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Trump allies Graham and Giuliani to testify in probe

August 15, 2022

Authorities in the state of Georgia are investigating possible election interference by Donald Trump and his political allies during the 2020 presidential race. Lawyers for Rudy Giuliani were told he could face charges.

A vote counter in Atlanta November 2020
Trump had tried to turn over Georgia's vote count in 2020Image: Tami Chappell/AFP

Two prominent political allies of former US President Donald Trump are being probed by public prosecutors for their involvement in possible election interference in the battleground state of Georgia during the 2020 US presidential elections. 

Trump narrowly lost the state after unsuccessfully trying to overturn the results by claiming voter fraud. 

On Monday, a federal judge said US Senator Lindsey Graham is being ordered to testify before a special grand jury in Atlanta next week. 

Later Monday, Rudy Giuliani, Trump's former lawyer, received notice that he is the target of a criminal investigation by the same court, according to his lawyers and the New York Times. Giuliani is set to testify Wednesday. 

Both Graham and Giuliani have pitched legal battles to try and avoid testifying. 

What is the investigation about?

Georgia prosecutors investigating whether former US President Donald Trump and his allies broke the lawwhile trying to overturn his narrow 2020 general election loss Georgia. The controversy centers on Fulton County, the state's most populous, and home to Atlanta. 

US-Senator Lindsey Graham
US Senator Lindsey Graham is citing his immunity as a reason to not having to testify in the caseImage: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Fulton County's District Attorney Fani Willis opened the investigation in 2021. In July, she filed petitions to compel testimony from seven Trump advisers and associates. 

Willis has confirmed that the investigation's scope includes a phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on January 2, 2021, during which Trump urged Raffensperger to "find'' enough votes to overturn his loss in Georgia – which the secretary refused.

Prosecutors have indicated they want to ask Graham about phone calls they say he made to Raffensperger and his staff in the weeks following Trump's election loss to Democrat Joe Biden. 

In calls made shortly after the 2020 general election, Graham allegedly "questioned Secretary Raffensperger and his staff about reexamining certain absentee ballots cast in Georgia in order to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump,'' District Attorney Willis wrote in a petition.

Graham also "made reference to allegations of widespread voter fraud in the November 2020 election in Georgia, consistent with public statements made by known affiliates of the Trump Campaign,'' she wrote.

 Rudy Giuliani sweating pointing to a sign
Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani pushed baseless claims about election fraud in an attempt to overturn resultsImage: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

What Graham and Giuliani argue 

Graham's office stated on Monday he will appeal, and that the senator disagrees with the judge's interpretation of the provision of the Constitution he claims grants him immunity from being questioned by a state official. 

US District Judge Leigh Martin May wrote in an order Monday that immunity related to his role as a senator does not protect him from having to testify in this case.

His lawyers have said that he was making inquiries that were clearly part of his legislative duties, related to certification of the vote and to the proposal of election-related legislation.

Graham also argued that Willis, a Democrat, had not demonstrated "extraordinary circumstances" necessary to enforce testimony from a high-ranking official. 

But the judge disagreed, finding that Willis had shown "extraordinary circumstances and a special need'' for Graham's testimony. 

Giuliani's lawyer, Robert Costello, told Reuters news agency that Giuliani would refuse to answer any questions about Trump that would violate attorney-client privilege.

Giuliani urged Georgia state lawmakers in December 2020 to not certify Democratic President Joe Biden's victory, echoing Trump's false conspiracy theories.

Republican and Democratic state election officials across the US, and even the Trump-appointed attorney general found there was no evidence of any voter fraud sufficient to affect the outcome of his 2020 presidential election loss.

Outtake: Trump refuses to say election is over

los/wmr (AP, AFP, Reuters)