Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is resisting a grand jury subpoena from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is investigating criminal interference in Georgia’s 2020 election by Donald Trump and his cronies. The question is why?
Indeed, we wouldn’t even have known that Kemp had been subpoenaed for the closed-door hearing if wasn’t for the 121-page motion his legal team filed with the Fulton County Superior Court. After refusing to provide sworn testimony by video in July, Willis’ office emailed Kemp’s lawyer Brian McEvoy on August 9, compelling Kemp to testify this past Thursday, August 18. However, his legal team filed a motion to quash the subpoena, which raises some real questions given that Willis had described Kemp as a “mere witness”. What questions is Kemp trying to avoid answering under oath? What’s he trying to hide?
Dennis Bernstein Greg, you are honed in like a laser beam in Atlanta, and that lady there ain’t messing around — that is for damn sure. The District Attorney there ain’t taken no junk from no one. We’re gonna see some interesting things unfolding. Let’s just start with the new developments around Trump’s attempt to overturn the election…What does Brian Kemp’s name have to do with this? Why is he suddenly in the middle?
Greg Palast Well, very big news, and he’s put himself in the middle. Fani Willis is the District Attorney of Fulton County, which is the big hunk of Atlanta, and she is investigating whether Trump illegally tried to overturn the election in Georgia. She hasn’t named him yet, or even subpoenaed him — named him as a target — but she has named Lindsay Graham and others, including Rudy Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani was forced to testify yesterday before her grand jury.
Now, understand that the complaint against her, by Trump and Kemp and everyone else, is that this is political, these subpoenas, this whole investigation…And they keep saying, “Atlanta Democrat” — that’s code word for Black. She’s a Black woman, but all of her actions have been approved and ordered by Republican justices.
Now she’s subpoenaed Brian Kemp, this is interesting. Brian Kemp is the Governor of Georgia, he’s running for reelection against Stacey Abrams, and he’s also the star of my film Vigilantes: George’s Vote Suppression Hitman. And so why is Kemp involved in this? Because, here’s the interesting thing: Kemp was the guy who did say he thought the election was probably correct. Understand that Trump had called him several times, as well as the Secretary of State, to say overturn the election, that is don’t call a special session of the legislature and don’t certify the results. In other words, don’t send anyone to the electoral college for Georgia. Kemp said that’s against the Georgia constitution, I have no authority to call a special session, I have no authority to overturn and decertify this election.
You have to understand it’s not like Kemp doesn’t love Trump. Trump endorsed him, they were hand in hand, cheek to cheek when Kemp was running for governor against Stacey Abrams. They were very close. Kemp was a massive supporter of Trump’s reelection in Georgia. But, apparently, he wasn’t willing to go to prison for Agent Orange. Now, the question is, what’s going on here with the subpoena?
Bernstein Well, let’s, let’s talk about the subpoena, but first just say a little bit more about who Fannie Willis is… She really demonstrated when she dismissed Kemp’s attorney… Kemp’s attorney was saying this is a political investigation, I’m not gonna show up. She says, not only are you gonna show up, but I was gonna give you a little extra privilege and let you come into the grand jury room, but now you’re gonna sit outside. And she is an expert on the RICO statute, so she is coming in through that organized crime door — tough woman!
Palast Yes, tough woman. She’s very tough. In fact, a lot of African American officials thinks that she’s way too tough, she goes for the handcuffs right away, but no one doubts that she knows exactly what she’s doing as a prosecutor. So, understand, when you’re called before a grand jury, you don’t get the right to a lawyer. If you’re the target, like Giuliani was, you can keep taking the Fifth Amendment, and I imagine that he basically did nothing but take the Fifth Amendment. ‘Cause Rudy blabs too much, he would’ve told us all the wonderful things he said.
Bernstein Well, his attitude changed a little bit on the way in there, ‘cause he knows who he’s going before.
