Journalist who observed GOP electors subpoenaed in Fulton Trump case

Independent journalist George Chidi.

Independent journalist George Chidi.

An independent journalist who stumbled upon the December 2020 meeting of “alternate” GOP electors at the Georgia Capitol was subpoenaed to be a witness before two Fulton County grand juries, one of which is expected to decide in the weeks ahead whether to indict former President Donald Trump and others.

George Chidi, a writer who publishes the online newsletter “The Atlanta Objective,” said Monday that he received two subpoenas requiring his testimony at some point between Aug. 7 and Aug. 31.

His summonses, which were reviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, say that Chidi will be considered “on call” until the end of the term of the court and that he will receive at least 48 hours advanced notice before he’s expected to appear. One of the panels meets on Monday-Tuesday and the other Thursday-Friday.

Chidi is the first subpoenaed witness whose name has surfaced publicly in the election interference case, which Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and her team are expected to present to one of the grand juries at some point over the next three weeks.

Chidi previously testified under subpoena before a separate special grand jury about a meeting of Republican electors at the state Capitol. The new subpoenas don’t specify what Chidi will be questioned about, but they strongly suggest prosecutors will seek charges against some of the people who participated in or organized that meeting.

A Willis spokesman declined to comment.

At least eight of the 16 GOP electors have been offered immunity deals by Fulton prosecutors in exchange for their cooperation. Attorneys for former Georgia GOP chairman David Shafer, an elector who helped organize the meeting, have stepped up their efforts to ward off an indictment in recent weeks, arguing their client was following legal advice and that there was historic precedent for the meeting.

Chidi, who also writes stories for publications such as Rolling Stone and The Intercept, said he is retaining an attorney and that “we are working out the details to ensure if I do testify, that it will be under terms that do not threaten my integrity as a journalist.”

“Normally, journalists should and do resist testifying in front of grand juries, and that’s because there’s an important principle around separating the activities of journalism from the activities of government,” said Chidi, who worked at the AJC between 2005 and 2008. “Journalists cannot be seen as agents of the government and still do their job. The specific situation here makes the defense of democracy a larger consideration.”

Chidi was visiting the state Capitol on the morning of Dec. 14, 2020, when the state’s official presidential electors were preparing to cast Georgia’s 16 Electoral College votes for Joe Biden, the first Democrat to carry the state in 28 years.

His curiosity was piqued when he saw some Republicans he recognized walking into a room downstairs from where the formal ceremony was being held, he previously told the AJC podcast “Breakdown.” He began recording on his cell phone but was quickly ushered out of the room. Chidi said he was told it was an education meeting, and that afterwards organizers sent someone to stand outside the room so that no one else could enter.

Eventually, the organizers allowed press into the room to witness the ceremony.

The meeting has been of interest to Willis and Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith, who is running a separate federal probe.

The special grand jury in Georgia — which met for nearly eight months — issued a set of recommendations for whom should be indicted, though that list is not yet public. The two regular grand juries that are meeting now have the power to hand up criminal charges.

Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article.