U.S. 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 Mr. Giuliani’s local lawyer in Atlanta that the former New York mayor could face criminal charges, another Giuliani lawyer, Robert Costello, said. News of the disclosure was first reported by The New York Times.
The revelation that Mr. Giuliani, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, is a target of the investigation by Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis edges the probe closer to the former president. Ms. Willis has said she is considering calling Mr. Trump himself to testify before the special grand jury, and the former president has hired a criminal defence lawyer in Atlanta.
Law enforcement scrutiny of Mr. Trump’s actions is escalating. Last week, the FBI searched his Florida home as part of an investigation into whether he took classified records from the White House to Mar-a-Lago. He is also facing a civil investigation in New York over allegations that his company, the Trump Organization, misled banks and tax authorities about the value of his assets. And the Justice Department is investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters and efforts to overturn the election he falsely claimed was stolen.
Mr. 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 impanelled at Ms. Willis’s request.
Also Monday, a federal judge said U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham must testify before the special grand jury. Prosecutors have said they want to ask Mr. Graham about phone calls they say he made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff in the weeks after the election.
Ms. Willis’s investigation was spurred by a phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Raffensperger. During that January, 2021, conversation, Mr. Trump suggested that Mr. Raffensperger “find” the votes needed to reverse his narrow loss in the state.
Ms. Willis last month filed petitions seeking to compel testimony from seven Trump associates and advisers.
In seeking Mr. Giuliani’s testimony, Ms. Willis identified him as both a personal lawyer for Mr. Trump and a lead lawyer for his campaign. She wrote that he and others appeared at a state Senate committee meeting and presented a video that Mr. 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, Mr. Raffensperger’s office had debunked the video. But Mr. Giuliani continued to make statements to the public and in subsequent legislative hearings claiming widespread voter fraud using the debunked video, Ms. Willis wrote.
Evidence shows that Mr. Giuliani’s hearing appearance and testimony were “part of a multistate, co-ordinated 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 Mr. Giuliani appeared. At another hearing a week later, Mr. 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.
Ms. Willis also wrote in a petition seeking the testimony of lawyer Kenneth Chesebro that he worked with Mr. Giuliani to co-ordinate and carry out a plan to have Georgia Republicans serve as fake electors. Those 16 people signed a certificate declaring falsely that Mr. 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.
All 16 of those fake electors have received letters saying they are targets of the investigation, Ms. Willis said in a court filing last month.
Attorneys for Mr. Graham have argued that his position as a U.S. senator provides him immunity from having to appear before the investigative panel. But U.S. District Justice Leigh Martin May wrote in an order Monday that immunities related to his role as a senator do not protect him from having to testify. Mr. Graham’s subpoena instructs him to appear before the special grand jury on Aug. 23, but his office said Monday he plans to appeal.
Mr. Graham had argued that a provision of the U.S. Constitution provides absolute protection against a senator being questioned about legislative acts. But the judge found there are “considerable areas of potential grand jury inquiry” that fall outside that provision’s scope. The judge also rejected Mr. Graham’s argument that the principle of “sovereign immunity” protects a senator from being summoned by a state prosecutor.
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