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Georgia governor challenges subpoena in Trump election interference probe

Attorneys for the Republican governor – who filed a motion to quash his subpoena the night before his scheduled grand jury appearance – accuse prosecutors of playing political games.

ATLANTA (CN) — Attorneys for Georgia Governor Brian Kemp argued before the Fulton County Superior Court on Thursday to block or modify his subpoena in the special grand jury investigation of potential coordinated, criminal interference in the state's 2020 presidential election results.

The motion, which accuses Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis' office of "gamesmanship" and being politically motivated, was filed last week on the night before the Republican governor was scheduled to testify before the 23-person special grand jury.

His testimony is sought by prosecutors primarily due to statements made by Donald Trump at a rally he held in Perry, Georgia, in September 2021. The former president told attendees that he “called his people” and told them to “find out what happened” in the state because there was “something wrong with this election," and specifically called out Kemp for not doing something about it.

Like many others who have been declared witnesses in the probe and have challenged their subpoenas, Kemp's legal counsel claimed that it invades his attorney-client and executive privileges as a sitting governor.

One of his attorneys, Derek Bauer, referred to Kemp as "the king" and argued that sovereign immunity completely shields him and other state officials from jurisdiction without their consent.

However, the district attorney's office, which launched the investigation last year, argued that sovereign immunity only protects the governor from a lawsuit, not from being called in as a witness.

"This is not an investigation of the governor. If the governor was to fall into a category it would be victim," said Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who is overseeing the grand jury.

The Judge said that these privileges do need to be explored, however, since the governor is being summoned due to his official authority, which differs than if he was someone who witnessed a car accident or a fight.

Last month, Kemp was scheduled to provide prosecutors with a sworn video statement, but they canceled it and issued him a subpoena to appear in person before the grand jury for being "uniquely knowledgeable about the election interference
matters being investigated by the grand jury since he was personally involved in the conversations at issue."

Kemp's attorney Brian McEvoy outlined a drawn-out quarrel of back and forth emails, detailing miscommunications between himself and the DA's office, which he argues intentionally delayed issuing Kemp's subpoena while he runs for reelection.

Prosecutors in Willis' office argued that they intended to avoid grand jury activity after early voting begins in October to prevent election distractions.

McEvoy asked the judge to at least postpone Kemp's grand jury appearance until after the current election cycle is over, out of concern that it may impact him politically with the media attention surrounding the investigation.

"But that political impact was from your decision to file the motion," said McBurney, who told the attorney that if Kemp's team wanted to avoid more media attention, they should've appeared on the date they agreed to.

According to the prosecutors, if Kemp had appeared last week as scheduled, no one would have even noticed because most of the media was under the impression that he had already testified last month and were unaware that his scheduled video statement was cancelled.

"The public perception was that Movant had already cooperated and spoken with the District Attorneys Office, and if he had appeared, that perception would never have changed. Instead, he waited until the day before his appearance and filed this motion accusing the District Attorney of engaging in political games," their response to the motion stated.

McBurney did not say when he will issue his ruling, but Kemp's legal team said that if he decides to reject their motion they will attempt to appeal.

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