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Under judge's order, Giuliani testifies in Georgia 2020 election investigation

LA Times logo LA Times 8/17/2022 KATE BRUMBACK
Rudolph W. Giuliani arrives at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta on Wednesday to testify before a special grand jury. (John Bazemore / Associated Press) © Provided by LA Times Rudolph W. Giuliani arrives at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta on Wednesday to testify before a special grand jury. (John Bazemore / Associated Press)

Rudolph W. Giuliani arrived at an Atlanta courthouse Wednesday under a judge's order to appear before a special grand jury that is investigating attempts by former President Trump and others to overturn his 2020 election defeat in Georgia.

News cameras swarmed Giuliani as he stepped out of a limousine Wednesday morning with his attorney, Bob Costello, and walked up the steps into the Fulton County courthouse. Giuliani told reporters that he wouldn't talk about his testimony.

“Grand juries, as I recall, are secret,” he said on CNN. “They ask the questions and we’ll see.”

It's unclear how much the former New York mayor and Trump attorney will be willing to say now that his lawyers have been informed that he's a target of the investigation. Questioning will take place behind closed doors because the special grand jury proceedings are secret.

Giuliani's appearance is another high-profile step in a rapidly escalating investigation that has ensnared several Trump allies and brought heightened scrutiny to the desperate and ultimately failed efforts to overturn President Biden's 2020 election win. It's one of several investigations into Trump's actions in office as he lays the groundwork for another possible run for the White House in 2024.

Fulton County Dist. Atty. Fani 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.”

Willis last month filed petitions to compel testimony from seven Trump associates and advisors. 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 defense attorney.

In seeking Giuliani’s testimony, Willis noted that Giuliani was both a personal attorney for Trump and a lead attorney for his 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, coordinated 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 attorney Kenneth Chesebro that he worked with Giuliani to coordinate 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.

Giuliani’s attorneys tried to delay his appearance before the special grand jury, saying he was unable to fly because of heart stent surgery in early July.

But Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who’s 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 Aug. 23. Graham has challenged that subpoena, citing his protections as a member of Congress. A judge 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.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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