Georgia Senate leader seeks ways to sanction ‘tainted’ Willis over Trump charges

Georgia Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, discussed options Republicans could use to sanction Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis after she brought charges against former President Donald Trump involving his efforts to reverse the results of the 2020 election. “We believe she is definitely tainted,” Gooch said. “She’s politicizing this, and we want to make sure these people get a fair trial and a fair shake.” (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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Georgia Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, discussed options Republicans could use to sanction Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis after she brought charges against former President Donald Trump involving his efforts to reverse the results of the 2020 election. “We believe she is definitely tainted,” Gooch said. “She’s politicizing this, and we want to make sure these people get a fair trial and a fair shake.” (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

A Republican-led effort to reprimand District Attorney Fani Willis after she brought charges against former President Donald Trump in Fulton County is poised to expand, as state and federal lawmakers pursue new efforts to sanction the prosecutor.

State Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch said in an interview that Republican leaders could hold legislative hearings into whether Willis is using “her position in a political manner” after accusing Trump and his allies of a complex conspiracy.

The Dahlonega Republican also told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he sees Senate Bill 92, a new law that empowers a state panel to investigate and oust wayward prosecutors, as a powerful “tool in the toolbox” that Trump’s allies can deploy to delve into Willis’ use of public resources.

“We believe she is definitely tainted,” Gooch said. “She’s politicizing this, and we want to make sure these people get a fair trial and a fair shake.”

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

The two initiatives are part of a broader effort by Trump’s allies at the Georgia Capitol and the U.S. Congress to punish Willis over the 51-count indictment, which accuses Trump and 18 co-defendants of a sprawling “criminal enterprise” to reverse his 2020 defeat.

U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde wants to use an upcoming appropriations bill to slash federal funding for Willis, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and federal special counsel Jack Smith. Each is a top prosecutor in one of the four cases Trump is currently facing.

And U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, is among the GOP members who urged the House Judiciary Committee to launch an investigation into how much her office receives in federal dollars and whether it has interacted with White House officials.

Willis, who has long predicted the attacks, has declined to comment. But the district attorney said earlier this month when announcing the indictments that she acted “based on the facts and the law.”

“The law is completely nonpartisan,” she said. “That’s how decisions are made in every case.”

Gooch noted there are limits to GOP attempts to exact revenge against Willis. He echoed other party leaders by condemning a fruitless petition by state Sen. Colton Moore, a first-term Republican, to force a special legislative session to impeach Willis. Such a maneuver requires support of three-fifths of the Legislature, meaning it needs Democratic votes.

“We want to make sure we calm down, we look at this stuff deliberately and we do it in a mature way,” said Gooch, who said he’s repeatedly talked with Moore about dialing back his critiques of fellow Republicans, whom he recently described as “buzzard cowards.”

Credit: Michael Blackshire/AJC

Credit: Michael Blackshire/AJC

As for Moore, he indicated he has no intention of toning down his rhetoric. He said his GOP colleagues should be furious that one of their own, state Sen. Shawn Still, was among those charged in the indictment. Still has said he did nothing wrong when he served as a fake GOP elector.

“To hear that I need to tone it down when I’m encouraging my colleagues to do their legislative duty is absolutely ridiculous,” Moore said, “and I hope of people of Georgia see what’s going on.”

Here’s the AJC’s interview with Gooch, edited for clarity:

On state Sen. Colton Moore’s call for a special session to oust Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis:

“Most of the people in the caucus would say they feel just as upset and angry about what’s going on as Colton does. They want to do something. We haven’t made a decision on what actions can and should be taken. But having a special session requires a process, and we simply do not have those votes. You’d have to have Democratic support. And what would you do if you had a special session? In order to impeach someone, the House would have to pass a resolution, then it would come over to the Senate for a trial that would require a two-thirds majority of the Senate — and there’s simply no way we’d have the numbers to do that as well.”

On the new prosecutorial oversight commission:

“We firmly believe that Willis’ office is being used for political purposes, and that it’s being weaponized against Republican candidates running for office. We’re just as upset as Sen. Moore is, but we have a job to do. We’ll be prepared for Oct. 1 when Senate Bill 92 goes into full effect and that commission is put into place. There could be complaints filed by various people. … And that will give people the opportunity to file a complaint to take the politics out of it more than trying to have an impeachment hearing.”

On other options to sanction Willis:

“One idea is to have the Government Oversight Committee to call hearings to bring witnesses in to testify and answer questions about just how the office is being run. … We are concerned about her using her position in a political manner and not to do the job that she’s sworn her oath to do.”

On why he’s seeking retribution against Willis:

“There’s a lot of angry people in this state on both sides of this issue. But there’s still a majority of the Republican base who feel like there was fraud in the 2020 election, and they don’t feel like it was completely vetted properly and investigated. And that’s why a lot of these people are still upset today. They don’t feel like they were heard. And I think Colton Moore resonates with those people, and they support what he’s saying, but maybe not the way he’s saying it and the way he’s conducting himself in the chamber.”

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