Trump's former lawyer subpoenaed as part of probe into election interference
Rudy Giuliani faced questioning on Wednesday before a special grand jury in Atlanta as a target of an investigation into attempts by former U.S. president Donald Trump and others to overturn Trump's 2020 election defeat in Georgia.
The former New York mayor and Trump attorney left the Fulton County courthouse, without commenting to reporters, roughly six hours after the special grand jury convened Wednesday as part of a rapidly escalating investigation that has ensnared several Trump allies.
Giuliani's questioning took place behind closed doors, as grand jury proceedings are secret. Swarmed by news cameras Wednesday morning as he stepped out of a limousine at the courthouse steps, Giuliani said he didn't plan to talk about his testimony.
"Grand juries, as I recall, are secret," said Giuliani, who came to court with his attorney, Robert Costello. "They ask the questions and we'll see."
Although grand jury secrecy rules prohibit people present during grand jury testimony from discussing it, that prohibition does not apply to witnesses, including Giuliani. As a former federal prosecutor, he is likely familiar with those rules.
Target of investigation
It's unclear how much Giuliani will be willing to say now that his lawyers have been informed he's a target of the investigation.
The investigation by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has brought heightened scrutiny to the desperate and ultimately failed efforts to overturn Democrat Joe Biden's 2020 election win. It's one of several investigations into Trump's actions in office as he lays the groundwork for another run at the White House in 2024.
Willis opened her investigation after the disclosure of a remarkable Jan. 2, 2021, phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. On the call, Trump suggested that Raffensperger could "find" the exact number of votes that would be needed to flip the election results in Georgia.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing. He has described the call as "perfect."
District attorney considering calling Trump to testify
Last month, Willis filed petitions to compel testimony from seven Trump associates and advisers. She has also said she's considering calling Trump himself to testify, and the former president has hired a legal team in Atlanta that includes a prominent criminal defence lawyer.
In seeking Giuliani's testimony, Willis noted that he was both a personal lawyer for Trump and a lead lawyer for Trump's 2020 campaign.
She recalled in a petition how Giuliani and others appeared at a state senate committee meeting in late 2020 and presented a video that Giuliani said showed election workers producing "suitcases" of unlawful ballots from unknown sources, outside the view of election poll watchers. The claims of fraud were debunked by Georgia election officials within 24 hours. Yet Giuliani continued to make statements to the public and in subsequent legislative hearings, claiming widespread election fraud using the debunked video, Willis noted in her filing.
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 the Dec. 3 Georgia legislative hearing in which Giuliani appeared. At another hearing a week later, 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.
Willis wrote in the court filing that Giuliani's hearing appearance and testimony were "part of a multi-state, co-ordinated plan by the Trump Campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere."
Willis also wrote in a petition seeking the testimony of lawyer Kenneth Chesebro that he worked with 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 Trump had won the 2020 presidential election and declaring themselves the state's "duly elected and qualified" electors even though Biden had won the state and a slate of Democratic electors was certified.
Attempt to delay appearance
Giuliani's lawyers tried to delay his appearance before the special grand jury, saying he was unable to fly due to heart stent surgery in early July.
But Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who is overseeing the special grand jury, said during a hearing last week that Giuliani needed to be in Atlanta on Wednesday and could travel by bus, car or train if necessary.
Asked how he made the trip, Giuliani told reporters: "I'll give you one answer: I didn't walk."
Other Trump allies have also been swept up in the probe. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, received a subpoena ordering him to appear for testimony on Aug. 23. Graham has challenged that subpoena, citing his protections as a member of Congress. A judge on Monday rejected that argument and said he must testify. Graham has said he'll appeal.
Willis has indicated she is interested in calls between Graham and Raffensberger about the results in Georgia in the weeks after the election.
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