AILSA CHANG, HOST:
A Georgia special grand jury investigating potential crimes relating to Donald Trump's attempt to overturn the 2020 election has issued several subpoenas today, including to Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and two other top allies to the former president. Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler joins us now to explain more about these court documents. Welcome, Stephen.
STEPHEN FOWLER, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.
CHANG: So can you just remind us why this special grand jury was formed in the first place? Like, what are they looking at in regards to the 2020 election?
FOWLER: Well, they were impaneled in May. They can issue subpoenas like these. They can't issue indictments to people, but they'll issue a recommendation to the Fulton County District Attorney, Fani Willis, about potential charges. Now, the DA believes there's evidence of potential state crimes with election interference that's associated with Trump and other top Republicans seeking to undue his roughly 12,000-vote defeat here. This includes everything from the infamous call to Georgia's secretary of state to, quote, "find votes" to unofficial hearings with state lawmakers filled with false claims about Georgia's election.
CHANG: And in these court filings, I see the Fulton County district attorney seems to be zeroing in on several lawyers in Trump's inner circle. What do you think these subpoenas tell us about the direction the investigation is taking?
FOWLER: Well, I think you can glean a lot from there. People like Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, Jacki Pick Deason and John Eastman all tie in to those unofficial hearings I just mentioned. We've also heard about the role of some of these figures, especially Giuliani and Eastman, they played during that time from the January 6 committee hearings. Now, during Georgia's hearings, Giuliani and others hyped up a video of vote counting at State Farm Arena they said showed massive voter fraud. Even though elections officials quickly knocked those claims down and said they weren't true. Giuliani in particular continued to spread those falsehoods. Georgia is also one of several states where several Republicans met, often in secret, to sign phony documents claiming to be electors for the state. A subpoena to Kenneth Chesbro, another Trump-aligned lawyer, says he played a vital role in coordinating with the chair of Georgia's Republican Party to implement that plan.
CHANG: And what about Senator Lindsey Graham? Why does a special grand jury want to hear from him specifically?
FOWLER: Well, he had a couple of calls with Georgia's secretary of state about absentee ballots, particularly looking at ways you could maybe toss out some of those ballots to make the results more favorable for Republicans. It's important to note here Graham and others are not being accused of wrongdoing or breaking the law. But these documents are being used to compel the people to testify behind closed doors to this special grand jury so they can get more insight and info into how these things went down. Now, that's not the only important phone call. Cleta Mitchell is a Trump lawyer on that call with Raffensperger where Trump asked him to, quote, "find votes." And then there's another call to Georgia's top election investigator asking to find fraudulent ballots. All of this is in play under this investigation.
CHANG: Right. OK. Well, as the House Select Committee investigating January 6 is weighing potential criminal referrals of Trump to the Department of Justice, this parallel investigation could bring state-level charges to people within his circle, right? So what could come next in the Fulton County probe, you think?
FOWLER: It's hard to exactly know because most of this is done in secret. But when the request for a special grand jury was made, DA Fani Willis said everything from racketeering to making false statements to government officials was potentially on the table based on preliminary investigations. These court filings do paint a pretty good picture of where we might be headed, particularly those off-book state legislative hearings.
CHANG: That is Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler. Thank you so much, Stephen.
FOWLER: Thank you.
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