Meadows and Powell testimony sought in Georgia election probe

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FILE – Georgia Governor Brian Kemp speaks at the Neighborhood Lot on July 29, 2022, in McDonough, Georgia. The judge presiding over a special grand jury investigating possible unlawful attempts to influence Georgia’s 2020 election is battling over whether Republican Gov. Brian Kemp should testify before the panel. (AP Photo/Megan Varner, File)

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The prosecutor investigating whether Donald Trump and others unlawfully tried to influence Georgia’s 2020 election is seeking to compel testimony from more of the former president’s allies, including former chief of staff Mark Meadows and attorney Sidney Powell.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis filed motions Thursday asking Meadows and Powell, as well as James “Phil” Waldron, who met with Meadows, and former Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn, to testify before a special grand jury in Atlanta next month.

Meadows, Trump’s latest chief of staff, and Powell, a staunch defender of the president’s false allegations of widespread voter fraud, are among the most prominent members of Trump’s inner circle to be called to testify in the investigation, joining other high-profile figures, including Trump’s lawyer. Rudy Giuliani and US Senator Lindsey Graham. This further raises the legal stakes for the former president as he weighs a 2024 presidential bid.

Because they don’t live in Georgia, Willis must use a process that involves appealing to judges in the states where they live to order them to appear. The motions she filed Thursday are essentially precursors to subpoenas. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who oversees the special grand jury, signed the petitions, certifying that each person whose testimony is sought is a “necessary and material” witness for the investigation.

Willis wrote that each of them has unique insights into their communications with Trump, his campaign, and others “involved in coordinated multi-state efforts to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.”

George Terwilliger, an attorney for Meadows, declined to comment Thursday. Epshteyn did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Powell and Waldron could not be immediately reached.

Willis filed similar motions last month for seven other Trump associates and attorneys, including Giuliani and Graham. Giuliani, who was told he was the target of the investigation, testified before the special grand jury last week. Graham fights against his subpoena to appear in court.

Also on Thursday, attorneys for Georgia Governor Brian Kemp appeared in court to argue that he should not have to testify before the special grand jury. And Kenneth Chesebro, an attorney who was part of the previous group of Trump associates whom Willis sought to compel to testify, filed a motion to have his subpoena dismissed.

In the petition seeking Meadows’ testimony, Willis wrote that Meadows attended a Dec. 21, 2020 meeting at the White House with Trump and others “to discuss allegations of voter fraud and certification of electoral college votes. of Georgia and other states”. The next day, Willis wrote, Meadows made a “surprise visit” to Cobb County, just outside Atlanta, where an audit of signatures on mail-in ballot envelopes was underway. He asked to observe the audit but was not allowed to as it was not open to the public, the petition states.

Between Jan. 30, 2020 and Jan. 1, 2021, Meadows sent emails to Justice Department officials making allegations of voter fraud in Georgia and elsewhere and requesting investigations, Willis wrote. He also had a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call with Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which Trump suggested the state’s top election official might “find” enough votes to undo his narrow defeat. election in the state.

In the petition seeking testimony from Powell, Willis wrote that Powell is “known to be affiliated with both former President Donald Trump and the Trump campaign.” The petition says attorney Lin Wood said in a television interview that Powell was part of a group that met at his home in South Carolina “for the purpose of exploring options for influencing the election results of November 2020 in Georgia and elsewhere”. Wood, who is licensed in Georgia, said Powell asked him to help find Georgia residents to serve as plaintiffs in lawsuits challenging the state’s election results, Willis wrote.

In June of this year, the United States House Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol released a deposition by Powell in which she said that in the weeks following the election of 2020, Trump had asked him to be a “special adviser to resolve election issues and gather evidence,” Willis said, saying he was frustrated with law enforcement.

Last week, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation confirmed it was helping the Georgia Secretary of State’s office investigate an alleged election data breach in Coffee County, southern Georgia, Willis wrote. She noted that emails made public indicate that Powell coordinated with a data solutions company to obtain election data from Coffee County in early January 2021 and was involved in similar efforts in Michigan and Michigan. Nevada.

Special grand juries are convened in Georgia to investigate complex cases with large numbers of witnesses and potential logistical issues. They can compel evidence and subpoena witnesses for questioning, but they do not have the power to indict. When its investigation is complete, the special grand jury issues a final report and may recommend action. It is then up to the district attorney to decide whether to ask a regular grand jury for an indictment.

During Thursday’s hearing into Kemp’s attempt to avoid testifying, his lawyers argued that he was protected from being compelled to testify by the principle of sovereign immunity, which states that the state cannot can be prosecuted without his consent. Prosecutors argued that this did not apply because Kemp was not being prosecuted, but rather called as a witness to provide facts for an investigation.

Kemp’s attorneys accuse the district attorney of pursuing a “politically motivated” investigation, which she has vehemently denied.

Kemp’s attorney, Brian McEvoy, argued that if the governor was to testify, it shouldn’t happen before the general election. Kemp faces a rematch with Democrat Stacey Abrams in November in one of the highest-profile and most-watched gubernatorial contests in the nation.

“Your Honor is well aware of where we are, what state we are in, what race we are up against, and the Governor should not face political consequences for invoking a legal right,” McEvoy said.

Prosecutor Donald Wakeford noted that Willis waited until after a contentious primary election in late May to begin calling witnesses before the special grand jury for that very reason. The governor could have quietly honored a subpoena last week without any media attention, Wakeford argued, but instead his attorneys filed the motion to dismiss the day before, drawing public attention to the issue.

“To continually insist that this is a situation engineered by the district attorney’s office to the intentional detriment of the governor is simply not true,” Wakeford said.

Judge McBurney did not rule immediately and it was unclear when he would.

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Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington and Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.

This story was first published on August 25, 2022. It was updated on August 26, 2022 to correct that Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows sent emails to the Justice Department between the December 30, 2020 and January 1, 2021. , not between January 30, 2020 and January 1, 2021.

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