ATLANTA — Prosecutors in Atlanta on Monday told lawyers for Rudy Giuliani that he’s a target of their criminal investigation into possible illegal attempts by then-President Donald Trump and others to interfere in the 2020 general election in Georgia.
Special prosecutor Nathan Wade alerted Giuliani’s local attorney in Atlanta that the former New York City mayor could face criminal charges, another Giuliani attorney, Robert Costello, said. The New York Times reported first the information.
Fulton County District attorney Fani Willis has revealed that Giuliani is Trump’s lawyer and now the probe moves closer to Trump. Willis stated that she was considering asking Trump to be called before the special jury. Additionally, the ex-president has retained a Atlanta criminal defense attorney.
Law enforcement scrutiny of Trump’s actions is escalating. In an FBI investigation, his Florida home was searched by the FBI last week. The FBI wanted to know if he had stolen classified information from Mar-a-Lago. In New York, he is facing civil charges over claims that the Trump Organization misled tax authorities and banks about his assets’ value. In addition, the Justice Department is looking into Trump’s Jan. 6 rebellion at the U.S. Capitol and his attempts to win back the election that he claimed was stolen.
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Giuliani, who spread false claims of election fraud in Atlanta’s Fulton County as he led efforts to overturn the state’s election results, is to testify Wednesday before a special grand jury that was impaneled at Willis’s request.
On Monday, also, a federal judge ordered U.S. senator Lindsey Graham to testify before a special grand jury. Graham’s phone conversations with Brad Raffensperger (Georgia Secretary of State) and other staff members in the week following election are being investigated by the prosecution.
Willis’s investigation was spurred by a phone call between Trump and Raffensperger. During that January 2021 conversation, Trump suggested that Raffensperger “find” the votes needed to reverse his narrow loss in the state.
Willis, last month, filed petitions asking for testimony from seven Trump associates or advisers.
In seeking Giuliani’s testimony, Willis identified him as both a personal attorney for Trump and a lead attorney for his campaign. She wrote that he and others appeared at a state Senate committee meeting and presented a video that Giuliani said showed election workers producing “suitcases” of unlawful ballots from unknown sources, outside the view of election poll watchers.
Within 24 hours of that Dec. 3, 2020, hearing, Raffensperger’s office had debunked the video. Willis said that Giuliani kept making statements to public.
Evidence shows that Giuliani’s hearing appearance and testimony were “part of a multi-state, coordinated plan by the Trump Campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere,” her petition says.
Two of the election workers seen in the video, Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, said they faced relentless harassment online and in person after it was shown at a Dec. 3 Georgia legislative hearing where Giuliani appeared. At another hearing a week later, Giuliani said the footage showed the women “surreptitiously passing around USB ports as if they are vials of heroin or cocaine.” They actually were passing a piece of candy.
Willis submitted a petition to Kenneth Chesebro asking for testimony. He claimed that Giuliani helped him coordinate and execute a plan to make Georgia Republicans fake electors. Those 16 people signed a certificate declaring falsely that Trump had won the 2020 presidential election and declaring themselves the state’s “duly elected and qualified” electors even though Joe Biden had won the state and a slate of Democratic electors was certified.
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Willis claimed in a court filing that 16 of these fake electors received letters last month stating that they were targets of the investigation.
Graham’s attorneys, R.S.C., argued that Graham’s status as U.S. Senator gives him immunity from appearing before an investigative panel. U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May stated Monday that Graham’s immunities as senators do not prevent him from being called to testify. Graham’s subpoena instructs him to appear before the special grand jury on Aug. 23, but his office said Monday he plans to appeal.
Graham argued that the Constitution gives senators absolute immunity from being interrogated about their legislative actions. But the judge found there are “considerable areas of potential grand jury inquiry” that fall outside that provision’s scope. The judge also rejected Graham’s argument that the principle of “sovereign immunity” protects a senator from being summoned by a state prosecutor.
Graham also argued Willis, a Democrat had not presented extraordinary circumstances sufficient to compel testimony of a high-ranking official. But the judge disagreed, finding that Willis had shown “extraordinary circumstances and a special need” for Graham’s testimony on issues related to an alleged attempt to influence or disrupt the election in Georgia.
Last month, May rejected an attempt to make a similar request by U.S. Rep. Jody Haice (R-Ga.), in order to not testify before the special grand jury.
Graham’s office said in a statement Monday that the senator disagrees with the judge’s interpretation of the provision of the Constitution he believes protects him from being questioned by a state official. According to his lawyers, he was asking questions related to the certification of votes and about a proposed piece of legislation that would affect elections.
But the judge wrote that that ignores “the fact that individuals on the calls have publicly suggested that Senator Graham was not simply engaged in legislative factfinding but was instead suggesting or implying that Georgia election officials change their processes or otherwise potentially alter the state’s results.”
In calls made shortly after the 2020 general election, Graham “questioned Raffensperger and his staff about reexamining certain absentee ballots cast in Georgia in order to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump,” Willis wrote in a petition.
Graham also “made reference to allegations of widespread voter fraud in the November 2020 election in Georgia, consistent with public statements made by known affiliates of the Trump Campaign,” she wrote.
Republican and Democratic state election officials across the country, courts and even Trump’s attorney general have found there was no evidence of voter fraud sufficient to affect the outcome of his 2020 presidential election loss.
Trump-allied lawmakers were planning to challenge the tallies from several battleground states when Congress convened on Jan. 6, 2021, to certify the results under the Electoral Count Act, but after the Capitol attack that day Georgia’s tally was never contested.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has described his call to Raffensperger as “perfect.”
ColvinNew York, reported Associated Press journalists Meg KinnardColumbia, South Carolina Lisa MascaroWashington also contributed to the report.
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