By KATE BRUMBACK
ATLANTA (AP) — Rudy Giuliani faced questioning Wednesday before a special grand jury in Atlanta as a target of an investigation into attempts by former President Donald Trump and others to overturn his 2020 election defeat in Georgia.
The former New York mayor and Trump attorney remained inside the Fulton County courthouse after several hours of facing questions as part of a rapidly escalating investigation that has ensnared several Trump allies.
Giuliani’s questioning took place behind closed doors, as grand jury proceedings are secret. Swarmed by news cameras Wednesday morning as he stepped out of a limousine at the courthouse steps, Giuliani said he didn’t plan to talk about his testimony.
“Grand juries, as I recall, are secret,” said Giuliani, who came to court with his attorney, Robert Costello. “They ask the questions and we’ll see.”
Though grand jury secrecy rules prohibit people present during grand jury testimony from discussing it, that prohibition does not apply to witnesses, including Giuliani. As a former federal prosecutor, he is likely familiar with those rules.
It’s unclear how much the former New York mayor and attorney for Trump will be willing to say now that his lawyers have been informed he’s a target of the investigation.
The investigation by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has brought heightened scrutiny to the desperate and ultimately failed efforts to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 election win. It’s one of several investigations into Trump’s actions in office as he lays the groundwork for another run at the White House in 2024.
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 advisers. 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.
Other Trump allies swept up in the probe include U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham. His attorneys filed a legal motion Wednesday asking a federal judge to put Graham’s special grand jury appearance set for Aug. 23 on hold while the South Carolina Republican appeals an order compelling him to testify.
Fulton County prosecutors want to ask Graham about phone calls they say he made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff in the weeks following the vote.
Graham’s attorneys, including former Trump White House counsel Don McGahn, are fighting the subpoena in federal court. They argue Graham’s position in Congress protects him from having to appear before the grand jury. A federal judge rejected that notion and ordered the senator to testify. Graham has appealed that ruling.
In seeking Giuliani’s testimony, Willis noted that he 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 due to 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.”
Associated Press writer Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina contributed to this report.
More on Donald Trump-related investigations: https://apnews.com/hub/donald-trump.
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