White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows speaks to reporters following a television interview, outside the White House in Washington, U.S. October 21, 2020.
Alexander Drago | Reuters
A South Carolina judge on Wednesday ordered former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to comply with a Georgia grand jury subpoena demanding his testimony in a probe into potential criminal meddling in the 2020 presidential election.
The order came a day after a lawyer for the former South Carolina congressman Meadows said the subpoena issued by the Fulton County grand jury should be blocked for multiple reasons. Meadows’ attorney reportedly said he will appeal the decision.
The grand jury is investigating efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to get Georgia election officials to effectively reverse the victory in that state by President Joe Biden.
Georgia authorities had to ask a judge in South Carolina to compel Meadows to comply with the subpoena because he is not a resident of Georgia.
Meadows listened in on a phone call Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in early January 2021, during which the then-president urged Raffensperger to “find” him enough votes to win the state.
The call came days before a joint session of Congress was due to certify the results of Biden’s win in the Electoral College, which hinged on his popular vote victories in swing states that included Georgia.
A spokesman for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, whose prosecutors are presenting evidence to the grand jury, declined to comment on Wednesday’s order, which was issued in South Carolina’s Court of Common Pleas.
Meadows’ lawyer James Bannister did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bannister in a court filing argued that the subpoena should be blocked because it had been issued under a Georgia civil law, and not a criminal law. Bannister said that South Carolina’s law related to securing the attendance of witnesses for another state in a criminal proceeding would not apply to the one issued for Meadows.
The lawyer also argued Meadows is not a “material witness” under South Carolina law because he has asserted the claim of executive privilege in arguing he should not be compelled to testify to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot by Trump supporters.
The Georgia grand jury has subpoenaed a number of other Trump allies and lawyers for the former president, among them Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Graham asked a federal judge to quash his subpoena, arguing that he is exempt from being compelled to testify in the case because of the U.S. Constitution’s speech and debate clause, which protects members of Congress from legal risk from their comments related to legislative business.
Graham has claimed that his own call to Raffensperger after Election Day 2020 was part of a legislative inquiry.
But the federal judge in Graham’s case refused to block the subpoena, while saying that he could not be asked about portions of the call that could be related to such a legislative inquiry.
Graham last week lost a bid to delay the subpoena at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said he had not shown he was likely to win an appeal of that ruling. The appeals court also said, “There is significant dispute about whether his phone calls with Georgia election officials were legislative investigations at all.”
On Monday, U.S. Supreme Justice Clarence Thomas temporarily blocked the subpoena for Graham pending further filings in the Supreme Court.