A US judge yesterday ordered former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to testify before a special grand jury investigating whether Donald Trump and its allies illegally tried to influence the 2020 elections in Georgia.

Alton County District Attorney Fannie Willis launched an investigation early last year into actions by Mr. Trump and others to overturn his loss to Joe Biden.

Mr. Meadows is one of a number of senior associates and advisers to the former Republican president whose testimony Ms. Willis has sought.

Because Mr. Meadows does not live in Georgia, Ms. Willis, a Democrat, had to use a process that involves forcing a judge, where he lives in South Carolina, to order him to appear.

In August, she filed a motion to compel him to testify. Fulton County Circuit Judge Robert McBurney, who oversees the special grand jury, signed the petition, certifying that Mr. Meadows is a “necessary and material witness” to the investigation.

In a motion seeking Mr. Meadows to testify, Ms. Willis wrote that Mr. Meadows attended a meeting at the White House on Dec. 21, 2020, with Mr. Trump and others “to discuss allegations of voter fraud and the certification of Georgia Electoral College votes. and other states. »

The next day, Ms. Willis wrote, Mr. Meadows made a “surprise visit” to Cobb County, near Atlanta, where signatures on absentee ballot envelopes were being checked. He asked to observe the audit, but was not allowed to because it was not public.

Mr. Meadows also sent emails to Justice Department officials after the election alleging voter fraud in Georgia and elsewhere and asking for an investigation, Willis wrote.

And he participated in a January 2, 2021, phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Trump suggested that the state’s top election representative, also a Republican, could “find” enough votes to overturn his narrow defeat in the state election.

In a court filing this week, Bannister argued that executive privilege and other rights protect his client from testifying.

Bannister claimed in a statement that Trump instructed Meadows to “retain certain privileges and immunities associated with his former position as White House Chief of Staff.”

Willis’ motion requires him to “release the contents of confidential executive branch communications with the president.”

Meadows previously invoked the privilege in fighting subpoenas issued by a House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The House of Representatives charged Meadows with contempt of Congress for failing to obey a subpoena, but the Justice Department declined to prosecute.

Special grand juries in Georgia cannot issue indictments. Instead, they can gather evidence and testify, and then can recommend further action, including criminal charges, in a final report.

But ultimately, the district attorney must decide whether to seek an indictment from a regular grand jury.