Fulton County judges recused from Trump's attempt to quash 2020 election probe grand jury

Former President Donald Trump's legal attempts to quash a Fulton County grand jury's investigation into whether he and his allies should be criminally charged for allegedly illegally meddling in the 2020 election will be heard by a Georgia judge from outside the county.

Thursday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville ruled that all active judges of the Fulton County Superior Court bench should be recused from the civil lawsuit Trump's lawyers filed District Attorney Fani Willis and Judge Robert McBurney.

The case will now be heard by a judge in Georgia's Seventh Judicial Administrative District, which covers an area including Bartow, Gordon, Cobb, Murray, Whitfield, Douglas, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Walker, Paulding, Floyd, Haralson, and Polk counties. The district's administrative judge is D. Scott Smith of the Cherokee Judicial Circuit. While one of the district's judges may hear the case, they could have the hearing at the Fulton County Superior Court. 

This ruling comes in the same month McBurney swore in two grand juries on Tuesday - one of which is expected to hear evidence in the Georgia election case.  

Trump had asked the Georgia Supreme Court to weigh in on his lawsuit, arguing that attempts to quash the report and disqualify District Attorney Fani Willis have been ignored by McBurney.

However, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday that the former president had not been able to prove a reason for them to quash the investigation, 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."

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. 

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.

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 probable cause to believe the accused has committed the alleged crime or crimes. An indictment requires 12 members of the grand jury to vote in favor of charges. 

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis holds a press conference on August 5, 2021. (FOX 5)

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. 

Donald Trump boards Air Force One before departing Harlingen, Texas on January 12, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)


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.