Tensions ran high between Fulton County, Ga., prosecutors and attorneys for two defendants in the sweeping election interference case involving former President Trump during a garden-variety hearing Thursday.
Snide comments were hurled, voices were raised and accusations were leveled by prosecutors and defense attorneys during the 90-minute hearing, where the parties asked Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee to rule on a handful of motions related to the grand jury that handed up an indictment in the case.
At one point, a defense attorney noted he should be allowed to continue an argument because the hearing was being “broadcast live.”
Defendants Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell — lawyers in Trump’s orbit who are accused of playing different roles in an alleged plot to keep the former president in power after he lost the 2020 presidential election — invoked their right to a speedy trial last month.
With their cases’ timelines hastened, McAfee has been holding weekly hearings specifically to consider the duo’s latest motions. Their attorneys returned to the courtroom Thursday.
In one such instance of ribbing between the attorneys, Powell attorney Brian Rafferty urged state prosecutors to put their arguments into writing so that defense attorneys could preview them before coming to court. He called their current practice “troubling” and said the case would proceed “a lot quicker” if the state would cede.
“This is a serious case,” Rafferty said.
Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor overseeing the state’s case, hit back that the state already had responded in writing.
“I don’t know if Mr. Rafferty has had the opportunity to check his filings. but the state has done that this morning,” he said.
During another heated exchange, Chesebro attorney Scott Grubman suggested one of the Fulton County prosecutors, Daysha Young, “lied to the court” about existing case law governing defense counsel’s right to talk with the grand jurors who handed up the indictment.
The two defendants were asking the court to allow them to speak with the grand jurors ahead of trial. They suggested Thursday that some jurors may have felt “bullied” into voting in favor of charging the defendants.
McAfee at one point jumped in to urge Grubman to stop his heated response.
“This is broadcast live,” Grubman interjected.
“Mr. Grubman, please let me finish, okay,” McAfee responded. “It’s not gonna be part of the consideration right now. If you want to handle that outside of the courtroom, that’s your business.”
After Grubman again asked to respond, McAfee ultimately relented.
“I cannot take Ms. Young’s word for it that it was done properly. Ms. Young is trying to send my client to prison, and we have the right to know if it was done properly,” Grubman said.
The judge ultimately signaled he would allow Powell’s and Chesebro’s attorneys to speak to the grand jurors, but they first need to propose a list of questions.
“I think for each question or subject matter you go into, I’m going to want to see a citation for how this is an actual relevant line of inquiry,” McAfee said at the hearing.
McAfee did not rule at the hearing on Chesebro’s motion to unseal transcripts from the special grand jury, a separate group of Fulton County citizens that did not vote on the indictment but previously recommended charges in the probe.
The judge said he would take the matter under advisement and rule at a later time.
McAfee also said the final motion he weighed at Thursday’s hearing, disclosing the identities of the 30 unindicted co-conspirators to the defendants, was mooted because prosecutors agreed to hand the information over.
Updated 1:18 p.m.