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Georgia Probe Hits Resistance 08/19 06:40


   ATLANTA (AP) -- Prosecutors investigating whether Donald Trump committed 
crimes as he sought to overturn his 2020 election defeat in Georgia are running 
into increasing resistance as they seek to call witnesses to testify before a 
special grand jury.

   The latest illustration of that came Wednesday, when lawyers for Republican 
Gov. Brian Kemp filed a motion to quash a subpoena for his testimony, accusing 
the office of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat, of 
pursuing his testimony for "improper political purposes." Willis rejected that 
characterization, describing it as dishonest.

   Kemp is just one of several witnesses who have pushed back against Willis' 
attempt to compel their testimony in a case investigating potential criminal 
interference in an election. Late Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham formally 
appealed a judge's order requiring him to testify before the special grand jury 
on Aug. 23. And John Eastman, a conservative lawyer who aided Trump's efforts 
to undo the 2020 election results, has also pushed back against his subpoena, 
with a judge in New Mexico on Wednesday rejecting his request and ordering him 
to travel to Atlanta to testify before the special grand jury.

   The witnesses' reluctance to testify in the case reflects the high stakes of 
the investigation, which is just one of a long list of serious legal threats 
that Trump is facing that have intensified in recent weeks. It also 
demonstrates the power that Trump continues to wield over the Republican Party 
as he prepares for an expected 2024 presidential campaign.

   Willis opened the investigation early last year, prompted by a January 2021 
phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. 
During that conversation, Trump suggested the state's top elections official 
could "find" the exact number of votes that would be needed to flip the 
election results in Georgia. Denying wrongdoing, Trump has described the call 
as "perfect."

   About a month earlier, Trump had called Kemp, asking him to order a special 
legislative session to overturn Biden's victory in the state.

   Kemp was scheduled to be questioned under oath by Willis' team on July 25 in 
a session that was to be recorded and later played for the special grand jury. 
Asked by The Associated Press later that day to confirm that the governor had 
appeared for that meeting, Kemp spokesperson Katie Byrd declined to comment, 
citing "respect for the grand jury process."

   As it turns out, Kemp never met with Willis' team.

   His lawyers wrote in their motion Wednesday that Willis' team canceled that 
meeting and issued a subpoena after Kemp's attorneys asked about the scope of 
the interview.

   Correspondence attached to the motion indicates that communications between 
Brian McEvoy, a lawyer for the governor, and the district attorney's office 
turned sour in mid-June and then fell apart in late July.

   In an email calling the investigation "politically motivated," McEvoy said 
Kemp would only sit for the interview if Willis' office agreed not to issue a 
subpoena for his testimony. He also demanded disclosure of questions and topics 
beforehand and said neither party could record the interview.

   Willis issued a scathing response, accusing McEvoy of being rude to her team 
and calling his email "offensive and beneath an officer of the court." She said 
she had offered the taped interview as a courtesy, but that that offer was now 
"off the table" and the governor would be subpoenaed.

   "There's an old adage that people take kindness for weakness. You have taken 
my kindness as weakness and you have continually treated this investigation 
with disdain," Willis wrote. "Despite your disdain this investigation continues 
and will not be derailed by anyone's antics."

   Kemp's subpoena called for him to appear before the special grand jury 
Thursday. Byrd said in an email that he had been excused from appearing pending 
a ruling on his motion to quash. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert 
McBurney, who's overseeing the special grand jury, has set an Aug. 25 hearing 
on the motion.

   In Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Wednesday, Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer ruled that 
Eastman was a material witness and had not proved that traveling to Atlanta 
would cause an undue hardship for him. Rejecting arguments from Eastman's 
lawyer, she said any concerns about attorney-client privilege and his right to 
assert the Fifth Amendment should be addressed by the judge in Atlanta.

   Eastman had told lawmakers during a Dec. 3, 2020, legislative committee 
hearing at the Georgia Capitol that they had "both the lawful authority and a 
'duty' to replace" the certified Democratic presidential electors, citing 
unfounded claims of widespread election fraud in the state, Willis wrote in a 
court filing.

   He also drafted at least two memos to the Trump campaign and others 
detailing a plan by which then-Vice President Mike Pence, as president of the 
U.S. Senate, could refuse to count some of the electoral votes won by Biden, 
Willis wrote.

   And in South Carolina on Wednesday, Graham appealed a judge's Monday order 
requiring him to testify before the special grand jury. Prosecutors have 
indicated they're interested in phone calls he made to Raffensperger and his 
staff in the weeks following the election.

   The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will consider Graham's request. 
Graham's legal team also asked a federal judge to put his special grand jury 
appearance on hold during the appeal process.



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