Palast Well, remember, he was a federal prosecutor. He knows he’s facing hard time breaking rocks on a chain gang in Georgia… He saw HUD and those other those other films with Paul Newman, I don’t think he’s looking forward to that, so I’m sure he took the Fifth. But, again, I have to speculate ‘cause it is a secret grand jury proceeding. In addition, like I said, you don’t get a lawyer. But Kemp was claiming executive privilege as governor — that’s kind of like monarchic privilege. I am too important as governor of Georgia to answer questions about a crime in which I’m a witness. And, as Fannie Willis, the prosecutor said to the court, and said to his lawyer, he is merely a witness — what is the problem here? Well, of course, it raises real questions. Because she not only was gonna let his lawyer hold his hand, she was gonna allow him to actually just do a remote hearing, go on a kind of a closed Skype system the court has, give the grand jury 20 minutes, say what happened on the phone calls with Trump and, you know, you’re on you way sir.
In fact, they never made it public. It was Brian Kemp who made it public, that he was being called in. Now, who the heck is going to announce that they’ve been called before a grand jury? But he did. He made it public and then said, oh, she’s doing this politically to harm me. Well, wait, she kept it completely silent. The other thing is, she was gonna let him have a lawyer, just come in by remote. No, no, no, he kept dragging his feet, until now he’s in the middle of his campaign for reelection. He says, she is forcing me to take time out of my campaign when it’s at its “crescendo” — that’s the word that they used, the crescendo of his campaign. Well, this is brand new. I’ve heard of diplomatic immunity, I’ve heard of executive privilege, but I’ve never heard of I’m-on-a-campaign privilege to be a witness in a criminal case. I don’t think you and I could do that, Dennis. Oh, I’m kind of busy, you know, we’ve got the Election Crimes Bulletin tonight, sorry, we can’t show up in court. Yeah, I think that the judge will have to hide his laughter. He’s gonna have to turn around from laughing Kemp out of court.
But the question is why. Why in the world, when the guy had basically a free ride – you can have your lawyer, you can call it in. What’s the problem? And I think the problem is he knows that if he has to talk… I think he also wanted to control… He wanted to know all the questions in advance and control the scope. They said you can’t do that. What are you talking about? That cannot be done. You’re an officer of the court, she told this lawyer, and you keep saying this is political, you’re gonna end up… He’s gonna end up with sanctions, believe me, you don’t play games like this with a grand jury. And what I think is going on here is, and what I want to know as a journalist who’s been hunting down Brian Kemp for 9 years — since he was the renegade Secretary of State of Georgia, really America’s Vote Suppressor in Chief with his really close friend Kris Kobach of Kansas — is what was [said] on those calls with Trump? I suspect that while the big public story that he said, nah, I’m not gonna overturn the election, he was probably spending a lot of time trying to figure out how he could actually in fact overturn the election — that’s one. And the second thing is that he signed a bill right after the election, a month after the January 6th riot, he signed this bill SB 202, which basically sets up to give him the power to do exactly what Trump wants.
I was just talking to Helen Butler. She’s considered Miss Vote in Georgia. She’s head of the late Reverend Lowery’s organization for voting rights [Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda]. She was also, because of her expertise in voting, on the Morgan County board of elections. And the first thing Kemp did after that law was passed was remove her. He’s removed 10 members of local boards of elections. I asked her, what’s going on here, for my film, I wanted to get it on camera. Why did Kemp remove you, immediately, as soon as he had the power? She said, because Trump called and said you have to de-certify the election. And the only way to do that in Georgia… Kemp, can’t do it. Kemp has to get local boards of election to not certify, refuse to certify their county’s vote. So, if he can pressure boards of election to de-certify in 2024, he can hand Trump what he wants in 2024. And I think that there may have been some discussion about what they’re gonna do in the future to change the law. I could see Kemp — ‘cause I’ve followed him for a long time — telling Trump, you know, Mr. President, well, I can’t do it now. It’s not in the law, but I’m gonna make it the law. And then, when you run again in 2024, I’ll make you president. I think that if he’s done that, then he’s in real trouble, not only with his reelection.
Bernstein So he’s worried about going from witness to target. You said that Graham was a target. He’s not a target, he’s just a witness.
