“Necessary and material witness”: Georgia grand jury hits Graham, Giuliani with subpoenas

Fulton criminal probe gets more "intense" as DA Fani Willis targets Trump's inner circle

By Igor Derysh

Deputy Politics Editor

Published July 6, 2022 9:29AM (EDT)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

A Georgia grand jury issued subpoenas this week to seven Trump associates involved in the former president's effort to overturn his loss in the state, including former attorney Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

The Fulton County special grand jury convened by District Attorney Fani Willis to investigate potential criminal interference in the 2020 election issued subpoenas to Giuliani, Graham, and former Trump legal advisers John Eastman, Cleta Mitchell, Kenneth Chesebro, Jenna Ellis and Jacki Pick Deason, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported.

The subpoenas were filed on July 5 and signed by Fulton Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney. The subpoenas said that each person is a "necessary and material witness" to the criminal probe.

"It means the investigation is obviously becoming more intense because those are trusted advisers, those are inner circle people," former DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James told the Associated Press.

The 23-member grand jury has heard testimony from numerous witnesses in recent weeks, including those that were in contact with Trump and his associates as he pressed Georgia officials to "find" enough votes to reverse his loss in the state. The subpoenas signal that the investigation is closing in on Trump's inner circle, though the attorneys could argue that they cannot testify due to attorney-client privilege. Eastman has tried to invoke the attorney-client privilege in his legal fight to keep documents from the House Jan. 6 committee, though a judge ordered him to turn over most of the documents sought by the panel while acknowledging that others were protected.

Graham during Trump's effort to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to steal the election separately called Raffensperger and his office twice after the election about "reexamining certain absentee ballots cast in Georgia in order to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump," the subpoena says. Graham last year denied that he did anything wrong and claimed he merely inquired about the ballot signature verification process.

Mitchell also participated in Trump's call to Raffensperger.

Giuliani after the election testified to Georgia lawmakers, showing edited video of votes being counted in Atlanta's State Farm Arena. The former New York City mayor, who faces defamation lawsuits and disbarment over his role in Trump's attempt to steal the election, argued that the edited surveillance tape was a "powerful smoking gun" of election workers pulling out "suitcases" to count after dismissing Republican poll watchers. Raffensperger's office shot down the allegations but Giuliani and Trump continued to falsely cite the video as evidence even as election workers involved in the counting faced harassment and death threats.

"There is evidence that the Witness'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 filing says.


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Eastman was the mastermind behind Trump's strategy to have then-Vice President Mike Pence block the certification of President Joe Biden's win in Congress, a plot a federal judge described as a "coup in search of a legal theory" that "more likely than not" violated federal law. Eastman also testified at the same legislative hearing as Giuliani, falsely arguing there was "more than enough" evidence of fraud to block Biden's win and have the state legislature appoint an alternate slate of electors.

"I don't think it's just your authority to do that," Eastman said, "but, quite frankly, I think you have a duty to do that to protect the integrity of the election here in Georgia."

Ellis and Deason both spoke at the hearing as well. Deason, who presented the sham State Farm Arena video, "possesses unique knowledge concerning communications between herself, the Trump campaign, and other known and unknown individuals involved in the multi-state, coordinated efforts to influence the results of the 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere," the subpoena said.

Chesebro, an attorney involved in the post-election plotting, worked behind the scenes with Republican state legislative leaders to coordinate the alternate slate of electors, according to his subpoena. Chesebro wrote at least two memos backing the plan and provided template documents for the state party to hold a bogus ceremony at the Capitol in December 2020, according to the subpoena.

The grand jury in recent weeks has heard testimony from Raffensperger and his top aides, as well as Attorney General Chris Carr. Gov. Brian Kemp, a longtime Trump ally who refused to go along with his plan to steal the election, is expected to give a video statement to the grand jury later this month, according to the Journal-Constitution.

Willis is investigating potential solicitation of election fraud, making false statements, conspiracy, racketeering and threats to election administrators. The grand jury is expected to issue a report on whether Trump or his allies should face charges, though Willis will ultimately have the final say.

"We're going to look at anything connected with interference with the 2020 election," Willis told CNN last month, adding that her probe has led to an influx of threats and harassment. "I can tell you that in recent days I've turned up on white supremacist pages often with my face and very derogatory names," she said. "Those kind of things bring great concern to the security that has to protect us."

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By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's Deputy News and Politics Editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Donald Trump Fani Willis Lindsey Graham Politics Rudy Giuliani