ATLANTA — Legal pressure on Donald J. Trump and his closest allies continued to mount Monday when prosecutors told his former personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, that Mr. Giuliani was the target of a wide-ranging criminal investigation into electoral interference in Georgia.
The notification came on the same day that a federal judge dismissed the efforts of another key Trump ally, Senator Lindsey Graham, to avoid testifying before the special grand jury in the Atlanta case.
One of Mr Giuliani’s lawyers, Robert Costello, said in an interview that he was briefed on Monday that his client was a target. Such identification does not guarantee that an individual will be charged; Rather, it usually means that prosecutors believe a prosecution is possible based on evidence they have seen up to that point.
Mr. Giuliani, who as Mr. Trump’s personal attorney has spearheaded efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power, has emerged in recent weeks as a central figure in the investigation led by Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani T. Willis was carried out. covering most of Atlanta.
Earlier this summer, prosecutors were questioning witnesses before the special jury about Mr Giuliani’s appearances before state legislative bodies in December 2020, when he spent hours spreading false conspiracy theories about secret suitcases of Democratic ballots and damaged voting machines.
For Mr. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, the developments are the latest in a widening swath of trouble, although he received some good news recently when it emerged he was unlikely to be charged in a federal criminal investigation over his connections would Ukraine in the 2020 presidential campaign.
Mr. Giuliani is scheduled to appear before the special jury at a courthouse in downtown Atlanta on Wednesday. His attorney, Mr. Costello, said in the interview that Mr. Giuliani would likely invoke attorney-client privilege if asked questions about his dealings with Mr. Trump. “If these people think he’s going to talk about talks between him and President Trump, they’re delusional,” Mr. Costello said.
The denial of Senator Graham’s efforts to avoid testifying came in a written order from Leigh Martin May, a federal district court judge in Atlanta. Mr. Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, is now scheduled to testify on August 23.
The judge noted that prosecutors had shown that “there is a particular need for Mr Graham’s testimony on issues relating to alleged attempts to influence or interfere with the lawful conduct of the 2022 elections in Georgia”.
Lawyers for Mr Graham have said he was informed by prosecutors that he was a witness and not a target.
Understand the Trump election investigation in Georgia
Map 1 of 5
An imminent legal threat to Trump. Atlanta District Attorney Fani T. Willis has been investigating whether former President Donald J. Trump and his allies interfered in Georgia’s 2020 election. The case could become one of the most dangerous legal problems facing Mr. Trump. Here’s what you should know:
What are prosecutors looking for? In addition to Mr. Trump’s call to Mr. Raffensperger, Ms. Willis has a conspiracy by Trump allies to send fake Georgia voters to Washington and false statements about the election results that led the spearhead, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to lawmakers of the state had made efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power as his personal attorney. An election data breach in Coffee County, Georgia is also part of the investigation.
The possible fees. Experts say Ms Willis appears to be building a case that could target several defendants on conspiracy to commit voter fraud or extortion for involvement in a coordinated plot to undermine the election.
Prosecutors want his testimony for a number of reasons. Among them are two phone calls Mr. Graham made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger shortly after the 2020 election, in which Mr. Graham asked about ways to help Mr. Trump by invalidating certain absentee ballots.
In another development Monday, newly released court filings provided new details about how far Mr Trump’s allies went in trying to overturn the findings in Georgia and other states. A series of documents showed that a forensics team working with attorneys associated with Mr. Trump successfully gained access to critical voting infrastructure in Coffee County, Georgia, and obtained information about voting machines and software.
The revelation, detailed through emails and texts from The New York Times, is the first confirmation that the rural county’s electoral system was violated by an unauthorized outside group. News of the breach was previously reported by the Washington Post.
The infiltration of Coffee County’s voting system is one of several examples in states across the country, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, and Colorado, where a loosely connected network of technical experts and attorneys has attempted to obtain sensitive information about voting machines in an extended attempt to show that the 2020 election was corrupted by fraud.
Mr Giuliani’s post-election activities on behalf of Mr Trump have caused him problems on several fronts. The House of Representatives committee in Washington investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has highlighted video footage of Mr. Giuliani’s activities in Georgia, and the plan to create rival presidential election lists is also the subject of an intensified investigation by the Justice Department. Mr. Giuliani is among the subjects of civil lawsuits filed by two voting machine manufacturers, Dominion and Smartmatic, seeking billions in damages.
