Fulton judge extends deadline for DA to reply to Trump motion to kill probe

District Attorney Fani Willis (center) reacts to proceedings at Fulton County Superior Court on Thursday, July 21, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

District Attorney Fani Willis (center) reacts to proceedings at Fulton County Superior Court on Thursday, July 21, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

A Fulton County judge is giving District Attorney Fani Willis additional time to respond to a motion by Donald Trump’s legal team that argued she should be disqualified from investigating the former president’s alleged interference in Georgia’s 2020 election.

The extension comes after Cathy Latham, a South Georgia-based “alternate” elector, filed a motion on Friday which echoed Trump’s claims.

Fulton Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney on Monday indicated he would consider Trump and Latham’s motions together and gave the DA’s office until May 15 to respond to their motions. The office’s response had been due May 1.

The court motions, filed by Trump’s Atlanta-based attorneys in late March and by Latham last week, also seek to quash the release of the final report authored by the special grand jury that aided Willis and any evidence collected by the group.

A spokesman for the DA declined to comment.

Jurors met for nearly eight months and heard testimony from about 75 witnesses. Their final report recommends that prosecutors pursue indictments against more than a dozen people, according to jury forewoman Emily Kohrs.

Trump’s attorneys have argued that interviews and other conduct from Willis, Kohrs and other unnamed jurors who spoke with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution irreparably taint the investigation. They said Willis and her team should have been disqualified from the entire probe after McBurney blocked her from examining Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, another GOP elector, last summer due to a political conflict of interest.

Latham, a retired schoolteacher and the former chair of the Coffee County GOP, joined Trump’s motion on Friday.

Surveillance video of the Coffee County elections office shows green voter check-in tablets, called PollPads, on a table while tech experts and supporters of then-President Donald Trump examined elections equipment on Jan. 7, 2021. From left: computer analysts Paul Maggio, Jennifer Jackson and Jim Nelson of the data firm SullivanStrickler; Cathy Latham, a member of the Georgia Republican Party's executive committee; Ed Voyles, a former Coffee County elections board member; Misty Hampton, the county's elections director; and Eric Chaney, a Coffee County elections board member. Source: Coffee County

Credit: Coffee County video

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Credit: Coffee County video

“The actions of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office as set forth in the Trump motion have violated Mrs. Latham’s constitutional rights, have tainted the evidence allegedly gathered by the (special grand jury), and have intruded upon the traditional independence and safeguards of the institution of the grand jury itself,” Latham’s attorney argued in the motion.

Latham was one of the 16 Georgia Republicans who signed a document in which they claimed to be the state’s duly elected presidential electors in December 2020. Three weeks later, Latham was on hand at the Coffee elections office to greet technicians from the data processing firm SullivanStrickler who had been hired by Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell to copy confidential elections data from voting machines.

The special grand jury was intensely interested in both sets of events, and last summer prosecutors sent Latham and the other electors letters alerting them they were targets of their investigation and could see criminal charges as a result.

The new paperwork comes at a critical moment for the investigation, which Willis launched in Feb. 2021.

Willis recently disclosed that she plans to announce indictment decisions between July 11 and Sept. 1. She suggested in letters to local law enforcement that she’s on the verge of trying to obtain charges against Trump and his supporters.

Prosecutors also recently confirmed that they floated immunity deals to some alternate electors in exchange for their testimony and that they interviewed several in mid-April. The DA’s office is trying to force out the attorney who is representing 10 of those electors, Kimberly Bourroughs Debrow, for allegedly mishandling those immunity deals.

Bourroughs has vehemently denied any misconduct and has been directed by McBurney to respond to the DA’s push by May 5.