The subpoena fight emerges from the investigation Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has launched into former President Donald Trump’s election subversion gambits in Georgia
A state Senate hearing that GOP Georgia legislators organized in December
2020, at which Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani pushed false claims of mass election fraud
, has become a focus of the investigation.
已经, at least four witnesses — three of them Democratic state lawmakers — have testified about the hearing in front of the special purpose grand jury that has been convened for Willis’ 调查.
Two Republicans signed on to request with the court that it quash subpoenas for their grand jury testimony in a Monday court filing that argued that both legislative immunity and legislative privilege shielded their testimony. 特别, they asked the court to declare out of bounds any testimony about “matters that occurred in the witness’ 立法” testimony about members’ “motivations” in their legislative activity and any testimony concerning “研究” done by the legislator, “including interviewing constituents, 说客, or other sources of information” as they relate to the legislative process.
The motion was put forward by former state Sen. William Ligon, Lt. 政府. 杰夫·邓肯, “和别的,” and the Republicans sought to shield “any” General Assembly member from testifying about those topics. At the hearing Friday, their attorney Don Samuels — who is acting in the capacity of special assistant legislative counsel — said other members of the legislature were interested getting guidance from the court about what testimony is protected by privilege.
In a response filed with the court on Thursday, the district attorney’s office pointed to the subject matter of the hearing in question. Referring to a recommendation listed in a report issued by legislators calling for the “rectifying” 的 2020 选举结果, 威利斯’ office said in the filing: “The General Assembly cannot, either in 2020 or today, ‘rectify’ election results by changing the outcome of a certified election that had already taken place, and it is never, and can never be, considered a legitimate ‘legislative duty’ to attempt to do so.”
“Holding hearings and generating a report and generating report intended to propose ‘rescinding’ and election certification is entirely outside of the General Assembly’s jurisdiction,” 威利斯’ court filing said. “另外, presenting demonstrable falsehoods a ‘findings’ in a committee report should never be considered conduct protected by legislative immunity or privilege, and to suggest otherwise makes a mockery of the ‘integrity of the legislative process’ the movants supposedly seek to preserve by shielding themselves from legitimate inquiry from Georgia citizens.”
The judge signaled Friday he didn’t find that argument persuasive. The bulk of the hearing focused on what kinds of testimony the grand jury could seek from legislators and their staff about their communications with third parties. Samuels argued testimony that got into the content of those conversations would violate constitutional protections for lawmakers because that testimony would touch on a lawmaker’s motivation for taking legislative action. The judge declared testimony about a lawmaker’s motivations among the broad buckets protected by legislative immunity and privilege.
McBurney did not give a clear indication how much he would restrict questions about the substance of those conversations. But he suggested that grand jury questions about who the lawmakers spoke to as they prepared for the December 2020 hearing would be permissible. The judge said he believed the grand jury was “有资格” to ask questions about which third parties lawmakers spoke to so that it could then bring those third parties in for questioning.