Such a step is often a precursor to an indictment, and it has been known for a few weeks that Willis’ investigation was moving quickly and largely focused on Giuliani. It also appears to be the first time — to our knowledge, at least — that a top Trump ally has been named as the target of a criminal investigation related to efforts to nullify the 2020 election.
Giuliani had his attorney’s license suspended in New York State during the 2020 surge and is being sued by voting machine companies. But he has so far avoided criminal prosecution for various controversies involving his lobbying, particularly vis-à-vis the Ukrainian scandal. At some point last year, Giuliani even received a search warrant in connection with this investigation, but the New York Times recently reported that he was unlikely to be charged.
So why could Georgia be any different?
In the dizzying array of investigations related to January 6, it can be difficult to know who did what and when. But what we do know from Georgia is that Willis took a keen interest in the “fake voters” conspiracy, in which Giuliani was a key player. We also know that Giuliani held hearings in Georgia in 2020 that included multiple false allegations that could lead to criminal charges, depending on how aggressive Willis was.
Willis has suggested his investigation could lead to racketeering and conspiracy charges — effectively a coordinated effort to fraudulently nullify the election — and Giuliani could also be vulnerable to charges of misrepresentation at those hearings.
Willis made a move in the old 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 coordinated, multi-state plan by the Trump campaign to influence the election results of November 2020 in Georgia and elsewhere”.
A key element of this coordinated plan appears to be the fake voter plot. Several states have named alternate voter lists for Trump, reportedly for a scenario in which state election results were ultimately overturned by a court or state legislatures. But then, even without action from the courts or state legislatures, Trump and his key allies tried to get Vice President Mike Pence to void the election with the fake voters anyway. And there is evidence that some people involved in the fake voters plot might have understood it to be more than just a possibility – and thought the fake voters could be used on January 6 anyway.
Willis informed the 16 fake voters last month that they were also the target of his investigation. These fake voters in turn said in court they were unaware of an effort to use them in the absence of the overturned results in the state – a reflection of the legal danger involved in what happened. of the January 6 conspiracy.
As for Giuliani’s involvement with the fake voters, Willis said in a petition that he worked with pro-Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro to coordinate the fake voters.
Beyond that, it’s possible that Giuliani could be held responsible for making false statements during these hearings. For many hours, Giuliani offered a litany of false claims, some of which had already been debunked. He claimed, for example, that many underage voters, dead people, and criminals voted in Georgia (none of which are true), and he blamed the voting machines for altering the results (which doesn’t is also not true and got Giuliani in trouble in Civil Court).
Giuliani’s numerous misrepresentations in Georgia were the subject of a report issued by a New York appeals court last year by suspending his attorney’s license.
“Defendant repeated to lawmakers and the general public numerous false and misleading statements regarding the results of the Georgian presidential election,” the appeals court said. “These statements…were all made knowingly for the purpose of casting doubt on the accuracy of the vote.”
Georgia has a law prohibiting making “a false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation…in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the state government.” Violations can result in penalties ranging from one to five years in prison.