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Rudy Giuliani’s decision to wade into difficult legal arenas in recent years appears to have brought him closer than ever to prosecution, with news that he has been informed that he is a target of the ongoing criminal investigation of Fulton County, Ga., District Attorney. Fanny Willis.
Such a step is often a precursor to an indictment, and it has been known for weeks that Willis’ investigation was moving quickly and that she has focused heavily on Giuliani. This also appears to be the first time — at least that we know of — that a top Trump ally has been named as a target of a criminal investigation related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Giuliani has seen his law license suspended in New York state during the 2020 push and is being sued by voting machine companies. But he has so far avoided criminal charges for various controversies involving his lobbying, including in relation to the Ukraine scandal. At one point last year, Giuliani was even served with a search warrant in that investigation, but the New York Times recently reported that he is unlikely to face charges.
So why might Georgia be any different?
In the dizzying array of January 6-related investigations, it can be difficult to keep track of who did what and when. But what we do know about Georgia is that Willis has taken a keen interest in the “fake voter” plot, in which Giuliani was a key player. We also know that Giuliani held hearings in Georgia in 2020 that included several false allegations that could be subject to criminal charges, depending on how aggressive Willis wants to be.
Willis has suggested that her investigation could result in charges that include violence and conspiracy — effectively a coordinated effort to fraudulently overturn the election — and Giuliani could also be vulnerable to accusations of making false statements in those hearings.
Willis has gestured in the former direction, in particular. In a petition last month seeking testimony from Giuliani and other aides to Donald Trump, Willis cited Giuliani’s hearings as “part of a multi-state, coordinated plan by the Trump campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere. »
A central part of the coordinated plan appears to be the fake election plot. Several states have named lists of election options for Trump, ostensibly for a scenario where the state’s election results are ultimately overturned by a court or state legislature. But then, even without action from the courts or state legislatures, Trump and top allies tried to get Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election with the fake electors anyway. And there is some evidence that certain people involved in the bogus voter plot may have understood that it was more than just a contingency — and believed that the bogus voters could be used on January 6 anyway.
Willis informed the 16 bogus voters last month that they too were targets of her investigation. Those fake voters, in turn, have stated in court that they were unaware of any attempt to use them without the results being overturned in the state — a reflection of the legal peril involved in what became the January 6 plot.
As for Giuliani’s involvement in the voter fraud, Willis has said in a filing that he worked with pro-Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro to coordinate the voter fraud.
Beyond that, there is the possibility that Giuliani could be held liable for making false statements in those hearings. Over many hours, Giuliani made a series of false claims, including some that had already been debunked. For example, he claimed that many underage voters, dead people, and felons had voted in Georgia (none of which are true), and he accused voting machines of altering the results (which is also not true and has gotten Giuliani into trouble in civil court).
Giuliani’s numerous false statements in Georgia were a particular focus of a report issued by a New York appeals court last year on the suspension of his law license.
“Respondent repeated to lawmakers and the public at large a number of false and misleading statements regarding the results of the Georgia presidential election,” the appeals court said. “These statements … were all deliberately made for the purpose of casting doubt on the accuracy of the vote.”
Georgia has a statute against making “a false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation … in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of state government.” Violations can result in penalties of between one and five years in prison.