USA TODAY International Edition
Trump allies to face grand jury in probe of Georgia election
Actions may be sign of potential legal peril ahead for former president
There are few more loyal allies to former President Donald Trump than Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman and Lindsey Graham.
All have emerged as key figures in Trump’s failed efforts to cling to power, and each now face looming August dates to testify before a special grand jury in Atlanta as part of a fast- moving criminal investigation into interference in the 2020 election.
Giuliani, the former New York mayor and the face of Trump’s failed legal campaign to overturn the 2020 election with false claims of election fraud, was set to appear Tuesday, but asked a local judge Monday to delay his testimony because a heart condition restricts him from air travel.
Meanwhile, Eastman, the proTrump lawyer who pushed efforts to assemble fake slates of electors to subvert President Joe Biden’s victory in key states, has been ordered to appear before the end of the month.
So far, Graham, the GOP senator from South Carolina who called on Georgia officials to re- examine absentee ballots, has vowed a challenge to subpoenas for some of the most highprofile figures in Trump’s camp.
Yet the local court orders also represent new markers in an investigation that is offering increasing signs of the potential legal peril ahead for Trump and some of his associates. Unlike the largely shrouded criminal inquiry pursued by the Justice Department, filings in the Fulton County probe have revealed a preliminary list of targets and a road map of sorts for an investigation that was launched with Trump as its central focus.
“It’s serious as a heart attack,” said Robert Rubin, an Atlanta attorney who has represented a witness called before the panel. “They are pouring enormous resources into this investigation.”
Rubin declined to identify his client, except to indicate the appearance was tied to the fake- electors scheme – a theme that has pulled Giuliani, Eastman and other Trump allies into the sights of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who has been leading a farreaching inquiry for the past year.
The demands for testimony from such high- profile figures – described by Fulton County officials as “material witnesses” – suggests that the evolving investigation has found its focus.
“By the time you get to people like Giuliani and Eastman, you probably know where you are headed,” Rubin said.
Giuliani’s attorney, Robert Costello, said his client is not seeking to challenge the subpoena, only a postponement until Giuliani is able to travel by air or arrange another venue for his testimony.
Court documents: Giuliani’s testimony evidence of ‘ a coordinated plan’
In Giuliani’s case, Fulton County officials have outlined multiple areas of inquiry.
Giuliani, a former New York mayor suspended from practicing law in New York and Washington, D. C., for his election- fraud allegations, had made wideranging claims that voting systems altered Georgia ballots, while ignoring a hand- count audit that confirmed Biden’s victory in the state.
Giuliani also asserted that about 65,000 underage voters, more than 2,500 felons and 800 dead people voted in the state. All of those claims have been debunked by the secretary of state, which found no underage voters, only 74 potential felony voters, and only two votes that may have been improperly cast in the name of dead voters.
According to court documents seeking Giuliani’s grand jury appearance, Fulton County authorities are highlighting the Trump lawyer’s Dec. 3, 2020, appearance before the Georgia state Senate in which he offered a video recording of election workers at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, purporting to show “suitcases” of unlawful ballots from unknown sources, outside the view of election poll watchers.
Within 24 hours of the state Senate hearing, the video had been discredited by the secretary of state’s office, concluding “no voter fraud of any kind had taken place.”
Costello indicated that pressing Giuliani his client on communications with Trump would likely be off- limits, shielded by attorney- client privilege.
Electors scheme under scrutiny
Fulton County officials, meanwhile, have referred to the same Dec. 3, 2020, Senate hearing in seeking Eastman’s grand jury testimony.
At that hearing, Eastman referred to the plan to assemble alternate slates of electors to support Trump. The Trump attorney, according to court documents, told lawmakers that they had a “duty” to replace the slate of Democratic Party electors citing unfounded claims of voter fraud in the state.
Eastman also pushed the strategy for then- Vice President Mike Pence, in his role as Senate president, to reject electors from seven states including Georgia when Congress counted Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021. Pence refused to carry out the plan.
Eastman and his attorneys did not respond to inquiries about whether they intended to resist the Fulton County subpoena, though the former law professor fought demands for testimony and records from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.
A federal judge has ordered Eastman to provide his emails to the committee as part of a stunning ruling, concluding “it is more likely than not that President Trump and Dr. Eastman dishonestly conspired to obstruct the Joint Session
of Congress on January 6, 2021.”
Graham’s lawyers call investigation ‘ a fishing expedition’
Graham had been scheduled to appear before the Atlanta grand jury Aug. 23, but the South Carolina senator and Trump confidante is challenging the demand, arguing that a legislative privilege shields him from such scrutiny.
In a motion to quash the Fulton County summons, Graham is asserting that he was engaging in legitimate inquiries as a lawmaker when he contacted Georgia officials following the 2020 election.
Graham, a staunch Trump ally, placed at least two telephone calls to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and members of Raffensperger’s staff in the weeks following the November 2020 election, seeking additional scrutiny of the absentee ballots, according to court documents filed in support of the subpoena request.
Graham has denied claims that he was pressuring officials to exclude ballots, saying he was trying to understand the method for which different states examine ballots.
No blanket protection
Graham’s challenge comes after a federal judge in Georgia rejected a similar bid by Georgia Rep. Jody Hice, who has echoed Trump’s election fraud claims. Hice also argued that the Constitution’s speech and debate clause
shielded him from law enforcement scrutiny tied to his work as a legislator.
U. S. District Judge Leigh Martin May denied a blanket protection, but she left open that the privilege could apply to some questions posed by prosecutors working with the grand jury.
“The work of the grand jury seems to be quite active at this point,” said Clark Cunningham, a Georgia State University law professor.
Cunningham said the grand jury subpoenas for Giuliani, Eastman and other Trump lawyers, including Jenna Ellis and Kenneth Chesbro, signal an investigative “convergence around the scheme to install fake slates of electors” to overturn the 2020 election.
“The district attorney seems very focused on that,” Cunningham said, adding that that interest appears to be shared by the special House committee investigating the Capitol attack and the Justice Department’s separate criminal investigation, which has issued its own demands for information from Eastman and others who were designated as Trump electors in key swing states, including Georgia.
Indeed, Willis offered a window into the investigative strategy when she designated the 16 Trump electors in Georgia to be potential targets of the Fulton County inquiry, according to court documents filed last month.
An attorney for 11 of the electors called the district attorney’s action a publicity