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Judge delays Kemp's testimony in Georgia election probe
A judge ruled Monday that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp must testify before a special grand jury that's investigating possible illegal attempts by then-President Donald Trump and others to influence the 2020 election in the state — but not until after the November midterm election.
Lawyers for Kemp had argued that immunities related to his position as governor protect him from having to testify.
But Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who's overseeing the special grand jury, disagreed and said the governor must testify. But he did agree to a request from Kemp's lawyers to delay that testimony until after the Nov. 8 election, in which the Republican governor faces a rematch with Democrat Stacey Abrams.
"The sound and prudent course is to let the election proceed without further litigation or other activity concerning the Governor’s involvement in the special purpose grand jury’s work," McBurney wrote.
Kemp was previously scheduled to appear to deliver recorded testimony, but recent court filings show a breakdown in communication between the DA's office and attorneys for the governor as accusations of politicization flew.
The governor's attorneys argued Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis was turning the special purpose grand jury proceedings "into its own mechanism of election interference" and that Willis' team was delaying to hurt Kemp in the midterms. Willis' team said that Kemp's lawyers omitted emails from their communications and tried to manipulate the appearance of their conversations while baselessly attacking prosecutors.
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Either side could appeal the ruling.
A statement from the governor's office says McBurney “acknowledged the potential political impact of the timing of these proceedings and correctly paused” Kemp's involvement until after the election. The governor plans to work with Willis' team and the judge "to ensure a full accounting of the Governor’s limited role in the issues being investigated is available to the special grand jury.”
A spokesperson for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A delay could increase the likelihood that Trump will be a declared presidential candidate by the time the investigation moves toward its conclusion, further raising the political stakes.
Prosecutors have said they want to ask Kemp about contacts with Trump and others in the wake of the 2020 general election.
Willis opened the investigation early last year, prompted by a January 2021 phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger during which the then-president suggested the state's top election official could "find" the votes needed to overturn his loss. But the investigation's scope has widened considerably since then.
Raffensperger and some other state officials have already appeared before the special grand jury.