SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — A Florida judge said Tuesday that former national security adviser Michael Flynn must testify before a special grand jury in Atlanta looking into whether then-Pres. Donald Trump and his associates illegally tried to influence the 2020 elections in Georgia.
Sarasota County Chief Judge Charles Roberts ordered Flynn to testify before the panel on Nov. 22.
Lawyers for Flynn, a retired lieutenant general who served briefly as Trump’s national security adviser, argued that the special grand jury investigation was a civil matter, not a criminal one. For that reason, Flynn should not be forced to testify, they argued.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who is overseeing the special grand jury, said the special grand jury investigation is a criminal proceeding. He also certified Flynn as a “necessary and material witness.”
Roberts honored this by saying, “General Flynn is an essential witness.” The judge also denied a request by Flynn’s lawyers to delay his decision pending an appeal.
“There is no undue hardship,” Roberts said.
Flynn spoke only in response to questions from the judge and did not answer questions from reporters after the hearing. Because Flynn lives outside of Georgia, Willis had to use the process to try to get a judge where he lives in Florida to order him to comply with her subpoena.
Investigationled by the Fulton County District Attorney Fanny Willis, is seen as one of the most significant potential legal threats to the former president as he prepares to announce a third run for the presidency. Willis sought the testimony of numerous high-ranking Trump associates as witnesses in the investigation.
Former New York mayor and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who was told he may be subject to criminal liability in the investigation testified in August. The judges also ordered Trump’s former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former speaker of the US House of Representatives Newt Gingrich to testify later this month. On Monday, Gingrich initiated an appeal of his decision.
Cassidy Hutchinson, who was Meadows’ assistant, is expected to appear before a special grand jury on Wednesday. Hutchinson testified in June before a House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. told about what she saw and heard at the White House that day and in the days leading up to the uprising, including discussing how Trump’s election defeat could be overturned.
The special grand jury also heard high-ranking government figures, including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Attorney General Chris Carr. Gov. Brian Kemp, who had unsuccessfully tried to avoid testifying but was allowed to delay his appearance until after last week’s election, was seen leaving the courthouse on Tuesday. All of these government officials received calls from Trump after the 2020 election.
In an interview with a right-wing cable news channel in mid-December 2020, Flynn said that Trump “could take military capabilities” and put them in swing states and “essentially re-run every single one of those states,” Willis wrote in the appeal trying to get him to testify before a special grand jury.
Flynn also met at the White House on December 18, 2020, with Trump, attorney Sidney Powell and others associated with the Trump campaign in a meeting that, according to news reports, “focused on topics such as martial law, the seizure of voting machines , and Powell’s appointment as special counsel to investigate the 2020 election,” Willis wrote.
And he attended meetings in November 2021 at the home of conservative attorney Lynn Wood in South Carolina. Willis wrote that Wood said in a television interview that the two met to explore possible ways to influence elections in Georgia and elsewhere. Wood told The Associated Press that he testified before a special grand jury last week.
Willis began the investigation early last year, shortly after recording a January 2, 2021, phone call between Trump and Raffensperger was published. In that call, the Republican president urged Raffensperger to “find” the votes needed to overturn his narrow defeat in the state to Democrat Joe Biden.
Investigation the scope has expanded since then there has been a special grand jury with subpoena power sits in May, allowing Willis to compel testimony from people who might otherwise refuse. A special grand jury works in secret, with witness testimony closed to the public.
Special grand juries in Georgia, they are usually used to investigate complex cases with a large number of witnesses. They may require depositions and witness statements, but may not issue indictments. Once the investigation is complete, a special grand jury can recommend action, but the district attorney must decide whether to go ahead with an indictment to a regular grand jury.
Brumback reported from Atlanta. Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed reporting.