Why do Georgia prosecutors want to talk to Rudy Giuliani, Lindsey Graham and other Trump allies?

·7 min read

WASHINGTON – When Georgia election officials appeared last month before the House committee investigating the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, Atlanta-area prosecutors were surely paying close attention.

In often-dramatic fashion, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, top aide Gabriel Sterling along with election workers Shaye Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman outlined an extensive pressure campaign led by former President Donald Trump and his allies, all aimed at seeking to flip the state’s election result in the former president’s favor.

So, there was little surprise this week when a special Fulton County grand jury investigating interference in the 2020 election issued subpoenas to some of Trump’s closest legal and political allies who allegedly led the effort to subvert the Georgia vote. Testimony is scheduled as early as Tuesday.

In court documents, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is leading the wide-ranging criminal inquiry, offered a preview of what investigators are expected to seek from the most high-profile witnesses yet to be called in the Georgia inquiry.

  • Who was subpoenaed? Lawyers working with Trump's 2020 campaign: Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Kenneth Chesebro, Cleta Mitchell and Jenna Ellis; Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; and lawyer and podcast host Jacki Pick Deason.

  • What roles did they play? Some of the witnesses pursued claims of election fraud, which state officials debunked. Others developed a national strategy to reject 2020 electors from states President Joe Biden won, including Georgia, in order to overturn the election in Trump's favor.

  • Will they testify? Giuliani has already testified before the House committee investigating the Capitol attack. Eastman refused to testify before the panel, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Graham's lawyers said he will fight the subpoena in court. Mitchell has fought a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack for her phone records in federal court.

Here are some of the issues the grand jury could explore with the witnesses:

Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and Donald Trump’s attorney, competes on the current season of "The Masked Singer."
Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and Donald Trump’s attorney, competes on the current season of "The Masked Singer."

Giuliani claimed underage, felon voters, which Georgia officials debunked

Giuliani, who has been suspended from practicing law in New York and D.C. for his election claims, made wide-ranging claims that Dominion Voting System's manipulated ballots, while ignoring a hand-count audit that confirmed Biden's win. Dominion filed a defamation suit against Giuliani.

Giuliani also said that about 65,000 or 66,000 underage voters, more than 2,500 felons and 800 dead people voted in the state. All of those claims have been debunked by investigations by the Georgia Secretary of State, which found no underage voters, only 74 potential felony voters, and two votes that may have been improperly cast in the name of dead voters.

“We were in a position to say people already looked at that and we know you’re getting bad information. That’s not correct. It’s been demonstrated to be not correct," former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen testified before the House committee. "In our point of view, it was debunked.”

A lawyer for Giuliani said the subpoena had not yet been served.

Chapman School of Law professor John Eastman testifies on Capitol Hill in 2017. Eastman was also a former lawyer for former President Donald Trump.
Chapman School of Law professor John Eastman testifies on Capitol Hill in 2017. Eastman was also a former lawyer for former President Donald Trump.

Eastman developed strategy for Pence to overturn 2020 election

Eastman developed the strategy for former Vice President Mike Pence, in his role as Senate president, to single-handedly reject electors from seven states including Georgia when Congress counted Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021.

Pence refused and a mob of Trump supporters ransacked the building.

Eastman fought committee subpoenas in federal court. In California, U.S. District Judge David Carter ordered Eastman to provide his emails to the committee and ruled “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.”

Eastman could not be reached for comment.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani speaks on Jan. 6, 2021, during a speech at the Trump rally near the White House before the Capitol riot.
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani speaks on Jan. 6, 2021, during a speech at the Trump rally near the White House before the Capitol riot.

Chesebro wrote memos about alternate electors for Trump

Chesebro, a lawyer working with the Trump campaign, wrote a memo Nov. 18, 2020, urging the campaign to organize its own electors in states Trump lost, according to committee investigator Casey Lucier. Chesebro also wrote a lengthy email Dec. 18, 2020, to Giuliani outlining the strategy for Pence to reject electors from states Trump lost, according to court records.

