A judge in the southern U.S. state of Georgia on Monday refused efforts by former President Donald Trump to block a prosecutor from pursuing an indictment against him for trying to illegally overturn his pivotal 2020 election loss in the state to Democrat Joe Biden.
Trump had claimed that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis in Atlanta had overseen an investigation that was “confusing, flawed and, at times, unconstitutional.”
Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney ruled Trump’s claims were “either insufficient or else speculative and unrealized.”
The judge said, “They are insufficient because, while being the subject [or even target] of a highly publicized criminal investigation is likely an unwelcome and unpleasant experience, no court ever has held that that status alone provides a basis for the courts to interfere with or halt the investigation.”
McBurney said the former president could raise legal challenges to the Georgia investigation if he is indicted and when a judge is assigned to the case.
“Guessing at what that picture might look like before the investigative dots are connected may be a popular game for the media and blogosphere,” the judge wrote, “but it is not a proper role for the courts and formal legal argumentation.”
With a grand jury considering the case, Willis has signaled she could soon indict Trump and a host of aides linked to his efforts to upend the 2020 Georgia election result.
She told an Atlanta television station over the weekend, “The work is accomplished. We’ve been working for two-and-a-half years. We’re ready to go.”
As he sought to retain power after losing the 2020 election to Biden, Trump focused his election challenges on several states he narrowly lost to Biden, including Georgia. In the U.S. system of electing presidents, the winner is not determined by the national popular vote, but rather through separate outcomes in each of the 50 states, with the biggest states holding the most sway in the Electoral College vote count that determines the national winner.
In Georgia, Trump in early 2021 called state election officials and asked them to “find” him 11,780 votes, one more than Biden’s winning vote margin, so that Trump could win the state popular vote and its 16 votes in the Electoral College.
Trump is already facing criminal indictments in two other cases. The former president has said he also expects to be indicted in Georgia, as well as by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith.
Smith has told Trump the latter is a target of his national investigation of election interference and his role in fomenting the January 6, 2021, riot of Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers met to certify the 2020 election outcome.
Trump has denied all wrongdoing in the several criminal cases and investigations. Despite his mounting legal peril, polls show that Republican voters overwhelmingly favor him for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination to run again against Biden.
In one of the other criminal cases, also brought by Smith, Trump is accused of illegally retaining 32 highly classified national security documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida rather than turn them over to the National Archives as he was required to do when he left office.
In a superseding indictment handed up by a federal grand jury last week, Trump was accused of trying to get the property manager at Mar-a-Lago, Carlos De Oliveira, to erase security camera footage of boxes of classified material being moved in and out of a storage room at Mar-a-Lago.
De Oliveira, also accused in the case, made his first court appearance on Monday, but he did not enter a plea. He was freed on $100,000 bond and ordered to not discuss the case with others linked to the investigation.
On his Truth Social site Sunday, Trump assailed the allegation that he tried to delete the security camera video.
“Mar-a-Lago security tapes were not deleted,” Trump said. “They were voluntarily handed over to the thugs, headed up by deranged Jack Smith.”
“We did not even go to court to stop them from getting these tapes. I never told anybody to delete them,” he said. “Prosecutorial fiction & misconduct! Election interference!”