State Sen. Bill Cowsert
ATLANTA – The chairman of a state Senate committee formed to investigate allegations swirling around Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ election interference case against Donald Trump vowed Friday to oversee a fair but thorough probe.
“This is not going to be a partisan process,” Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, said during the initial meeting of the Senate Special Committee on Investigations. “It is not the charge of this committee to disqualify counsel … criminally prosecute anybody … (or) disbar anybody.
“Our job is to investigate these troubling allegations, determine what the facts are, and shine light on these facts.”
The Republican-controlled Senate voted along party lines late last month to form the committee after one of Trump’s co-defendants in the case filed a motion accusing Willis of being involved in an improper relationship with the special prosecutor she hired to pursue the investigation. Trump later joined the motion, which seeks to disqualify Willis from the case.
Willis responded to the allegations last week with a court filing in which she acknowledged a “personal relationship” with Nathan Wade but argued it does not constitute grounds for dismissing the racketeering indictment against Trump and 18 co-defendants or for disqualifying her. A federal court hearing on the motions is scheduled for Feb. 15.
The state Senate has the legal authority to launch investigations, including the power to subpoena witnesses and take depositions from witnesses testifying under oath.
But Cowsert noted senators have rarely sought to make use of that investigative authority. In light of that, he drafted a dozen rules that will govern the committee’s activities.
The rules guarantee that at least one minority Democrat must sit on each subcommittee the main panel decides to form, and that Democrats will be afforded the opportunity to attend depositions and ask questions. The nine-member committee includes three Democrats.
Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain, a member of the committee, praised Cowsert for ensuring Democrats will have a say as the investigation moves forward.
“A political witch hunt or show trial would damage Georgians’ faith in our political system,” she said
After the committee approved the rules unanimously, Cowsert said he will begin hiring staff for the panel, including outside legal counsel.
He said the committee likely will meet within seven to 10 days to start its work and continue meeting every two weeks moving forward.
Cowsert promised the committee will take its work seriously and not use it to score political points.
“This will not be a public media circus,” he said. “We’re not doing this for publicity.”