ATLANTA (AP) — A Colorado judge on Tuesday ordered legal counsel for former President Donald Trump’s campaign to travel to Georgia to testify before a special grand jury examining whether Trump and others unlawfully attempted to influencing the 2020 elections in Georgia.
Judge Gregory Lammons of Fort Collins, Colo., made the decision after holding a hearing at the request of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to compel attorney Jenna Ellis to testify. Prosecutors are interested in Ellis’ role in coordinating and scheduling legislative hearings in Georgia and other states where false allegations of voter fraud have been pushed, according to court testimony.
Fulton County prosecutors purchased airline tickets and made hotel reservations in preparation for Ellis’ August 25 testimony.
The investigation, sparked by a January 2021 phone call between Trump and Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, began early last year. During that call, Trump suggested Raffensperger might “find” the votes to undo his narrow election defeat in the state. It has become clear since the special grand jury convened in May that the focus of the investigation extends far beyond this appeal.
Willis filed motions last month with the judge overseeing the special grand jury seeking to compel the testimony of seven Trump associates and advisers, including Ellis, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and the former New York Mayor and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Because they don’t live in Georgia, she had to use a process that involves appealing to a judge in the state where they are located to order them to appear before the special grand jury in Atlanta.
Giuliani, who has been told he is the target of the investigation, is scheduled to testify before the special grand jury on Wednesday. Graham’s subpoena orders him to testify on August 23, but he said he will appeal a judge’s order on Monday refusing to overturn his subpoena.
In the petition requesting Ellis’ testimony, Willis identified her as “an advocate for the Trump campaign’s legal efforts seeking to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.”
Ellis appeared with Giuliani at a Dec. 3, 2020, state Senate committee hearing at the Georgia Capitol in which false allegations of voter fraud were made, Willis wrote. She also wrote at least two legal memos to Trump and his lawyers advising that then-Vice President Mike Pence should “disregard certified votes from the Georgia and other allegedly state electoral colleges.” disputed “” when Congress met to certify the election results on January 6. , 2021, the petition states.
Evidence shows that Ellis’ actions were “part of a multi-state plan coordinated by the Trump campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere,” Willis wrote.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who is overseeing the special grand jury, approved Willis’ motions to order Ellis and other Trump associates to testify. He issued so-called material witness certificates stating that they are “necessary and material” witnesses for the grand jury’s special investigation.
Lammons, the Colorado judge, heard arguments from Ellis’s attorney, Michael Melito, and prosecutor Dawn Downs, of the Larimer County District Attorney’s Office in Colorado, in a hearing streamed online. Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Will Wooten appeared via video conference from Atlanta as a witness to explain why Ellis’ appearance is necessary.
Lammons found that there is sufficient evidence that Ellis is an important witness and that there is no evidence that traveling to Atlanta for a day of testimony would be an undue burden. He said any attorney-client privilege issues Ellis might wish to raise should be dealt with by McBurney, the Georgia judge.
The special grand jury operates in secret and does not have the power to issue an indictment. Once his investigation is complete, he will publish a report with recommendations. Willis will then have to decide whether to appear before a regular grand jury to seek an indictment.