Court says Trump aide Meadows must testify in election probe

ATLANTA (AP) — The South Carolina Supreme Court says former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows must testify before a special grand jury investigating whether then-President Donald Trump and his allies illegally tried to influence the 2020 election in Georgia.

The state high court on Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling last month ordering Meadows to appear before the panel. The former Republican congressman is the latest Trump associate to lose a legal battle over a subpoena.

The South Carolina Supreme Court opinion says the justices reviewed Meadows’ arguments and found them to be “manifestly without merit.”

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is leading the investigation, said Meadows is an important witness. Because he doesn’t live in Georgia, she had to use a process that involved getting a judge in South Carolina, where Meadows lives, to order him to travel to Atlanta to testify.

Meadows had originally been ordered to testify on Wednesday. It was not immediately clear if it would be rescheduled.

In a petition seeking her testimony, Willis wrote that Meadows attended a Dec. 21, 2020, meeting at the White House with Trump and others “to discuss allegations of voter fraud and the certification of Electoral College votes in Georgia and other states”.

The next day, Willis wrote, Meadows made a “surprise visit” to Cobb County, just outside Atlanta, where an audit of signatures on ballot envelopes was being conducted. He asked to observe the audit but was not allowed to because it was not open to the public, the petition said.

Meadows also sent emails to Justice Department officials after the election alleging voter fraud in Georgia and elsewhere and demanding investigations, Willis wrote. And he took part in a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which Trump suggested that Raffensperger, the state’s top election official and a Republican, could “find” enough votes to overturn the loss of the president. in the state.

An attorney for Meadows argued that executive privilege and other rights prevent him from testifying. He previously invoked the privilege in a fight against subpoenas issued by the US House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

Meadows has been fighting investigations into the violent 2021 uprising since last year and has so far avoided having to testify about his role and knowledge of the former president’s actions. He turned over thousands of texts to the commission since January 6 before ultimately declining to be interviewed.

The House held Meadows in contempt of Congress for defying the subpoena, but the Justice Department declined to prosecute.

Georgia special grand juries cannot issue indictments. Instead, they can gather evidence and compel testimony and then recommend further action, including criminal charges, in a final report. Ultimately, it is up to the district attorney to decide whether to seek a regular grand jury indictment.

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