Palast Excuse me, he’s a witness. But I think that he’s really on the unicycle going down that circus line to become named, and I’ll tell you why. As we mentioned in the last Election Crimes Bulletin, the real crime here is putting together a slate of fake electors and mailing them to National Archives to hand over to Congress, to hand over to the Vice President, Mr. Pence and say these are the electors who were voted by the people of Georgia to represent us at the electoral college. These are people who never were on the ballot. They never ran for electoral college. You can’t just take names out of the phone book who will swear that they’ll vote for you for president and declare that they’ve been made electors by the people of any state — that’s mail fraud. It’s a crime. It’s racketeering, especially under Georgia law, because it’s an easier case to make under Georgia law. Because under Georgia law, you don’t have to have enterprise. This is a little technical about racketeering law. To bring a racketeering case, which I’ve done for the Justice Department, you have to show usually a year’s long operation of an enterprise, like you’re the mob. But in Georgia, you don’t, you can have one instance. So, this one project of trying to jam through fake electors, that itself, that combined operation, if it’s Giuliani and the fake electors, Lindsay Graham and Trump, that’s absolutely a slam-dunk racketeering case under Georgia law — I can tell you that right now.
Bernstein Greg, you’ve been spending a lot of time in Georgia doing this investigation. And, obviously, the landscape for this is the fact that there are key elections in Georgia that could change the history of this country.
Palast Oh, yeah.
Bernstein Could you talk about how this plays as a backdrop to those elections? How does this interweave? What impact will this DA investigation have on those crucial elections?
Palast Well, I think, if Kemp is outed as having tried to fix the elections in Georgia, this is insulting to the people of Georgia. You have to understand that Giuliani came down to Georgia and said that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, their G-Men, are a joke now. Yes, they used to be like almost an arm of the Klan, but they’ve been cleaned up and they’re run by real professionals. And they did an investigation of Cobb County, the absentee ballots and whether [they were tainted]. If you remember, this whole game of “mules”, Black people stuffing the ballot dropboxes. They went through every single ballot, physically, and determined that not one was fraudulent out of tens of thousands. And Giuliani said that was a joke. This is a big problem in Georgia. Georgians are very proud of Georgia — you have to understand that. And they’re not too crazy about some guy with red stuff flowing down his face, this guy from New York, telling Georgians that they are a joke. Okay. So you got Rudy Giuliani telling people that they’re a joke.
This doesn’t help Kemp, you have to understand. So, he has to protect Georgia from what is seen down there by many as an attack on the integrity of Georgia. And don’t forget, when he said that the race in Cobb County was fixed, it was controlled by Republicans. So, Kemp is trying to play both ways against the middle. He still cuddles up to Trump. He says Trump has a problem with me, I don’t have a problem with Trump. After all, Kemp is ultra right wing. He just signed a law, basically, outlawing abortion in Georgia, because of the new Supreme Court ruling. He’s ultra, ultra right. Very close with the evangelicals. So, on one hand, he’s trying to sell himself, Kemp, as Trump’s buddy. On the other hand, he’s trying to take some of those independents who like the fact that he appeared to be standing up to Trump. He wants it both ways. And if the truth comes out, it’s gonna fall one way or the other. If he really did push back against Trump, I think he would’ve already just done that 20 minute quiet appearance before the grand jury. No one would’ve known about it, because if he doesn’t make it public, Fani Willis was not gonna make it public. He could have literally come in and out. So, why this crazy he’s resistance? He’s afraid of what will come out, because it’s amazing what happens, how your stories change when you’re under oath, as opposed to under a TV camera. You can say anything on a TV camera. Under oath, it’s what’s called a perjury trap. If he starts prevaricating, they’ll be reading him his rights. So, I think he knows that nothing he will say is gonna get him any votes and could be a real, real problem if any of it comes out.
Bernstein Wow, this is huge. I am interested… You called it from the beginning. You’ve been saying that this is the prosecution that could make all the trouble. And, obviously, a lot of people are frightened and you’ve got a prosecutor who’s not messing around, who’s got a special grand jury, but other things are happening. [Trump Organization CFO] Alan Weisberg was convicted on 15 felonies. They gave him five months, but he’s gotta say something or he’ll die on Rikers Island. And believe me, I can testify, having taught there five years, that ain’t no place to die. I can’t imagine him surviving a couple of weeks there anyway. Do you still think that this prosecution is gonna lead.
