Georgia Supreme Court rules against Trump's efforts to block election probe grand jury

Former US President Donald Trump arrives to speak at the Turning Point Action conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, US, on Saturday, July 15, 2023. The Federal Election Commission reports due Saturday for the second quarter of 2023 will also show w

The Georgia Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that lawyers for former President Donald Trump have not been able to prove a reason for them to quash the grand jury investigation into whether he and his allies should be criminally charged for allegedly illegally meddling in the 2020 election.

The petition, filed last week, came days after Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney swore in two grand juries on Tuesday -- one of which is expected to hear evidence in the Georgia election case.  

In the petition, Trump's lawyers claim that the original special purpose grand jury that spent eight months hearing evidence went beyond its lawful purview and that attempts to quash the report and disqualify District Attorney Fani Willis have been ignored by McBurney.

"Stranded between the Supervising Judge's proactive passivity and the District Attorney's looming indictment, Petitioner has no meaningful option other than seek this Court's intervention," Trump's lawyers wrote.

The former president was asking Georgia's top court to bar the special purpose grand jury's report from ever being used in future legal proceedings, forbid Willis from introducing any evidence her office received from the special purpose grand jury to a regular grand jury, and disqualify Willis from acting in any proceeding involving Trump. 

Willis has previously commented that a similar motion by Trump was "procedurally flawed" and advances "arguments that lack merit."

The state Supreme Court noted in its five-page ruling Monday that Trump has a similar petition pending in Fulton County Superior Court. The justices unanimously declined to overstep the lower court, writing that Trump "makes no showing that he has been prevented fair access to the ordinary channels."

Regarding Trump’s attempt to block the prosecutors, the justices said his legal filing lacked "the facts or the law necessary to mandate Willis’s disqualification by this Court at this time on this record."

The state's highest court also ruled against Trump to throw out the special purpose grand jury report.

Willis has suggested that she is likely to seek charges in the case from a grand jury next month.

What are the allegations against Donald Trump in Georgia?

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis began investigating the allegations more than two years ago, shortly after a release of a recording of a phone call on Jan. 2, 2021, between then-President Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Mr. Trump suggested that Raffensperger could "find 11,780 votes" — just enough to overtake Democrat Joe Biden and overturn Trump’s narrow loss in the state. 


Fani Willis, the District Attorney of Fulton County, Georgia inside her office chambers in the Fulton County Justice Center Tower in Atlanta, Georgia on Tuesday, September 20, 2022. (David Walter Banks/Getty Images)

A special grand jury was convened and heard testimony from multiple witnesses including high-profile Trump allies, such as attorney Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and high-ranking Georgia officials, such as Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp.


Who else is accused of interfering in Georgia's 2020 election?

Prosecutors advised Giuliani and Georgia Republicans who served as fake electors that they were at risk of being indicted. A court filing in early May indicated that Willis had reached immunity deals with at least eight fake electors, suggesting they may be cooperating with authorities.


Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks during a news conference in Miami in July 2021. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

The Fulton County Special Purpose Grand Jury, which completed its work in January, recommended multiple indictments, according to the foreperson. However, the special grand jury did not have the power to issue indictments. That must be done by a regular grand jury that has the power to indict, according to Georgia law.

The former president and his allies have denied wrongdoing, and he has repeatedly described his phone call to Raffensperger as "perfect." His lawyers have called the Fulton County investigation "politically motivated." 


How does the grand jury process work in the Trump case?

In May, Willis notified local law enforcement leaders that she planned to announce a decision about charges in the 2020 election case between July 11 and Sept 1. In late June, she sent a letter to Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Ural Glanville indicating she plans to have much of her staff work remotely for most days during the first three weeks of August and asking that judges not schedule trials and in-person hearings during part of that time. 


Those dates correspond with when two regular grand juries are scheduled to hear evidence in a variety of cases. Each grand jury will have up to 23 members, with 3 alternates. During that time, they hear evidence in a variety of felony cases. One grand jury meets on Mondays and Tuesdays and the second grand jury meets Thursdays and Fridays. Their work takes place behind closed doors and is not open to the public or the media. 

Georgia law requires an indictment from a grand jury to prosecute in most felony cases. The grand jury will hear usually hear from law enforcement officers and investigators with the district attorney's office. After the case has been presented, they will deliberate and vote on whether to return a "true bill" or "no bill." If they return a "true bill," that means they think there is probably cause to believe the accused has committed th alleged crime or crimes. An indictment requires 12 members of the grand jury to vote in favor of charges. 

Once the indictment is presented in open court, it is filed with the clerk's office and the person who is charged will be booked and have their first court appearance.

The grand juries usually do not hear cases the first week they are seated.

Will Trump's federal indictment interfere with the Georgia case? 

It's not clear if an existing federal indictment involving the former president will interfere with the Georgia case. A federal grand jury indicted Mr. Trump in June for mishandling classified documents after leaving office. According to the indictment, the former president took sensitive papers with him to his Florida estate and then obstructed efforts by authorities to retrieve the documents. Trump stashed the documents in a bathroom, a ballroom and his bedroom, the indictment alleges. 


Trump was also arraigned in a Manhattan courtroom in April on charges of violating New York state law, in connection to hush money payments he is accused of making to a porn star during his 2016 campaign. 


If Trump is indicted, it will not prevent him from running for or winning the presidency in 2024. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.