Lawsuit says Georgia’s lieutenant governor should be disqualified from serving as Trump’s elector

ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia judge heard arguments but did not rule Monday on a lengthy effort to disqualify Georgia Lt. Gov. Bert Jones from holding office because of Jones' involvement as an elector for Donald Trump in 2020. .

The lawsuit comes as a decision remains pending on whether to prosecute the Republican on state charges lack of special prosecutor Ready to take up the case.

A group of four Georgia voters, including the former head of the Atlanta branch of the NAACP, asked a judge on December 7 to declare that Jones was ineligible to hold office in Georgia because he violated his oath of office by signing his name. did. Electors for Trump. Democrat Joe Biden was certified as winning Georgia's 16 electoral votes in the 2020 election.

There are opponents across the country Trump's qualifications challenged to appear on the ballot, arguing that he was barred under a section of the U.S. Constitution that bars people "insurrection" from holding office. This provision was primarily used after the Civil War to keep former Confederates out of the government.

In the Georgia case, challengers argue that the same section bars Jones from holding office. This is because Jones, who was a state senator at the time, had taken an oath to support the US and Georgia Constitutions. They say Jones is "a heretic against the Constitution of the United States."

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Jones, who did not attend Monday's hearing, said the challenge is motivated by partisan politics.

"Like President Trump, I am being targeted by liberal Democrats intent on weaponizing the legal system against strong conservatives fighting for common sense conservative values," Jones said in a statement.

Jones' attorney William Dillon argues that the challenge lacks evidence to show that Jones "engaged in 'insurrection' against the United States or that he 'gave aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States'."

Superior Court Judge Thomas Wilson heard arguments Monday in Jackson's hometown of Jackson, Georgia, 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Atlanta. Wilson gave lawyers time to file additional briefs before rendering a verdict. Wayne Kendall, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a telephone interview after the hearing that he expected Wilson to decline the challenge. Kendall said he then hopes to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Of those convicted in August, only three worked as Trump electors and all were convicted of crimes beyond that.

An earlier special grand jury had recommended that Jones also be indicted on felony charges. But Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis was stayed by a judge By impeaching Jones. A judge ruled that Willis, an elected Democrat, had a conflict of interest because she hosted a fundraising event for the Democrat who lost to Jones in the 2022 election for lieutenant governor.

The Prosecuting Attorneys Council, a state agency that supports district attorneys, must appoint a special prosecutor to investigate whether Jones' actions were criminal. The council's executive director, Pete Skandalakis, said by text message Monday that he had not yet found a prosecutor to do so. Skandalakis said he hopes they eventually get a prosecutor.

Dillon said in a telephone interview that Jones believed he was working to preserve Trump's legal choices and the legal precedent for an alternative slate of electors. In court papers, they said Jones, like Robert Sinners, a Trump campaign official in Georgia, was defrauded.

"If Mr. Sinners, the acknowledged organizer of the Georgia Fake Electoral Scheme, feels that he has been deceived by the President's lawyers (Rudy Giuliani, Kenneth Chesbro and John Eastman) and became a 'useful idiot' in the scheme Dillon wrote, it boggles the imagination (even the vivid imagination of the petitioners) as to how the defendants could not have been deceived by the trio of learned lawyers representing President Trump at the time.

But Kendall said Jones also helped organize a legislative hearing where Giuliani and others made false claims about the election results, called a legislative session to award Georgia's 16 electoral votes to Trump, and carried out Georgia's Signed a legal brief in support of overturning the results. Jones has said that he flew to Washington on January 5, 2021, with a letter urging then-Vice President Mike Pence to delay the tally of Electoral College votes, only to say that he Decided not to give it to Pence after dinner with the Vice President.

Those who want Jones removed from office also say his claims of being misled by his continued support of Trump after January 6 are refuted. But Dillon said his continued support of Trump does not mean Jones has committed treason.

Dillon said, "If that were the standard, almost every Republican Party member in Congress or in office anywhere in the country would be subject to the same arguments that they have committed treason." "Clearly this is not the standard."

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