Virginia judge: Gingrich must testify to Fulton special grand jury

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story said the judge refused to issue a stay on the order so that Gingrich could appeal. The judge said he wouldn’t issue a stay on the spot but directed Gingrich’s legal team to file the paperwork seeking one as they appeal.

FAIRFAX, VA. — A judge in Virginia has rejected an effort by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich to avoid testifying before a special grand jury in Georgia investigating the effort by former President Donald Trump to reverse his 2020 election loss.

In a hearing Wednesday morning in Fairfax County, Virginia, lawyers for Gingrich argued an appearance in Fulton County would be “unduly burdensome,” and asked the judge not to make the former Georgia congressman travel to Atlanta to answer questions.

“Speaker Gingrich’s testimony before the Georgia Special Purpose Grand Jury is simply not necessary,” attorney John A. Burlingame told the court.

Burlingame said the better option was to have the Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol send the grand jury a copy of Gingrich’s testimony about the same subject matter.

“It’s not necessary for Speaker Gingrich to have to travel to Georgia to address the exact same topics before a different body,” Burlingame said. Gingrich has a Nov. 21 deposition scheduled on Capitol Hill.

ExploreRead more: Newt Gingrich to challenge Fulton grand jury subpoena

But Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Robert J. Smith was not swayed, as he swiftly turned aside Gingrich’s request.

“I’m not going to do that,” the judge said. “The summons will issue.”

Chaim Mandelbaum, an attorney for the Commonwealth of Virginia, echoed the arguments of Fulton County officials, telling the judge that Gingrich was a “necessary witness” for the Georgia investigation.

The two sides agreed that Gingrich would appear in Atlanta for questions on Nov. 29, though the speaker’s attorney later said he would appeal Smith’s ruling.

There was no special VIP treatment for Gingrich during his morning in court, as he had to wait nearly an hour while Judge Smith ran through a series of local criminal cases on the docket.

It presented the odd juxtaposition of the former Speaker of the House sitting quietly in the courtroom while various defendants in prison jumpsuits were brought in for a variety of legal proceedings.

Gingrich refused to answer questions from reporters about the Fulton County matter after the court hearing ended.

Drawing on information developed by the Jan. 6 Committee investigation, Fulton County prosecutors want to question Gingrich about his 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” and “encouraged members of the public to contact their state officials and pressure them to challenge and overturn the results of the election.”

Among those claims were false charges embraced by Trump and his allies that election workers had smuggled suitcases of fraudulent ballots into Atlanta’s State Farm Arena, according to the committee.

The panel cited an email that Gingrich sent to people associated with the campaign that stated the goal was “to arouse the country’s anger through new verifiable information the American people have never seen before.”

“If we inform the American people in a way they find convincing and it arouses their anger they will then bring pressure on legislatures and governors,” the email said.

Gingrich was also, according to the Jan. 6 Committee, involved in the plan to appoint a slate of “alternate” Republican electors in swing states that were narrowly won by Democrat Joe Biden.

Gingrich “possesses unique knowledge concerning the circumstances surrounding public television advertisements relying on false claims of election fraud, the meetings of Republican electors in various states on December 14, 2020, and communications between himself, the Trump Campaign, and other known and unknown individuals involved in the multi-state, coordinated efforts to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere,” says the Fulton County petition seeking his testimony.

A spokesman for the Fulton District Attorney’s office declined to comment following Gingrich’s appearance.

Meanwhile, Gingrich confidante Randy Evans, an Atlanta attorney and former Ambassador to Luxembourg under Trump, said he would testify before the grand jury on Thursday. He was named in one of the Gingrich emails released by the Jan. 6 committee.