A Georgia judge on Monday gave Gov. Brian Kemp a precious gift, allowing him to postpone his testimony about former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election until after the state's gubernatorial election in November.
Kemp's legal team pleaded with the court to throw out a subpoena requiring him to testify before a grand jury investigating Trump and his allies' attempts to meddle in the state's election results. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is leading the investigation.
Trump reportedly called Kemp in December 2020 to pressure him into helping overturn the results. But Kemp and his team argued last week he shouldn’t have to testify because his response to Trump — whatever it was — is covered by executive privilege, and because the testimony would occur too close to November’s election.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney denied Kemp's motion to quash the subpoena, but gave up ground to the governor's team on that latter point.
The judge’s rationale is unconscionably generous to Kemp. And in my view, with this ruling, McBurney is engaging in the very election interference the court says it wants to avoid. This passage is particularly worrying.
“The Governor is in the midst of a re-election campaign and this criminal grand jury investigation should not be used by the District Attorney, the Governor’s opponent, or the Governor himself to influence the outcome of that election,” McBurney wrote. “The sound and prudent course is to let the election proceed without further litigation or other activity concerning the Governor’s involvement in the special grand jury’s work.”
This ruling is such a political gift to Kemp, I think McBurney should have to declare it on a tax filing. Why, after all, don’t Georgia voters deserve to know their incumbent governor’s role — be it obstacle or enabler — in an anti-democratic plot to overturn his state’s election results? And why shouldn’t the governor’s political opponent be able to use his role in that investigation against him? These are both matters of incomparable importance.
You can hardly imagine these concessions being given to common folk who find themselves on the receiving end of a DA’s subpoena.
By nature, aiding Kemp’s refusal to testify in the investigation is almost certainly helping him politically. Trump just this month said he was keeping an eye on Kemp’s actions in order to determine whether Kemp deserves an endorsement. That is, the endorsement Kemp likely thinks he needs to propel him to victory over Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams this fall.
“We’ll be looking at everything,” Trump said recently when he was asked about possibly endorsing Kemp.
Contrary to McBurney’s ruling, postponing Kemp’s testimony won’t stop his opponent from using the investigation against him. Abrams has been hammering Kemp on his refusal to testify, and certainly that won’t stop. What McBurney did do, tragically, is postpone the administration of justice to the benefit of a powerful Republican trying to hold on to power.
It’s a very Trumpian decision that’s sure to make the former president proud, and for more reasons than one.