HomeWorld NewsGeorgia governor pressured to publicly back Fani Willis in Trump case – USA TODAY
Georgia governor pressured to publicly back Fani Willis in Trump case – USA TODAY
August 26, 2023
ATLANTA − A Georgia faith leader representing more than 530 churches is calling upon Gov. Brian Kemp to publicly oppose Republican efforts to remove or discipline Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.
Many state and national GOP lawmakers, not to mention Trump himself, have criticized Willis as a “partisan hack” and have proposed launching investigations and pursuing sanctions against her over the case, which marks the fourth indictment against the former president amid his bid to return to the White House.
“We strongly call upon you to make it publicly known that you do not support the calls of those who seek an investigation of (Willis),” Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, head of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Georgia, wrote in a letter sent Friday.
Georgia Republicans pitched the change as an oversight policy, which Kemp celebrated in May as a way to hold “rogue or incompetent prosecutors” accountable. The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A statement from Kemp would “put to rest this divisive, polarizing, partisan and inflammatory attempt to disrupt our state and its people,” according to Jackson, who notes how Kemp testified to the grand jury in the case and has rejected Trump’s false claims that the presidential contest was stolen in previous public comments.
Worry for Willis rooted in Ron DeSantis removing Florida prosecutor
Concerns over Willis’s removal and the demand that Kemp assure the public have been raised by her supporters and other Democratic allies largely due to the criticism she has faced.
“As a result of the indictment there has been outrage, cries of hatred, racism and violence,” he said.
The letter to Kemp also comes on the heels of Democrats and their allies denouncing a move by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who last month suspended State Attorney Monique Worrell, an elected prosecutor for Orange and Osceola counties.
DeSantis, who is running against Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, contended that Worrell, who like Willis is a Black Democrat, failed to pursue appropriate charges in serious cases.
Jackson emphasizes in his letter there is no evidence Willis has acted in a partisan way or violated any laws in the election interference case against Trump. Such action is, “totally unnecessary and inappropriate,” he wrote.
New commission ‘only real possible risk’
Clark Cunningham, a law professor at Georgia State University, told USA TODAY there are only limited circumstances in which Kemp could remove Willis from office.
In Georgia, the only direct power a governor has to suspend a district attorney is if they are indicted for a felony. If the district attorney is then convicted, the governor can remove them from the position. Additionally, if a district attorney’s office becomes vacant, the governor has the power to appoint a replacement until the next election.
But Cunningham pointed out how the new panel mentioned in Jackson’s letter has the power to remove a district attorney. He called it the “first of its sort in the country,” saying a similar commission in New York can only recommend disciplinary actions against a prosecutor.
“The only real possible risk of her being removed would be through this new Prosecuting Attorney’s Qualifications Commission,” Cunningham said.
Republican officeholders have appointed all of the members of the commission, which will begin accepting complaints Oct. 1.
And there’s already one person in line to file the first complaint.
Georgia state Sen. Clint Dixon said earlier this week he “will be ready to call for an investigation” once the committee begins, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.
House Judiciary launches investigation
Willis is facing growing scrutiny outside of the Peach State, especially with Trump’s allies in Washington.
The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to her on Thursday launching an inquiry into whether she coordinated with federal officials for the indictment of Trump.
The committee, chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, demanded information from Willis regarding any communication she had with the Justice Department, the office of Special Counsel Jack Smith who also indicted Trump and executive branch officials. They set a Sept. 7 deadline to receive correspondence.
“Your indictment and prosecution implicate substantial federal interests, and the circumstances surrounding your actions raise serious concerns about whether they are politically motivated,” Jordan wrote in the letter.
Jordan also questioned Willis’s motivation for the indictment, the timing of filing ahead of an election year and for her office coordinating with Special Counsel Smith during the investigation.
Jordan also writes that Willis launched a new campaign fundraising website days before the indictment highlighting the Trump investigation and claimed the forewoman of the special grand jury Willis convened “bragged during an unusual media tour” about subpoenaing Trump.
It isn’t the first time House GOP lawmakers went after a prosecutor.
Jordan previously demanded answers from Alvin Bragg, who charged Trump in New York with falsifying business records in connection with hush money payments to an adult film actress. Three House Republican chairmen called the indictment politically motivated. Jordan also subpoenaed a former prosecutor in Bragg’s office, Mark Pomerantz, who has written a book about his time in the office.
MTG speaks out against Willis, rallies to Trump’s defense
Hours before Trump surrendered to authorities, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, addressed reporters along with the former president’s supporters, and detractors, outside the Fulton County Jail where she condemned the prosecutor.
“My comment to Fani Willis is we’re going to make sure that she loses her job,” she said.
Greene, who called Willis a “disgrace” also previously called for Congress to defund Smith’s special counsel after he indicted the former president.
In the wake of the Trump indictments, other House Republicans have seized on the anger about the GOP base in attempt to carve out new criminal justice rules.
Rep. Russell Fry, R-South Carolina, in April introduced a bill − dubbed the No More Political Prosecutions Act − that would allow current or former presidents and vice presidents to move their own civil and criminal cases from state courts to federal courts.
“This isn’t about the rule of law. This is about a radical prosecutor’s political career. This is about keeping President Trump out of the White House. This is, and always has been, about election interference,” Fry posted on the platform X, formerly Twitter, after Trump was arrested in Georgia.