Lawyers for Rudolph W. Giuliani have been told that he is a target of a criminal investigation in Georgia into election interference by Donald J. Trump and his advisers, one of Mr. Giuliani’s lawyers said on Monday.
Mr. Giuliani, who spearheaded efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power as his personal lawyer, emerged in recent weeks as a central figure in the inquiry being conducted by Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Ga., which encompasses most of Atlanta. Earlier this summer, prosecutors questioned witnesses before a special grand jury about Mr. Giuliani’s appearances before state legislative panels in December 2020, when he spent hours peddling false conspiracy theories about secret suitcases of Democratic ballots and corrupted voting machines.
A team of computer experts directed by lawyers allied with President Donald Trump copied sensitive data from election systems in Georgia as part of a secretive, multistate effort to access voting equipment that was broader, more organized and more successful than previously reported, according to emails and other records obtained by The Washington Post.
As they worked to overturn Trump’s 2020 election defeat, the lawyers asked a forensic data firm to access county election systems in at least three battleground states, according to the documents and interviews. The firm charged an upfront retainer fee for each job, which in one case was $26,000.
Attorney Sidney Powell sent the team to Michigan to copy a rural county’s election data and later helped arrange for them to do the same in the Detroit area, according to the records. A Trump campaign attorney engaged the team to travel to Nevada. And the day after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol the team was in southern Georgia, copying data from a Dominion voting system in rural Coffee County.
The emails and other records were collected through a subpoena issued to the forensics firm, Atlanta-based SullivanStrickler, by plaintiffs in a long-running lawsuit in federal court over the security of Georgia’s voting systems. The documents provide the first confirmation that data from Georgia’s election system was copied. Indications of a breach there were first raised by plaintiffs in the case in February, and state officials have said they are investigating.
“The breach is way beyond what we thought,” said David D. Cross, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, who include voting-security activists and Georgia voters. “The scope of it is mind-blowing.”
A drumbeat of revelations about alleged security breaches in local elections offices has grown louder during the nearly two years since the 2020 election. There is growing concern among experts that officials sympathetic to Trump’s claims of vote-rigging could undermine election security in the name of protecting it.
Doug Mastriano is a Donald Trump loyalist, and an ardent proponent of the former president’s baseless conspiracies about the 2020 election. He was outside the capitol on Jan. 6th, brought supporters to D.C. that day, and has been subpoenaed by the congressional committee investigating the riots. Now, Mastriano is also the GOP nominee in Pennsylvania’s governor’s race in November. His victory would hand over control of a large swing state to a hard right election denier in the lead-up to the next presidential race.
“He has revealed the Deceit, Corruption, and outright Theft of the 2020 Presidential Election, and will do something about it,” Trump said of Mastriano when he endorsed him in May.
A centerpiece of Mastriano’s promise to revamp the state’s election system is to flex the governor’s authority to choose Pennsylvania’s secretary of state.
“As governor, I get to appoint the secretary of state. And I have a voting reform-minded individual who’s been traveling the nation and knows voting reform extremely well,” Mastriano told Steve Bannon, former chief strategist for Trump, in an April interview. “That individual has agreed to be my secretary of state.”
Mastriano rarely talks to the news media and mostly conducts interviews in far right venues, where his narrative about the 2020 election will not be questioned. As such, he has not publicly named the person he would name for secretary of state, though reporting from HuffPost and the Philadelphia Inquirer revealed some possible contenders among his like-minded allies. Mastriano’s campaign did not respond to an interview request for this article.
He has made it clear he would use many of the levers at his disposal to change rules he portrays as rife with corruption. “I saw better elections in Afghanistan than in Pennsylvania,” Mastriano, who spent much of his career in the U.S. Army, said during his campaign. He could work with the legislature, for instance, to pass new voting restrictions like rolling back mail-in voting or adopting harsh voter ID laws, measures he has promoted in the past. He has also proposed forcing voters to re-register and has said he could decertify all election machines in the state.
The ability to reshape the secretary of state position gives him more options than he might have in a state where the position is an elected office.
First came Kristina Karamo, a community college instructor from Detroit who claimed without evidence that she witnessed fraud as a 2020 election observer — and who in April became her party’s pick for secretary of state, Michigan’s top election official, after repeatedly touting those claims.
Next was Doug Mastriano, the firebrand state lawmaker from Pennsylvania who urged his colleagues to throw out Joe Biden’s 2020 victory. In May, Mastriano secured the GOP nomination for governor, a position with the power to certify the state’s slate of presidential electors.
Finally, this month, Arizona Republicans nominated Kari Lake for governor and Mark Finchem for secretary of state. Both are outspoken election deniers who have pledged that they would not have certified Biden’s victory in their state.
The winners fit a pattern: Across the battleground states that decided the 2020 vote, candidates who deny the legitimacy of that election have claimed nearly two-thirds of GOP nominations for state and federal offices with authority over elections, according to a Washington Post analysis.
Had those candidates held power in 2020, they would have had the electoral clout to try something that the current officeholders refused: overturning the vote and denying Biden the presidency.
“We would have won,” Finchem told supporters in an email. “Plain and simple.”
Whether they could have succeeded in practice is a matter of vigorous debate among scholars, who cite the potential for court challenges and other means of upholding the results.
But the experts agree on one thing: A close presidential contest that comes down to the outcome in states where officials are willing to try to thwart the popular will could throw the country into chaos. It would potentially delay the result, undermine confidence in the democratic system and sow the seeds of civil strife on a scale even greater than what the nation saw on Jan. 6, 2021.
A federal judge on Monday denied Sen. Lindsey O. Graham’s (R-S.C.) request to quash his subpoena in Georgia prosecutors’ investigation into potential criminal interference in the 2020 presidential election by President Donald Trump and his allies, signaling he must testify in the probe.
Graham had argued that he should be exempt from testifying because of speech or debate clause protections, sovereign immunity and his position as a high-ranking government official. U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May rejected all three arguments.
“The Court finds that the District Attorney has shown extraordinary circumstances and a special need for Senator Graham’s testimony on issues relating to alleged attempts to influence or disrupt the lawful administration of Georgia’s 2022 elections,” the judge wrote.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) requested a special grand jury earlier this year. It began meeting in June and has identified more than 100 people of interest. The panel has already heard testimony from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) and his staff, Georgia Attorney General Christopher M. Carr (R), state lawmakers and local election workers.
Louis Menand in the New Yorker.