Two lawyers testified to the committee they were uncomfortable with Chesebro’s strategy, according to videotaped depositions played at the committee’s June 21 hearing. Justin Clark, a Trump campaign lawyer, and Matt Morgan, Pence’s deputy counsel, each said they told Chesebro to pursue his Electoral College plan on his own so they wouldn’t be involved.

“This was my way of taking that responsibility to zero,” Morgan said.

Members of President Donald Trump's legal team, including former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, left, Sidney Powell, and Jenna Ellis, speaking, attend a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters, Thursday Nov. 19, 2020, in Washington.
Members of President Donald Trump's legal team, including former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, left, Sidney Powell, and Jenna Ellis, speaking, attend a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters, Thursday Nov. 19, 2020, in Washington.

Ellis testified with Giuliani about alleged election fraud in Georgia

Georgia prosecutors are expected to focus on the Trump campaign attorney's Dec. 3, 2020 appearance before the Georgia state Senate when she and Giuliani claimed to have evidence of election fraud in "multiple" Georgia counties.

The lawyers focused on a video recording of election workers at State Farm Arena in Atlanta that "purported to show election workers producing suitcases of unlawful ballots from unknown sources, outside the view of election poll watchers," according to court documents filed Tuesday.

"Within 24 hours of the December 3, 2020, legislative hearing, the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office debunked the State Farm video and explained that its investigation revealed no voter fraud of any kind had taken place at State Farm Arena," court documents stated. "Despite this, the Witness made additional statements claiming widespread voter fraud in Georgia during the November 2020 election."

Ellis could not be reached for comment.

A Nov. 19, 2020 photo shows attorney Jenna Ellis speaking during a press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC.
A Nov. 19, 2020 photo shows attorney Jenna Ellis speaking during a press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC.

Mitchell participated in Trump call urging Georgia officials to 'find' votes

Mitchell, a lawyer specializing in election law, participated in the Trump call to Georgia officials Jan. 2, 2021, when the former president urged Raffensperger to "find" 11,780 votes.

Besides the call, the committee subpoenaed Mitchell’s AT&T phone data because she promoted claims of election fraud and was in contact with Trump on Jan. 6, according to a letter accompanying the subpoena.

Mitchell, a North Carolina resident, is fighting the subpoena in federal court, arguing that she wasn't in Washington any time from Nov. 1, 2020, through Jan. 6, 2021. She said she worked in Georgia to challenge illegal votes and violations of election code for Trump.

Mitchell could not be reached for comment on the Fulton County subpoena.

Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling accused President Trump’s legal team of misleading voters and debunked false claims of voter fraud.
Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling accused President Trump’s legal team of misleading voters and debunked false claims of voter fraud.

Graham called Georgia election officials twice

A staunch Trump ally, Graham placed at least two telephone calls to Raffensperger and members of his staff in the weeks following the November 2020 election, seeking a re-examination of absentee ballots "to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump," according to court documents filed in support of the subpoena request.

"The Witness 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," the court documents state.

Graham has previously denied claims that he was pressuring officials to exclude ballots but was attempting to understand the method for which different states examine ballots.

Graham's lawyers, Bart Daniel and Matt Austin, said Wednesday he would fight the subpoena in court. The lawyers said Graham was well within his rights as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss election procedures with state officials.

"This is all politics, the lawyers said in a joint statement. "Fulton County is engaged in a fishing expedition and working in concert with the January 6 Committee in Washington."

Lindsey Graham Brown Jackson SCOTUS
Lindsey Graham Brown Jackson SCOTUS

Deason narrated video of alleged 'suitcases' of unlawful ballots, which state officials debunked

Deason was another lawyer working with the Trump campaign who testified at the Georgia Senate hearing. She narrated the video purporting to show "'suitcases' of unlawful ballots from unknown sources," according to the subpoena.

"The Witness possesses unique knowledge concerning the acquisition of the State Farm video and the manner of its presentation to the Georgia State Senate," according to the subpoena.

Georgia Secretary of State officials debunked the video within 24 hours. Richard Donoghue, former acting deputy attorney general, testified at the House panel authorities investigated the claim and found the 'suitcase' was a wheeled bin storing legitimate ballots.

Deason could not be reached for comment.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What a Georgia prosecutor want to ask Giuliani, Graham about Jan. 6