A South Carolina judge ruled on Wednesday that Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff in the Trump White House, must appear before a grand jury in Georgia looking into Republican efforts to have the state’s 2020 presidential election results overturned.
Fani Willis, the Democratic district attorney for Fulton County, stated that the focus of her investigation is on “the multistate, coordinated efforts to affect the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.” Meadows does not reside in Georgia, so she was unable to compel him to testify, but in August she filed a petition to have him do so.
Judge Edward Miller of the South Carolina Circuit Court ruled on Wednesday that Meadows must abide by a subpoena because his testimony is “material and vital to the investigation” and because Georgia is promising not to put him through an undue hardship. A spokesman for Willis, Jeff DiSantis, confirmed the decision on Wednesday.
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Meadows wouldn’t be summoned until after the midterm elections, according to DeSantis.
According to a lawyer for Meadows, an appeal or further legal action could be taken.
George J. Terwilliger, Meadows’ attorney, stated that before a decision on an appeal is made, there may be more proceedings before the trial judge.
Before becoming Trump’s White House chief of staff, Meadows served four terms as a congressman from North Carolina. Meadows has assisted Trump in advancing his unfounded assertions that widespread voter fraud cost Joe Biden the presidency. Although Meadows registered to vote in 2020 using the address of a mobile home in North Carolina, he has claimed that he currently resides in South Carolina.
It’s taken a while to get here, but increasingly, courts are ordering Trump’s inner circle to testify before grand juries. And the midterms can’t change the outcome of DOJ or the Fulton County DA’s work. https://t.co/DispCXCBVV
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) October 26, 2022
Willis mentioned Meadows’ involvement in a phone call Trump placed to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) on January 2, 2021, requesting him to “find” 11,780 votes that would enable Trump to defeat Biden in the state. Meadows’ testimony was requested as part of Willis’ petition.
Willis stated in her letter that she was particularly eager to hear testimony about a meeting Meadows and Trump had on December 21, 2020, at the White House “to address accusations of voter fraud and the certification of electoral college results from Georgia and other states.”
The Georgia Secretary of State’s office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation were conducting an audit of absentee ballot signatures at the Cobb County Civic Center in Marietta, Georgia, on December 22, 2020, when Meadows “made a surprise visit,” according to Willis, who also noted this in the petition.
The order to Meadows came from a South Carolina judge. Meadows also argued the special grand jury is civil in nature but Georgia already has ruled otherwise, and in theory that ruling should get applied in other states. Exec priv is big looming issue https://t.co/yBxEtoWgCP
— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) October 26, 2022
Meadows “asked to personally see the audit process,” according to Willis, “but was unable to do so because the audit was not accessible to the public.” Citing executive privilege and arguing that the Georgia special grand jury is conducting a civil investigation and not a criminal procedure that would need his testimony, Meadows had attempted to have the Georgia subpoena thrown out.
According to Willis, the special grand jury’s investigation is centered on illegal behavior.
James W. Bannister, Meadows’ South Carolina attorney, said in court documents that the subpoena was no longer relevant because the initial September deadline for his testimony has passed.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina, another well-known Republican, had petitioned the Supreme Court to quash a request for his testimony when the Meadows decision was announced on Wednesday. Graham has contended that the safeguards afforded to parliamentarians engaged in official business by the Constitution exempt him from having to provide testimony.
On Monday, Justice Clarence Thomas temporarily halted a request that Graham appear. The short order seems to be an effort to keep things as they are while Graham’s petition to the Supreme Court develops. Graham has given the prosecution till Thursday to respond, so the full court will likely take the matter into consideration.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit’s three-judge panel unanimously rejected Graham’s request to stop a subpoena from Willis last week. In that court, Graham argued that a sitting senator is exempt from giving testimony in these inquiries. The Georgia grand jury has heard testimony from senior Trump advisers, including attorneys Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, despite opposition from Graham, Meadows, and others.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and Michael Flynn, who served as Trump’s national security adviser, have both submitted requests for testimony. Numerous Georgia Republicans have given testimony. Raffensperger and his employees are on the list, along with Georgia Attorney General Christopher M. Carr (R), state legislators, and municipal election officials.
Brian Kemp, the Republican governor of the state, submitted a 121-page motion in August to quash a subpoena calling for his testimony. The investigating judge agreed to postpone the governor’s testimony until after the 2022 election. Kemp is running for office again.