Meadows, Flynn appeals complicate timeline for concluding Trump grand jury

Three of the most prominent witnesses who have yet to testify before the Fulton County special grand jury investigating potential criminal meddling in Georgia’s 2020 election appealed judges’ orders this week directing them to appear in Atlanta.

The moves from former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and onetime House Speaker Newt Gingrich threaten to push back the timeline for Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis, who is advising the grand jury and hoping to wrap up its work by the end of the calendar year.

On Thursday, the Virginia Court of Appeals granted Gingrich a stay on a lower court’s ruling that directed him to testify before the grand jury on Nov. 29. That means Gingrich, the former Georgia congressman who now lives in McLean, Va., won’t need to appear until after his appeal is resolved.

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A day earlier, Meadows’ lawyer filed paperwork appealing an order signed by a South Carolina judge earlier this month that compelled him to appear at the Fulton courthouse on Nov. 30.

That followed a notice of appeal from Flynn’s attorney in Florida the same day that a Sarasota County Circuit judge ruled the retired lieutenant general was a “necessary” and “material” witness to the Fulton probe and must appear on Nov. 22.

The 23-person grand jury, which can issue subpoenas for documents and testimony but doesn’t have indictment power, is helping Willis investigate whether former President Donald Trump and his allies criminally interfered in the administration of Georgia’s last presidential election.

Among Willis’ interests are:

  • Calls Trump and his allies placed to Georgia officials after the election, especially the Jan. 2, 2021 call between the then-president and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
  • The leadership shakeup in the Atlanta U.S. attorney’s office in January 2021.
  • Testimony Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and others gave to state legislators in Dec. 2020.
  • The appointment of a slate of phony Republican electors.
  • The breach of elections data in Coffee County in January 2021.
  • Efforts to pressure a Fulton County poll worker to falsely admit to election fraud.

At the end of its term, jurors will write Willis a report recommending whether she should press charges against Trump or anyone else. But the ultimate decision of whether to pursue an indictment rests with Willis, who would need to convince a regularly-empaneled grand jury to greenlight any charges.

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The special grand jury is authorized to meet through May 2023. But Willis previously said she hopes to wind down its work by the end of the year.

One of her top deputies, Assistant DA Will Wooten, said at a hearing last week that “there are very few witnesses left.”

“We don’t anticipate that the grand jury will go on much longer,” Wooten told the Florida judge presiding over the Flynn challenge.

Credit: Mike Lang

Credit: Mike Lang

Willis previously told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she was anticipating subpoena challenges as she mapped out the grand jury’s timeline.

“For me as a prosecutor, people challenging our subpoenas, it literally is just par for the course,” she said in July.

A Willis spokesman did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

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Prosecutors previously said they’re interested in questioning Gingrich about his alleged involvement in a Trump campaign effort to air television ads in December 2020 that “repeated and relied upon false claims about fraud in the 2020 election,” as well as his potential involvement in the fake electors scheme.

At a Fairfax, Va., hearing earlier this month, Gingrich’s attorneys argued that the speaker shouldn’t be compelled to appear before the grand jury since he’s already testifying before the Select Committee on Capitol Hill investigating the Jan. 6 attack, with is inquiring about many of the same issues. Lawyer John A. Burlingame instead suggested the Jan. 6 panel share its interview transcript with the Fulton grand jury after the fact.

Credit: Andrew Harnik

Credit: Andrew Harnik

Meadows sat in on the Trump-Raffensperger call and made a surprise visit to Cobb County in Dec. 2020 as officials were conducting an audit of absentee ballot signatures. Meadows also attended a Dec. 21, 2020 White House meeting with Trump and members of Congress that prosecutors are interested in, during which the certification of Electoral College votes from Georgia was reportedly discussed.

The DA’s office previously said it was interested in discussing comments Flynn made on Newsmax in late 2020 in which he said Trump could invoke martial law and seize voting machines, as well as a White House meeting he attended with Trump campaign officials and attorney Sidney Powell in which those same topics were discussed.

Flynn, Gingrich and Meadows all argued that the Fulton grand jury, because it lacks indictment powers, is civil and not criminal in nature and thus can’t compel witnesses to travel to Atlanta under interstate compacts for out-of-state subpoenas. That argument was successfully used in Texas by another witness, podcaster and attorney Jacki Pick, but their respective judges rejected it.

The grand jury on Nov. 22 will hear from at least one long-sought witness: U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham. The South Carolina Republican is still challenging his summons but must appear in Atlanta after the Supreme Court lifted a temporary stay on his testimony earlier this month.

Graham spent months fighting his petition to appear before the grand jury. His office recently suggested he wouldn’t hesitate to fight back against any questions he perceives may run aground of his legislative privilege as a member of Congress.

Still looming on the horizon is one of the biggest questions facing Willis: whether to subpoena Trump himself, especially now that he’s launched his presidential campaign.