Much of Mr. Giuliani’s conduct in Georgia was exposed last year by the New York State Court of Appeals, which revoked his license to practice law. The court released a 33-page report that mentioned Georgia 35 times and described “numerous false and misleading statements about the results of Georgia’s presidential elections” by Mr. Giuliani. For example, the court found that Mr Giuliani had falsely claimed that tens of thousands of underage teenagers had voted illegally in Georgia, even though an audit by Georgia’s foreign minister found that no one under the age of 18 had voted in the 2020 election.
Mr. Giuliani was also a central figure in the Trump campaign’s plan to urge lawmakers in swing states to appoint electoral rolls other than those chosen by voters, which is part of the Georgia probe as well as the Justice Department probe.
A spokesman for the Fulton County Attorney’s Office declined to comment Monday. It is unclear what charges Mr Giuliani could face if charged. But in the past, Ms Willis has said her investigations could lead to racketeering or conspiracy allegations involving multiple defendants.
Norman Eisen, an attorney who served as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during Mr Trump’s first impeachment and trial, said he believes identifying Mr Giuliani as a target could mean Mr Trump will eventually be a target too .
“There’s no way that Giuliani is a target of the prosecution investigation, and Trump doesn’t end up being one,” Eisen said in an interview Monday. “They are simply too caught up in fact and law in trying to use fake voters and other means to overturn the Georgia election results.”
Mr Giuliani’s lawyers have said he did nothing improper in Georgia and was ready to cooperate. But they have clashed with Ms. Willis’ office over their efforts to get him to testify before the grand jury. Lawyers for Mr Giuliani said a doctor advised Mr Giuliani not to travel by plane for a procedure he underwent in early July to place cardiac stents and they tried to delay his testimony or video conference them to have it carried out, an idea of the prosecutor’s office has opposed it.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert CI McBurney said last week that Mr Giuliani could travel to Atlanta “by train, bus or Uber,” and set a date for Wednesday after agreeing to postpone his appearance at more to postpone than a week . Mr. Giuliani’s lawyers said their client would have little say anyway if he were identified as a target of the investigation.
“I think it would be mean to target him to travel here, especially by these alternative means, when there probably wouldn’t be a lot of testimony before the grand jury,” said another Giuliani attorney, William H. Thomas Jr . said after a court hearing.
At least 17 other people have already been named as targets of indictment in the investigation, including two state senators and the leader of the state’s Republican Party.
Mr Graham’s lawyers had based their argument that he should not be compelled to testify on the Constitution’s speech and debate clause, which protects lawmakers from being questioned about things they say that relate to their official duties . The lawyers argued, among other things, that Mr Graham, as a senior official, could only be called up in “extraordinary circumstances”.
Judge May ruled that prosecutors had shown such exceptional circumstances existed.
Mr Graham has argued that his telephone calls to Mr Raffensperger were protected under the speech and debate clause because they were investigative in nature and related to his then position as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. But the judge noted in her order that “individuals in the calls publicly implied that Senator Graham was involved in more than just establishing legislative facts” and “attempted to influence Secretary Raffensperger’s actions” to help Mr Trump help. (Mr. Raffensperger has said that Mr. Graham seemed to suggest to him that he should find a way to discard legally cast ballots.)
Judge May’s ruling essentially left the state court to determine which elements of Mr Graham’s calls should be shielded under the speech and debate clause.
But she also noted that aside from the phone calls, there were numerous other points of interest for the special grand jury that were undoubtedly fair game, including Mr. Graham’s “potential communication and coordination with the Trump campaign and their post-Georgia election efforts.” .
Prosecutors are demanding that two other attorneys on the Trump team, Jenna Ellis and John Eastman, also appear before the special panel. Ms Ellis’ participation, who lives in Colorado, will be addressed at a court hearing scheduled for Tuesday in Fort Collins, Colorado. A similar hearing will be held for Mr. Eastman, a New Mexico resident, at a Santa Fe courthouse. NM on Wednesday.
Mr. Costello, Mr. Giuliani’s attorney, was asked by a reporter Monday what mode of transportation his client would use to travel from New York to Atlanta.
“No comment,” said Mr. Costello.
Alexandra Berzon and Nick Corasaniti contributed coverage.