ATLANTA ( Associated Press) – Georgia prosecutors are investigating the conduct Former President Donald Trump and his allies after the 2020 election US Senator Lindsey Graham is summoning former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and other members of Trump’s campaign legal team to testify before a special grand jury.
Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Willis filed a petition Tuesday with the judge overseeing the special grand jury As part of the investigation into what he alleged was “a multi-state, coordinated plan by the Trump campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.”
The move marks a major escalation in a case that could present a serious legal challenge to the former president as he weighs in on another White House run. While the special grand jury has already heard from top state officials, Tuesday’s filing directly targets several of Trump’s close aides and advisers, including Giuliani, who used his campaign’s legal efforts to reverse the election results. led.
“That means the investigation is obviously getting more intense because they are trusted advisors, they are people from the inner circle,” said Robert James, former district attorney for DeKalb County, which is neighbors to Fulton.
special grand jury is investigating whether Trump and others tried to illegally interfere in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia as he desperately tried to cling to power following the victory of Democrat Joe Biden. Trump insisted that the election was stolen, despite the fact that many federal and local officials, a long list of courts, top former campaign staff and even Trump’s own attorney general have said That there is no evidence of fraud alleged by them.
The investigation is different from the investigation being conducted by a Congress Committee which has been Investigating the events surrounding the deadly uprising at the US Capitol on January 6, as well as the Justice Department’s own extensive investigation. Trump is also facing other legal challenges, including in New York, where he, his namesake son and his daughter Ivanka have agreed to answer questions. Under oath will begin next week New York’s attorney general’s civil investigation into his business dealings.
The increase comes as Trump is announcing a third presidential election as soon as this summer, as he seeks to deflect attention from the ongoing investigation and lock in support before a long list of other potential candidates, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Make His Own Move.
Willis, who took this unusual step of requesting a special grand jury earlier this year, confirmed that he and his team were looking into a January 2021 phone call in which Trump implored Georgia Secretary of State Brad Rafensper to “find” the votes needed to win the state. did. She has said that the team is also looking into the November 2020 phone call between Graham and Raffensperger, the sudden resignation of the US attorney in Atlanta on January 4, 2021, and comments made during December 2020. The Georgia Legislative Committee is hearing the election. Raffensperger and other state officials have already testified before a special grand jury.
Willis also pleaded for five other potential witnesses: attorneys Kenneth Chesebro, Cleta Mitchell, Jenna Ellis, John Eastman and Jackie Pick Deason. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney signed off on the requests, which are identical to the subpoenas, deeming them necessary for the investigation.
In the petition submitted to the judge, Willis wrote that Graham, a longtime aide to the former president, actually made at least two telephone calls to Raffensperger and members of his staff in the weeks following the November 2020 election. During those calls, Graham asked about re-examining some absentee ballots “to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump,” she wrote.
Graham’s spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
In the petition for Giuliani’s testimony, Willis identified him as a personal counsel for Trump and “a key advocate for the Trump campaign’s legal efforts to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.” “
As part of those efforts, he wrote, he and others presented a Georgia state Senate subcommittee with a video recording of election workers, in which Giuliani alleged they were illegally sourced from unknown sources outside the viewpoint of election poll watchers. Had to produce “suitcases” of ballots.
On December 3, 2020, within 24 hours of the hearing, Raffensperger’s office had dismissed the video and said it had found that there had been no voter fraud at the arena. Still, Giuliani continued to make statements to the public and at subsequent legislative hearings using that debunked video to claim widespread voter fraud, Willis wrote.
“There is evidence that (Giuliani’s) attendance and testimony at the hearing are part of a multi-state, coordinated plan by the Trump campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere,” the petition said. Was.”
Giuliani’s lawyer, Bob Costello, said he had no comment and no subpoenas have been served to his client.
To compel the testimony of an out-of-state witness, a prosecutor in Georgia has to file a petition and then a judge has to sign a certificate approving the plea, says Danny Porter, in the suburbs of Atlanta. said a former longtime district attorney in Gwynette County. ,
The next step is to petition a prosecutor where the witness resides, and serve it to the witness, who is entitled to a hearing. If the person objects to going to Georgia to testify, they must be able to show that either their testimony is not required or that it would be an undue hardship to them, Porter said.
Special grand juries have been set up in Georgia to investigate complex cases with a large number of witnesses and potential logistical concerns. They can coerce evidence and witnesses to question, unlike regular grand juries.Can also summon the object of an inquiry to appear before him.
When its investigation is complete, the special grand jury issues a final report and can recommend action. It is up to the district attorney to decide whether to ask a regular grand jury for an indictment.
It’s not clear exactly what charges Willis could ultimately level against Trump or anyone else. In a letter sent to top state officials last year, she said she was “looking into potential breaches of Georgia law prohibiting solicitation of election fraud, making false statements to state and local government bodies, conspiracy , racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to election administration.”
Trump has denied that he has done anything wrong.
Colvin reported from New York.