constitution.
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