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Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor to Face Inquiry for Role as Fake Trump Elector

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones of Georgia will be investigated for his role as a bogus elector for Donald J. Trump in the 2020 presidential election, a state official said Thursday.

Fani T. Willis, the prosecutor in Fulton County, Georgia, has already brought racketeering and other charges against Mr. Trump and several of his top allies in a wide-ranging election case. But she was disqualified in 2022 from continuing her investigation into Mr. Jones, a Republican, because she hosted a fundraiser for his political rival.

By law, when a prosecutor assigned to a case is found to have a conflict of interest, the head of the Georgia Prosecutors Council, a state government entity, is responsible for choosing a replacement. After facing criticism for not moving more quickly to find a new prosecutor, Pete Skandalakis, the council’s executive director and a former prosecutor, said Thursday he would do the job himself.

“I will take care of Burt Jones,” Mr. Skandalakis, a Republican, said in a text message Thursday. He refused to elaborate on the subject. His decision was previously reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Trump campaign recruited fake presidential electors in 2020 in a number of swing states where Mr. Trump was defeated, as part of an effort to circumvent the outcome of the vote. Twenty-four of those voters face charges in three states.

Ms. Willis, a Democrat, chose to enter into cooperative agreements with most of Georgia’s bogus voters, but she indicted three who had prominent political roles in the state, including David Shafer, the former head of the State Republican Party. At the time of the 2020 election, Mr. Jones was a state senator.

Mr. Jones was an early supporter of Mr. Trump in Georgia. He is now widely seen as setting the stage for a gubernatorial campaign in 2026, when Gov. Brian Kemp will be unable to run for reelection due to term limits.

“I am pleased to see this process moving forward and look forward to the opportunity to put this charade behind me,” Mr. Jones said in a statement Thursday. “Fani Willis made a mockery of this legal process, as she tends to do. I look forward to a speedy resolution and moving forward in the affairs of the State of Georgia.

Mr. Kemp has had a strained relationship with Mr. Trump. Mr. Kemp refused when Mr. Trump asked him to help overturn his narrow defeat to Joseph R. Biden in the 2020 presidential election. But Mr. Kemp said he would support Mr. Trump in the race to 2024.

In addition to serving as a bogus elector for Mr. Trump in December 2020, Mr. Jones advocated for a special session of the state legislature to be called to overturn Mr. Trump’s defeat in Georgia, and signed a lawsuit seeking to do the same. Both efforts failed,

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Mr. Jones traveled to Washington on January 5, 2021, to try to persuade Vice President Mike Pence to delay the certification of the Electoral College votes, although Mr. Jones told the media that he ultimately did not do so. raise the issue with Mr. Pence.

Mr Jones has since defended these actions.

“I mean, what people were doing — and this is not something new — people were asking questions about the election,” he said in a September 2023 interview.

Mr. Skandalakis spent more than a quarter century as an elected prosecutor in a five-county region southwest of Atlanta and had experience handling other sensitive and high-profile cases.

In 2021, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr appointed him to investigate the fatal police shooting of Rayshard Brooks, who fought with two Atlanta officers in 2020 and was shot in the back as he fled. Mr. Skandalakis announced in August 2022 that the charges against the police officers would be dropped.

The indictment of Mr. Trump and his co-defendants in Fulton County thrust Mr. Skandalakis into the spotlight in a different way. Although a number of Georgia Democrats view him as impartial, he has also been criticized for being slow in choosing a prosecutor to handle Jones’ case. A group of Georgian lawyers filed a complaint against him, accusing him of dragging his feet. One of the lawyers, Wayne Kendall, accused Mr. Skandalakis of delaying his choice for political reasons.

On Thursday, Mr. Kendall said he would drop the lawsuit if Mr. Skandalakis continued with his plans to take on the Jones case.

In an interview earlier this year, Mr. Skandalakis acknowledged that it had been difficult to find a prosecutor to replace Ms. Willis. Georgia’s 50 prosecutors are all elected in partisan contests, and he was almost guaranteed to draw criticism from one side or the other regardless of his choice.

Practical issues were also at play. One prosecutor, District Attorney Tasha M. Mosley of Clayton County, a Democrat, told the New York Times that Mr. Skandalakis asked her at one point whether she would be interested in taking in charge of the matter. But Ms. Mosley said she declined because her office lacked sufficient resources.

Mr. Skandalakis also had the option of choosing a lawyer in private practice. But he said few such lawyers would be likely to take the case because the law would prevent them from being paid more than $70 an hour.

Mr. Skandalakis’s moves regarding Mr. Jones have been closely watched because defense lawyers in the Trump case have sought to force the disqualification of Ms. Willis and her entire office on the grounds that his relationship romantic relationship with a subordinate had created an untenable conflict. of interest in the case.

The trial judge in the Trump case allowed Ms. Willis to stay there, but defense attorneys are trying to appeal that decision. If Ms. Willis is ultimately removed from the case, it would once again be up to Mr. Skandalakis to choose her replacement.

And if that were to happen, the issues that made Jones a challenge for him — including accusations of partisanship and the limited resources of potential replacements — would be even more daunting.

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With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class.After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim.Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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