A judge on Monday denied Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s motion to squash a subpoena from the Fulton County district attorney investigating former President Donald Trump and his associates for potential election interference in 2020.
Yet, the ruling states Kemp cannot be forced to testify before the November midterms when the governor faces off a second time against Democrat Stacey Abrams.
In a six-page decision, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert C.I. McBurney said Kemp must honor the subpoena from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to testify before a special purpose grand jury, noting that “sovereign immunity wards off civil actions, not criminal ones.”
“Remaining is the question of when the Governor will need to honor his subpoena. The answer is after the 8 November 2022 general election,” McBurney wrote. “The Governor is in the midst of a re-election campaign and this criminal grand jury investigation should not be used by the District Attorney, the Governor’s opponent, or the Governor himself to influence the outcome of that election. 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. Once the election is over, the Court expects the Governor’s legal team promptly to make arrangements for his appearance.”
Willis opened her investigation after the disclosure of a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. On the call, Trump suggested that Raffensperger could “find” the exact number of votes that would be needed to flip the election results in Georgia. Trump has denied any wrongdoing. He has described the call as “perfect.”
The investigation’s scope has widened considerably since then. Over the past few weeks, Willis has been filing petitions for testimony from nearly a dozen high-profile Trump associates amid fears that Trump declaring himself a candidate in the 2024 presidential election could throw a wrench in her probe.
Raffensperger and some other state officials have already appeared before the special grand jury.
Lawyers for Kemp had argued that immunities related to his position as governor protect him from having to testify, accusing Willis of pursuing the subpoena for “improper political purposes.”
Either side could appeal Monday’s ruling by McBurney.
Last week, a federal appeals panel of judges agreed to delay the testimony of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Former New York City Mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who also fought the subpoena, ultimately testified in Atlanta last week.
More recently, Willis filed petitions on Thursday for former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, as well as lawyer Sidney Powell, James “Phil” Waldron and former Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn, to testify before the special grand jury.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.