Several allies and members of former US President Donald Trump’s legal team, including Senator Lindsey Graham and former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani, have been subpoenaed to testify before a special grand jury in the state of Georgia.
The subpoenas were approved by a judge overseeing the jury on Tuesday.
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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis sought the subpoenas as part of an investigation into what she called “a multi-state, coordinated plan by the Trump Campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere”, according to court documents.
Willis also filed petitions for several other figures to appear to testify, including lawyers Kenneth Chesebro, Cleta Mitchell, Jenna Ellis and John Eastman. All were approved.
The special grand jury, selected in May, has been investigating the efforts of Trump and his allies to hold on to power after the former president lost the 2020 election to his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.
Trump continues to insist that the election was stolen, despite the fact that numerous federal and local officials, a long list of courts, top former campaign staff and even Trump’s own attorney general have all said there is no evidence of the fraud he alleges.
The subpoenas for some of Trump’s closest allies and advisers mark a significant escalation in a case that could pose a serious legal challenge to the former president as he weighs another White House run.
“It means the investigation is obviously becoming more intense because those are trusted advisers, those are inner circle people,” said Robert James, a former district attorney in DeKalb County, which neighbours Fulton.
Willis, who requested that the special grand jury be formed earlier this year, has confirmed that she and her team are looking into a January 2021 phone call in which Trump pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the votes the president needed to win the state of Georgia.
Willis is also looking into a November 2020 phone call between Raffensperger and Graham, the resignation of a US attorney in Atlanta in early January 2021, and comments from the December 2020 Georgia legislative committee hearings on the election.
In a petition, Willis wrote that Senator Graham had made at least two calls to Raffensperger and his staff following the November 2020 election, in which Graham allegedly inquired about reexamining absentee ballots “in order to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump”.
Graham has yet to comment on the claims.
Raffensperger and other state officials have already testified before the special grand jury.
Willis also identified former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani as a “lead attorney for the Trump Campaign’s legal efforts seeking to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere” in the petition.
Willis wrote that as part of those efforts, Giuliani appeared at a Georgia state Senate subcommittee hearing on December 3, 2020, and “provided testimony, additional witnesses, and documentary evidence purporting to demonstrate the existence of election fraud in multiple Georgia counties”. None of those claims has been substantiated.
As evidence, Giuliani shared a since-discredited conspiracy that claimed several election workers had produced “suitcases” of unlawful ballots from unknown sources. Raffensperger’s office debunked that claim less than 24 hours after it was shown by Giuliani and said that it had found no evidence of voter fraud. Giuliani continued to push the conspiracy nonetheless.
“There is evidence that (Giuliani’s) appearance and testimony at the hearing was 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.
Giuliani’s lawyer, Bob Costello, said he had no comment and noted that Giuliani had not been served a subpoena.
A special grand jury, or special purpose grand jury, is empanelled specifically to investigate any alleged violation of the laws of the state of Georgia.
It is not known what charges Willis could bring against Trump or his associates.
In a letter to Georgia state officials last year, Willis stated that she was exploring “potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local government bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election’s administration”.