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Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor Will Be Investigated in the Trump Case. But by Whom?

A judge’s order to stop the district attorney of Fulton County, Georgia, from carrying out the inquiry caused a delay. Nobody has been chosen to take over as of yet. 

Election Interference Allegations in Georgia

Following allegations of election interference in Georgia’s past elections against former President Donald J. Trump and his 18 associates, a delicate question remains unanswered: Will Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, a long-time Trump supporter, also face criminal charges? A prominent figure in the southern swing state’s ambitious politicians? Mr. Jones was among the 16 Republicans who allegedly worked as fake voters for Mr. Trump in Georgia in an attempt to overturn the 2020 loss. Three of them face accusations of thuggery, including violations of the state’s racketeering laws. However, in 2022, a judge halted the investigation against Mr. Jones, citing conflict of interest as he had fundraised for his Democratic rival in the lieutenant governor’s race. The situation is complex, especially with the Georgia Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council, a state agency, being reliant on finding a special prosecutor for Mr. Jones’ case

Political Appointments and Concerns

In a recent interview, Republican and former District Attorney Mr. Scandalakis confirmed he would appoint a one-sided prosecutor for Jones’ case. He mentioned that he had previously dismissed some district attorneys, either due to their staff being too small to handle extra work or fearing their selection might appear biased. This week, Mr. Jared T. Williams, a Democrat, expressed his willingness to review Mr. Jones’ actions post the 2020 election, “if called upon.” His announcement underscored the dilemmas faced by Mr. Scandalakis. If he selects a Democrat for the job, there’s potential backlash from Georgia Republicans. Conversely, choosing a Republican could draw criticism from Democrats. Mr. Scandalakis admitted the situation was challenging but not distressing. He has faced similar circumstances throughout his career. However, he also acknowledged potential biases in some cases. Mr. Jones has expressed his intention to run for the governor’s seat in 2026. 

Further Considerations and Controversies

Mr. Scandalakis spoke highly of Mr. Williams, a former first-term district attorney who worked on criminal justice reform platforms. However, he expressed concerns about Mr. Williams’ involvement in a case challenging the creation of a review board for local prosecutors. Mr. Jones, as the chair of the state Senate, supported the new board, which was halted after a ruling by Georgia’s Supreme Court. Mr. Scandalakis had previously dismissed several prosecutors from the case, but names like Republican District Attorney for the Central Georgia Judicial Circuit, Jonathan Adams, and two Democrats from densely populated suburban counties, Sherri Boston of DeKalb County and Flynn D. Broady Jr. of Cobb County, were involved.  

On Wednesday, DeKalb County District Attorney Tasha M. Mosley, a Democrat, informed The New York Times that Mr. Scandalakis had recently inquired if she was interested in taking the case. She declined due to resource constraints, stating, “I can’t remove myself or other prosecutors from our pending homicide cases. So, to handle this, I’d need to appoint an outside lawyer. And I don’t have the funds.” All 50 Georgia district attorneys have been elected in partisan contests. Mr. Scandalakis could seek an external attorney to reduce partisan tensions, but legal restrictions limit payments above $70 per hour. He remarked, “Finding someone willing to do it for $70 an hour is nearly impossible.” The 67-year-old Scandalakis could also appoint himself as a special prosecutor, which wouldn’t be his first high-profile case. In 2021, Georgia’s Attorney General, Chris Carr, appointed him to investigate the fatal police shooting involving Richard Brooks, who had fought with two Atlanta officers in 2020. 

Mr. Scandalakis announced in August 2022 that the pending charges against the officers would be dropped. Mr. Jones did not respond to calls seeking comment on Wednesday. However, in the past, he described the Georgia investigation into election interference as a “misuse of power,” arguing that people like him were not violating laws but merely “questioning the elections.” The 44-year-old Jones, a scion of a wealthy Georgia family, often reminds voters that he was a former captain of the Georgia University football team. He is associated with the state Republican Party’s pro-Trump faction, which has been divisive. 

Trump’s Alleged Electoral Misdeeds

In December 2020, besides serving as a fake elector for Mr. Trump, Mr. Jones, who was a state senator at that time, represented Mr. Trump in a special session of the Georgia legislature, aiming to overturn Mr. Trump’s loss, signing onto an unsuccessful case. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Mr. Jones flew to Washington on January 5, 2021, to persuade Vice President Mike Pence to delay certifying the Electoral College votes, although Mr. Jones later told the news outlet that he did not ultimately do so. In December 2022, a special grand jury investigating election interference in Georgia recommended charges against Mr. Jones, including fraud. The jury also recommended charges against other individuals, including Mr. Trump, against whom allegations were ultimately made. Recent actions by Mr. Jones suggest he might be serious about running for governor in 2026. The current governor, Brian Kemp, a Republican, has a strained relationship with Mr. Trump. 

Jones’ Political Maneuvers

In November, Mr. Jones unveiled an ad attacking Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a likely Republican primary opponent, whom Mr. Trump pressured in January 2021 to “find” enough votes to overturn his electoral defeat in Georgia. Jones is also facing a separate civil case filed by four Georgia voters, demanding his removal from office, alleging he participated in “rebellion and insurrection” when he submitted false claims of Georgia’s voter fraud. 

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