S.C. court directs Meadows to appear before Fulton grand jury

The South Carolina Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ attempt to avoid testifying before the special grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump and his allies for their alleged meddling with the 2020 elections.

In a short order, the five-member court unanimously said it had reviewed Meadows’ arguments and “find them to be manifestly without merit.”

In a short order, the five-member court unanimously said it had reviewed Meadows’ arguments and “find them to be manifestly without merit.”

Meadows had been slated to testify before the grand jury in Fulton County on Wednesday morning, less than 18 hours after the South Carolina high court issued its decision. For that reason, Meadows’ appearance is being rescheduled.

A spokesman for the Fulton District Attorney’s office, which is advising the grand jury, declined to comment. Meadows’ attorney, James Bannister, did not respond to requests for comment.

The South Carolina Supreme Court upheld a circuit court judge’s ruling last month requiring Meadows to testify. Judge Edward W. Miller denied Meadows’ attempt to quash a petition seeking his testimony, and said that appearing in Atlanta would not present an “undue hardship.”

Meadows’ challenge took place in South Carolina since that is where the former congressman currently resides. Since he does not live in Georgia, the Fulton DA’s office needed a local judge to sign off on the summons, technically known as a certificate of material witness, for it to be enforceable.

Meadows is at the center of several events of interest to the grand jury, including the infamous Jan. 2, 2021 phone call he helped facilitate between then-President Donald Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Prosecutors said they’d also like to question Meadows about his surprise visit to a Cobb County audit of absentee ballot signatures in December 2020.

Also of interest is a Dec. 21, 2020 White House meeting Meadows attended with Trump and members of Congress, during which the certification of Electoral College votes from Georgia and elsewhere was reportedly discussed. Meadows also sent emails to top Justice Department officials in late 2020 making allegations of voter fraud in Georgia, according to prosecutors.

Meadows’ attorneys echoed an argument made by several other witnesses: that the grand jury, since it can’t issue indictments, 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.

During a circuit court hearing in Pickens, S.C., last month, one of Meadows’ lawyers cited his client’s right to privacy under the South Carolina Constitution, as well as Meadows’ lawsuit against the U.S. House’s Jan. 6 committee in federal court. In that suit, the former Trump aide is citing executive privilege to argue he’s immune from testifying.

Meanwhile, South Carolina attorneys Chris Adams and Andrew Savage, representing the Fulton DA’s office, argued in a recent court filing that the summons for Meadows was valid. South Carolina law, they wrote, allows summons to be issued to out-of-state witnesses when their testimony is required “in any proceeding or investigation by a grand jury or in a criminal action, prosecution or proceeding.”

”It is undisputed that the Georgia special purpose grand jury is a criminal action or proceeding,” the attorneys said.

They also brushed aside Meadows’ claim that he could not be a material witness because he has sweeping claims of executive privilege that would prevent him from testifying.

Such claims must be raised before Fulton Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who is overseeing the special grand jury, the attorneys said.

“Respectfully, the South Carolina Courts are not the appropriate forum for wading into an assertion of executive privilege in a Georgia criminal investigation.”

Several other key witnesses are continuing to fight their summons in court, including onetime House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., perhaps the most prominent witness to challenge his summons, testified before the grand jury last week.

Fulton prosecutors have signaled the grand jury’s work is winding down.

“We don’t anticipate that the grand jury will go on much longer,” Assistant DA Will Wooten told a Florida judge earlier this month, adding that “there are very few witnesses left.”

Before the 23-person grand jury is disbanded, however, DA Fani Willis is expected to decide whether to summon Trump, either through a more formal channel or on a voluntary basis.