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Georgia lawmakers clash over prosecutor oversight amid Trump probe

The Georgia House of Representatives passed a bill on Monday to create a commission that would have the power to discipline and remove state prosecutors, sparking a fierce debate among lawmakers over the motives and implications of the legislation.

House Republicans defend the bill as a way to hold prosecutors accountable

The bill, House Bill 881, would revive the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission, which was established last year but stalled after the state Supreme Court refused to approve its rules. The commission would consist of 12 members, including six appointed by the governor, three by the House speaker, and three by the lieutenant governor. The commission would be able to investigate complaints of misconduct, offenses involving moral turpitude, or conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the office into disrepute. The commission could then impose sanctions, suspend, or remove the prosecutor from office.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joseph Gullett, a Dallas Republican, said the commission was necessary to bring accountability to “rogue prosecutors” who abuse their office. He cited examples of prosecutors who have been accused of sexual harassment, mishandling cases, or violating ethical rules.

“This commission will now be able to begin their real work, which is bringing accountability to those rogue prosecuting attorneys who abuse their office,” Gullett said.

He also denied that the bill was directly aimed at Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is leading a criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia.

Georgia lawmakers clash over prosecutor oversight amid Trump probe

“Fani Willis-President Trump stuff is something that is happening, but it’s not the motivating factor of this legislation,” Gullett said.

House Democrats oppose the bill as a political interference in the Trump investigation

The bill faced strong opposition from House Democrats, who argued that the commission would be a partisan tool to undermine the independence and authority of prosecutors, especially Willis. They said the bill was a retaliation for Willis’ decision to pursue charges against Trump and his allies for pressuring state officials to find more votes for him and to overturn the election results.

“The commission will be able to unilaterally proceed and have the ability to interfere and undermine an ongoing investigation against Donald J. Trump,” said House Minority Whip Sam Park, a Lawrenceville Democrat.

“You are taking action to protect former President Trump from an ongoing criminal prosecution.”

Democrats also questioned the constitutionality of the bill, saying it would violate the separation of powers and infringe on the judicial branch’s authority to regulate prosecutors. They said the commission would be dominated by political appointees who could abuse their power to target prosecutors they disagree with.

“The question we should all ask is who will police this commission?” said Rep. Tanya Miller, an Atlanta Democrat.

“There is no doubt in my mind that this is about the former president and Fani Willis, which is unfortunate,” said House Minority Leader James Beverly, a Macon Democrat.

Senate launches an investigation into Willis over allegations of conflict of interest and misuse of funds

The House vote came three days after the Georgia Senate voted to open an investigation into Willis over allegations of having an improper romantic relationship and misusing public funds. The Senate approved a resolution to create a special investigative committee that would look into whether Willis has used state money to benefit herself by employing attorney Nathan Wade as a special prosecutor.

Wade is assisting Willis in the Trump investigation, as well as other high-profile cases, such as the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery and the Atlanta spa shootings. Wade is also representing Willis in a lawsuit filed by one of Trump’s co-defendants, Michael Roman, who is seeking to have Willis, Wade, and their offices disqualified from the case. Roman’s lawyer, Ashleigh Merchant, filed a motion on Jan. 8 accusing Willis of having an inappropriate romantic relationship with Wade that resulted in a conflict of interest.

Willis has yet to respond publicly to the allegations of a romantic relationship between her and Wade. But she vigorously defended Wade and his qualifications during a Jan. 14 service honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at a Black church in Atlanta. She suggested then that questioning of Wade is rooted in racism.

The Senate committee will consist of nine members, including six Republicans and three Democrats. The committee will have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents, and to report its findings and recommendations to the Senate.

Sen. Greg Dolezal, a Forsyth County Republican who will serve on the committee, said the investigation was not motivated by political payback, but by new facts that have raised concerns.

“If the goal was political payback, we would have done this months ago. The reality is as these new facts have come to light, it has caused great concern not only for us but constituents all over the state of Georgia,” Dolezal said.

There is no timeline for when the committee will begin its investigation. Willis’ office has not commented on the Senate’s action.


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