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Experts call Trump efforts to thwart Georgia election interference probe ‘meritless’

A former special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during Trump's first impeachment trial said the ex-president's legal argument is “dead on arrival.”

ATLANTA (CN) — Legal experts agree with a Georgia district attorney that arguments from Donald Trump’s lawyers seeking to quash her investigation’s findings come up short.

Attorneys representing the former president filed an extensive motion in March, arguing that Georgia’s laws surrounding the use and functions of a special purpose grand jury are "unclear and sometimes contradictory," making them unconstitutionally vague.

They further requested for the judge overseeing the case to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis' office from investigating Trump and to quash the release of the full final report authored by the special grand jury and any of their recommendations for indictments.

Trump's motion was joined last month by Cathleen Latham, who served as one of the several fake GOP electors and is the former head of the Republican Party in Coffee County, where she greeted data technicians hired by a Trump campaign attorney to copy confidential elections data from voting machines at the county's elections office in January 2021.

Willis' team responded as instructed by Fulton County Superior Judge Robert McBurney, asking that the motion be dismissed or denied as appropriate without a hearing in a 24-page court filing Monday.

"The movants advance constitutional arguments for which they have no standing and which fail to demonstrate the unconstitutionality of pertinent statutes," wrote Willis and one of her colleagues, Donald Wakeford. They added that most of Trump's arguments are "barred by lack of standing, untimeliness, and other procedural flaws, and any remaining arguments are without merit.”

Law experts say they agree.

"In my opinion, the Trump motion is entirely without merit," said Clark Cunningham, professor at the Georgia State University College of Law.

Cunningham said that he found Willis' response to be "persuasive," with the most powerful point made being that Trump’s request to prevent evidence presented to the special grand jury from being used in any future criminal proceedings is inconsistent with well-established Georgia law that injunctions of criminal investigations are not allowed.

The institution of a special purpose grand jury has also been repeatedly recognized by Georgia courts, according to Norman Eisen, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution and expert on law, ethics and anti-corruption.

Eisen, who served as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during Trump's first impeachment trial, said the former president's argument "is dead on arrival."

Georgia law allows for special purpose grand juries to conduct investigations akin to regular grand juries, according to Anthony Michael Kreis, assistant professor of law at Georgia State University College of Law.

"It does not create confusion or leave any person uncertain about what their duties under the law are, which could create a vagueness problem," said Kreis. "The Trump team is using this motion as a delay tactic, which I doubt will succeed." 

Glen Smith, a political science professor at the University of North Georgia, also said he views Trump's motion as a delay effort, so as to not negatively impact his chances for reelection next year in the Republican primary.

A number of news media outlets including CNN, the Associated Press and the New York Times filed a separate motion Monday also in opposition to Trump's motion to expunge the special grand jury's final report, arguing it is of huge public concern and should be released in its entirety.

Trump's legal team argued that releasing the final report's findings violates the former president’s rights to fundamental fairness and due process. However, neither Trump nor Latham were subpoenaed to testify before the special grand jury over the course of their eight-month probe.

The media groups said in their motion that nothing in the final report subjects the former president to arrest or deprives him of "life, liberty, or property" under the 14th Amendment.

According to Cunningham, their argument that harm to reputation is neither sufficient to state a due process claim or a request under Georgia law to seal court records is "persuasive."

Trump’s lawyers — Drew Findling, Jennifer Little and Marissa Goldberg — said in a statement that the DA’s response “failed to address several of the critical substantive issues which were discussed at length in our brief and exhibits.” They said they will be asking Judge McBurney for permission to file a response to Willis' filing.

Willis revealed in a letter sent to Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat last month that she expects to announce her charging decisions sometime between July 11 and Sept. 1. She asked that Labat make preparations for “heightened security and preparedness” with state and federal law enforcement agencies, because she predicts her announcement may provoke a significant public reaction.”

The probe was first launched by Willis over two years ago to examine “the multistate, coordinated efforts to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere," according to court filings, after the infamous Jan. 2, 2021. phone call in which then-President Trump pressed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to overcome Joe Biden's victory in the Peach State.

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