Palast Yes, well, Georgia’s central. I keep going back to Georgia. Here I am in Los Angeles, every year for nine years I end up in Georgia, ‘cause it’s always the center of the schemes to bend elections. Brian Kemp is no hero. Somehow, he got played as a hero just ‘cause he got in a fight with Donald Trump. We’re so crazy about Trump that we make heroes of anyone who gets in a fight with him. But, remember, he’s fighting him from the right. So, be very careful about that. In addition, if Stacey Abrams gets elected governor, this will be the first Black woman in American history ever elected governor in Georgia — deep, redneck Georgia. In addition, you have Reverend Raphael Warnock running for reelection — he was elected in the special election a year and a half ago, but to finish out a short term — and that’s a very close race. I know that that the liberal coastal press says, oh, he can’t lose to Herschel Walker, because there’s all these ads that Herschel Walker put a gun to his ex-wife’s head, all that type of stuff. Well, there’s a lot of gun owners in Georgia who have done the same thing. I’m not sure that’s gonna harm him. It’s not harming him in the polls. I mean, the fact that he was a wife beater doesn’t overcome the fact that he was a football hero. And this is Georgia, okay. He’s not a cricket star, he is a football hero. That’s a very big thing. Whereas Reverend Warnock is merely a minister, a man of God, not a man of football, so it’s gonna be a tight race.
And if Kemp is in trouble, if he gets indicted or he runs into other problems with the courts here, basically those races are up for grabs. So, they’re central in terms of the races, but, again, Fani Willis also has the advantage that she can tell a grand jury, make a decision on whether Trump or any of these other characters, Giuliani, et cetera, should be indicted. All she needs, ultimately, is to get a final approval from a judge. She does not have to ask the Justice Department, there’s no politicians. You just saw all the hell that broke loose because Merrick Garland personally approved the raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property. In the Justice Department, you can’t bring a racketeering case without the personal approval of the Attorney General, which makes it political. They even have policy papers that indictments should be timed to avoid any influence on elections. No such restrictions in Georgia. If Fani Willis has the evidence, she’s got the indictments, and she’s clearly circling in on Agent Orange.
Bernstein Right. And she’s not gonna be distracted. You’re listening to the Election Crimes Bulletin on Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. Greg Palast is our co-host for this weekly presentation. He is the fighter for your vote. He’s working on a new film, Vigilantes: Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hitman.
Palast The “vigilante” refers to Brian Kemp and his new law, which allows vigilante voter challenges. Anyone can challenge anyone. And so far 88 Republicans have challenged over a quarter million voters. By the way, not one Democrat has challenged one voter.
Bernstein Well, let me come back to that grand jury, because the other thing about it, we were talking about the fact that the DA is an expert in dealing with in RICO statutes and stuff like that.
Bernstein And it does seem like she’s going RICO, because the amount of people that she’s interested in, that she’s planning to subpoena, doesn’t that give us an indication that she’s going big?
Palast Oh, absolutely. I think that she’s going where the evidence is. You know, you can’t be submitting fake electors and not expect the cops to show up at your door. You can’t say the crime is too big to investigate. And she’s doing the right thing by doing a very systematic, careful grand jury review, witness by witness. Including, by the way, we haven’t mentioned the lesser known character, but very important on the right wing, Cleta Mitchell, who is an attorney who specializes in figuring out vote suppression schemes. She was actually on the call with Donald Trump to the state. And I wanna know if she was on the call with Brian Kemp. Because Brian Kemp’s vote suppression tactics looked like they were written by Cleta Mitchell and her organization, the Bradley Foundation, and True the Vote, these ultra right wing, basically anti-voter organizations. So, I don’t think we can get away from the issue of vote suppression and the attempt to overturn the election in Georgia. And I would like to see, I was hoping at some point that Fani Willis will open up the investigation even wider into the vote suppression tactics in general.