MAGA world loves to hand out subpoenas. But when they’re the recipients of an invitation to come in and explain themselves under oath, well … not so much.
Predictably, the response to Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s demand that Trump surrogates come in and testify about their actions to overturn Georgia’s election results and hand the state’s 16 electoral votes to Donald Trump has been a massive, collective tantrum.
Most notably, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who is never happier than when hauling a Democrat in front of the Judiciary Committee for a pummeling, has taken his effort to avoid going under oath all the way to the Supreme Court after losing in Georgia state court, US District Court, and the Eleventh Circuit.
Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, a former congressman from North Carolina who now claims to reside in South Carolina, was only delighted to haul Hillary Clinton in front of Congress to testify for hours about the attack on the embassy in Benghazi, Libya. But now that the shoe is on the other foot, he’s got a million reasons why he couldn’t possibly tell the special purpose grand jury what he did to help Trump pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.”
Meadows, along with Graham and other Trumpland luminaries such as Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, John Eastman, and Jena Ellis, have been designated by the court supervising the grand jury as material witnesses, and DA Willis is now moving to compel their testimony as non-Georgia residents.
This morning, Meadows argued before Judge Edward Miller of the Court of Common Pleas in Pickens County, South Carolina, that the subpoena had expired and/or that anything he did to advocate for Trump was covered by executive privilege. But the gravamen of his argument is that the special purpose grand jury is definitionally a civil body, since it cannot issue indictments only recommendations to indict, and therefore the Uniform Act to Secure the Attendance of Witnesses From Without a State in Criminal Proceedings does not apply.
A terrific post at the Lawfare blog, aptly titled Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Georgia Special Purpose Grand Juries But Were Afraid to Ask, makes the case that this is clearly a bad interpretation of the law. And indeed State courts in New Mexico and Colorado didn’t buy this argument when Eastman and Ellis made it. However, elected judges in Texas did accept it from attorney Jacki Pick Deason, which then emboldened Texans Sidney Powell and her fellow election denier Phil Waldron to blow off their own Georgia subpoenas.
This morning Judge Miller, citing the plain language of his Georgia counterpart’s holding, agreed that Meadows had to show up.
“It says the special purpose grand jury is criminal,” he said, referencing Judge Robert McBurney’s order authorizing the body. “Do I give full faith and credit to our sister state’s rulings?”
And so the court ordered Meadows to show up and testify.
“I am going to find that the witness is material and necessary to the investigation and that the state of Georgia is assuring not to cause undue hardship to him,” Judge Miller said, according to CNN.
Let’s take wild shot in the dark that Meadows isn’t going to meekly head down to Georgia to take his lumps. Presumably the fun is just beginning. But considering how long Republicans investigated Hillary Clinton’s homebrew email server, seems like we can spare another year or two getting to the bottom of a plot to overturn an American election.
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.