Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor Will Be Investigated in the Trump Case. But by Whom?

Since the indictment of former President Donald J. Trump and 18 of his allies last summer on election interference charges in Georgia, a delicate question has gone unanswered: Would criminal charges also be coming for Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, a longtime Trump supporter and one of the most ambitious politicians in the Southern swing state?

Mr. Jones was one of the 16 Republicans who acted as fake electors for Mr. Trump in Georgia in an effort to overturn his 2020 defeat. Three of them are charged with felonies, including violating the state racketeering law.

But in 2022, a judge blocked the Fulton County district attorney who led the investigation, Fani T. Willis, from developing a case against Mr. Jones, citing a conflict of interest because she had headlined a fund-raiser for his Democratic rival in the lieutenant governor’s race.

It is now up to a state agency called the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia to find a special prosecutor to investigate Mr. Jones, who has denied any wrongdoing. The head of the agency, Peter J. Skandalakis, has for months said little about the selection process.

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Skandalakis, a Republican and former district attorney, confirmed that he would unilaterally choose the prosecutor for the Jones case. He said he had already ruled out some district attorneys, either because their staffs were too small to take on the extra work or because choosing them might seem overly partisan.

This week, the district attorney in Augusta, Ga., became the first to publicly declare an interest in the job. Jared T. Williams, a Democrat, said in an interview on Tuesday that he was willing to investigate Mr. Jones’s actions after the 2020 election “if called upon.”

Mr. Williams’s announcement underscored the conundrum facing Mr. Skandalakis. Georgia Republicans are likely to howl if he chooses a Democrat for the job. But Democrats are likely to do the same if he chooses a Republican.

“I don’t deny that it’s a tough position to be in,” Mr. Skandalakis said, “but it doesn’t bother me. I’ve been in similar positions before on difficult cases throughout my entire career.” He added, however, that few of those cases packed such potential for partisan furor. Mr. Jones has said that he may run for governor in 2026.

Mr. Skandalakis said that he thought highly of Mr. Williams, a first-term district attorney who ran on a criminal justice reform platform, and would talk to him about the job.

But he also said he was concerned that Mr. Williams had been a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the creation of an oversight commission for local prosecutors. Mr. Jones, who presides over the State Senate, had supported the new commission. The suit was recently withdrawn by the plaintiffs after a Georgia Supreme Court decision effectively stymied the commission from operating.

Mr. Skandalakis said he had already ruled out some other prosecutors because they were plaintiffs in the lawsuit. He declined to identify them by name, but the plaintiffs included a Republican district attorney from a central Georgia judicial district, Jonathan Adams, and two Democrats from more populous suburban districts near Atlanta, Sherry Boston of DeKalb County and Flynn D. Broady Jr. of Cobb County.

On Wednesday, District Attorney Tasha M. Mosley of Clayton County, a Democrat, told The New York Times that Mr. Skandalakis had recently asked if she would be interested in taking the case. Ms. Mosley said she had refused because her office lacked sufficient resources.

“I cannot take any more prosecutors off the murder cases we have here,” she said. “So it would require me to hire outside counsel to handle that. And I don’t have the money.”

All of Georgia’s 50 district attorneys are elected in partisan contests. Mr. Skandalakis could try to find a private lawyer to take the case to diffuse partisan tensions. But the law, he said, would limit him from paying an outside lawyer more than $70 per hour.

“Its almost insulting to find somebody that’s willing to do it at $70 per hour,” he said.

Mr. Skandalakis, 67, can also appoint himself as the special prosecutor. It would not be his first time helming a high-profile case. In 2021, Georgia’s 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 ran away.

Mr. Skandalakis announced in August 2022 that charges pending against the officers would be dropped.

Jared T. Williams, the Democratic district attorney of Augusta, Ga., said that he was willing to investigate Mr. Jones’s actions after the 2020 election “if called upon.”Credit…via YouTube

Mr. Jones did not respond to a call seeking comment on Wednesday. But in the past, he has called the Georgia investigation into election interference an “abuse of power,” arguing that people like him are not violating laws but merely “asking questions about elections.”

Mr. Jones, 44, is the scion of a wealthy Georgia family who often reminds voters that he is a former captain of the University of Georgia football team. He belongs to the pro-Trump faction of the state Republican Party, which has been damaged and dramatically split by Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 loss.

In addition to serving as a fake elector for Mr. Trump in December 2020, Mr. Jones, then a state senator, advocated for a special session of the state legislature to overturn Mr. Trump’s loss in Georgia, and signed on to a failed lawsuit seeking to do the same. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Mr. Jones flew to Washington on Jan. 5, 2021, to convince Vice President Mike Pence to delay certifying the Electoral College votes, although Mr. Jones told the news outlet that he ultimately did not.

In December 2022, a special grand jury looking into election interference in Georgia recommended indicting Mr. Jones on charges including forgery. The jurors also recommended the indictment of others who were ultimately charged, including Mr. Trump.

Recent moves by Mr. Jones suggest that he may be serious about running for governor in 2026. The current governor, Brian Kemp, a Republican, is term-limited and has a frosty relationship with Mr. Trump.

In November, Mr. Jones unveiled an attack ad against a potential Republican primary rival, Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state whom Mr. Trump pressured in January 2021 to help “find” enough votes reverse his election loss in Georgia.

Mr. Jones is separately facing a civil suit filed by four Georgia voters seeking to remove him from office on the grounds that he “participated in an insurrection and rebellion” when he filed documents falsely claiming to be a Georgia elector.

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