ATLANTA — Legal pressure on Donald J. Trump and his closest allies intensified further on Monday, as prosecutors informed his former personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, that Mr. Giuliani is the target of an extensive investigation. criminal on election interference in Georgia.
The notification came the same day a federal judge rejected efforts by another key Trump ally, Sen. Lindsey Graham, to avoid testifying before the special grand jury hearing evidence in the case in Atlanta.
One of Mr Giuliani’s lawyers, Robert Costello, said in an interview he was told on Monday that his client was a target. Being so identified does not guarantee that a person will be charged; rather, it means that prosecutors believe an indictment is possible, based on the evidence they have seen up to that point.
Mr. Giuliani, who as Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer led efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power, has emerged in recent weeks as a central figure in the investigation led by Fani T. Willis, the district attorney in Fulton, Georgia, which encompasses most of Atlanta.
Earlier this summer, prosecutors questioned witnesses before the special grand jury about Mr. Giuliani’s appearances before state legislative committees in December 2020, when he spent hours peddling false conspiracy theories about secret suitcases of Democratic ballots and corrupt voting machines.
For Mr Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, the developments are the latest in a series of growing problems, although he recently received good news when it emerged that he was little likely to face charges in a federal criminal investigation into his ties to Ukraine during the 2020 presidential campaign.
Mr. Giuliani is scheduled to appear before the special grand jury on Wednesday at a courthouse in downtown Atlanta. His attorney, Mr. Costello, said in the interview that Mr. Giuliani would likely invoke attorney-client privilege if asked about his relationship with Mr. Trump. “If these people think he’s going to talk about conversations between him and President Trump, they’re delusional,” Costello said.
The dismissal of Senator Graham’s effort to avoid testifying came in a written order from Atlanta District Court Judge Leigh Martin May. Mr Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, is now due to testify on August 23.
The judge found that prosecutors demonstrated there was “a particular need for Mr. Graham’s testimony on matters relating to alleged attempts to influence or disrupt the legal administration of the 2022 election in Georgia.” .
Lawyers for Mr Graham said he had been told by prosecutors that he was a witness and not a target.
Understanding Trump’s Election Investigation in Georgia
Understanding Trump’s Election Investigation in Georgia
An immediate legal threat to Trump. Fani T. Willis, the Atlanta-area attorney, has investigated whether former President Donald J. Trump and his allies interfered with Georgia’s 2020 election. The case could be one of the most perilous legal issues for Mr. Trump. Here’s what you need to know:
Prosecutors want his testimony for a number of reasons. Among them are two phone calls Mr. Graham made just after the 2020 election to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, in which Mr. Graham inquired about ways to help Mr. Trump by invalidating certain postal votes.
Mr. Giuliani’s post-election activities on behalf of Mr. Trump have created problems for him on several fronts. The House committee in Washington investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol unearthed video footage of Mr. Giuliani’s activities in Georgia, and the plan to create rival lists of presidential voters also makes the point. subject of an in-depth investigation by the Department of Justice. Mr. Giuliani is the subject of civil lawsuits brought by two manufacturers of voting machines, Dominion and Smartmatic, which seek billions of dollars in damages.
Much of Mr. Giuliani’s conduct in Georgia was exposed last year by the New York State Court of Appeals which suspended his law license. The court released a 33-page report that mentioned Georgia 35 times and described “numerous false and misleading statements regarding Georgia’s presidential election results” made by Mr. Giuliani. The court noted, for example, that Mr. Giuliani had falsely claimed that tens of thousands of underage teenagers had voted illegally in Georgia, even though an audit by the Georgian secretary of state found that no one under the age of 18 years had voted in 2020. election.
Mr. Giuliani was also a central figure in the Trump campaign’s plan to urge swing-state lawmakers to name voter lists different from those chosen by voters, which is part of the Georgia inquiry as well as the Department of Justice investigation.
A spokesperson for the Fulton County Attorney’s Office declined to comment Monday. It is unclear what charges Mr Giuliani could face if indicted. But in the past, Ms Willis has said her investigation could lead to racketeering or conspiracy charges involving multiple defendants.
Norman Eisen, an attorney who served as special adviser to the House Judiciary Committee during Mr Trump’s first impeachment and trial, said he believed Mr Giuliani’s identification as a target could mean Mr Trump will end up being a target as well. .
“There’s no way Giuliani is the target of the DA’s investigation and Trump doesn’t end up as one,” Eisen said in an interview Monday. “They’re just too factually and legally entangled in trying to use fake voters and other means to nullify Georgia’s election results.”
Lawyers for Mr Giuliani said he had done nothing improper in Georgia and was willing to cooperate. But they argued with Ms. Willis’ office over her efforts to get him to testify before the grand jury. Lawyers for Mr. Giuliani said a doctor recommended that Mr. Giuliani not travel by air due to a procedure he underwent in early July to insert heart stents, and they sought to delay his testimony or have it conducted by videoconference, an idea the district attorney’s office resisted.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert CI McBurney said last week that Mr Giuliani could travel to Atlanta “by train, bus or Uber”, and set a date for Wednesday, after agreeing to delay his appearance for more than a week. . Mr. Giuliani’s lawyers have indicated that their client would have little say anyway if he was named as a target of the investigation.
“I think it would be petty to do – as a target, to have him travel here, especially through these alternative means, when there probably wouldn’t be a lot of testimony before the grand jury,” said another Giuliani attorney, William H. Thomas. Jr., said after a court hearing.
At least 17 other people have already been named as likely indictable targets in the investigation, including two state senators and the state’s Republican Party leader.
Lawyers for Mr Graham had based their argument that he should not be compelled to testify on the Constitution’s Speech and Debate Clause, which prevents lawmakers from being questioned about things they say that are related to their official duties. Among other things, the lawyers argued that Mr Graham, as a senior civil servant, could only be called upon in “extraordinary circumstances”.
Judge May ruled that prosecutors had demonstrated that such extraordinary circumstances existed.
Mr Graham argued that his phone calls to Mr Raffensperger were protected under the speech and debate clause because they were investigative in nature and related to his position, at the time, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. But the judge, in her order, noted that “interviewees publicly suggested that Senator Graham was not merely engaged in a legislative inquiry” and was “seeking to influence the actions of Secretary Raffensperger” to benefit Mr. Trump. . (Mr. Raffensperger said Mr. Graham seemed to be suggesting that he find a way to reject legally cast ballots.)
Judge May’s ruling essentially left it to the state court to determine which elements of Mr. Graham’s appeals should be protected under the speech and debate clause.
But she also noted that beyond the phone calls, there were numerous other matters of interest to the special grand jury that were unquestionably fair game, including Mr. Graham’s “potential communications and coordination with the Trump campaign and his post-election efforts in Georgia”.
Prosecutors are demanding that two other Trump team lawyers, Jenna Ellis and John Eastman, also appear before the special grand jury. The involvement of Ms. Ellis, a Colorado resident, will be addressed at a hearing scheduled for Tuesday in Fort Collins, Colorado. A similar hearing will be held for Mr. Eastman, a New Mexico resident, at a Santa Fe, NM courthouse on Wednesday.
Mr. Costello, Mr. Giuliani’s attorney, was asked by a reporter on Monday what mode of transportation his client would use to get to Atlanta from New York.
“No comment,” Mr. Costello said.