A South Carolina judge on Wednesday ruled that former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows must appear for testimony in the Atlanta-area grand jury 2020 election meddling investigation.
“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 Edward Miller – who sits on the Court of Common Pleas in Pickens County, South Carolina – said at the end of a hearing Wednesday morning.
The matter was before the South Carolina judge because Meadows now lives in South Carolina and Atlanta-area prosecutors sought an order there compelling his compliance with the subpoena.
Meadows plans to appeal the ruling, his attorney James Bannister told CNN.
The Fulton County district attorney’s office, which is leading the special grand jury probe in Georgia, said in court filings there are multiple dates in November when they could accommodate Meadows’ testimony.
Meadows’ arguments for why he should not have to comply with a subpoena were met with skepticism from the South Carolina judge, who questioned the relevance of some of the evidence Meadows’ attorney tried to put forward in the hearing, which lasted less than an hour . Miller also jumped in when a question by Bannister posed to a prosecutor involved in the Atlanta probe suggested a partisan motivation of the investigation.
“This is not a political hearing,” Miller told Bannister, calling the line of inquiry “far afield” from the dispute before the South Carolina court.
The judge said that some of the legal arguments Meadows was raising were claims that could be considered by other courts, but were not relevant to the decision before him.
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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is spearheading the special purpose grand jury investigation into attempts to manipulate Georgia’s 2020 election results. The probe was prompted by the infamous call between Trump and Georgia’s secretary of state, in which Trump requested that Secretary Brad Raffensperger “find” the votes that would secure his victory. But the investigation has grown to include the fake electors plot, the presentations made by Trump allies to Georgia lawmakers that promoted bogus voter fraud claims and other Trump-world machinations from that period.
The Atlanta-area investigators, in demanding Meadows’ testimony, are pointing to his involvement in the Trump-Raffensperger call and to a December 2020 White House meeting about election fraud claims that was touted by Meadows. Their filings also reference his visit to a site where an audit of Georgia’s election was underway and emails Meadows sent to Justice Department officials about unsubstantiated fraud allegations.
Meadows, in court filings, argued that the South Carolina law that Fulton County district attorney is using to force his appearance does not apply to the subpoena in question. Meadow’s attorney also stressed at the hearing executive privilege concerns, noting his ongoing federal court lawsuit challenging a House January 6 select committee subpoena.
Will Wooten – a deputy district attorney in Willis’ office who testified as a witness at the hearing – noted that Meadows traveled to the Georgia audit site apparently by himself. “There’s multiple places where there is no executive privilege issue,” Wooten said.
Other former Trump allies, including his then-attorney Jenna Ellis, have brought similar challenges to the Fulton County probe’s subpoenas – but most have been unsuccessful so far. However, one Texas attorney who participated in the presentations to Georgia lawmakers was able to defeat Willis’ office in such a subpoena dispute.
A bid by Sen. Lindsey Graham to halt a subpoena in the investigation for his testimony is currently before the US Supreme Court.
This story has been updated with additional details.