ATLANTA — A Fulton County Superior Court judge ruled Georgia lawmakers will have to testify before a special purpose grand jury investigating potential criminal interference in the 2020 elections, but he limited how much testimony they have to give.
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Former state Sen. William Ligon, along with Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and other lawmakers, asked Judge Robert McBurney to throw out their grand jury subpoenas, invoking what is known as legislative immunity or legislative privilege. They contended the Georgia Constitution states that under that privilege, legislators do not have to testify or answer certain legal questions pertaining to their motivations or their communications with staff or other lawmakers.
All this revolves around the now-controversial December 2020 state Senate subcommittee hearing in which committee members recommended overturning the Georgia presidential election. Ligon chaired that subcommittee. It’s the hearing that featured Rudy Guiliani presenting the now debunked conspiracy theory surrounding the State Farm Arena video.
Attorney Don Samuels represented Duncan, Ligon and other lawmakers who remain unnamed. He insisted the privilege exists and that lawmakers cannot be compelled to testify because of it.
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“You are breaching a privilege by compelling, and they’re going to be compelling the legislators to answer the question: ‘What did Guiliani tell you?’ Samuels said.
The Fulton County district attorney’s office agreed that such a privilege does exist, but that legislators shouldn’t be allowed to invoke it in this instance and in this investigation. They don’t think that subcommittee hearing could necessarily be described as a legitimate legislative activity.
“If the important word is ‘legitimacy,’ we felt like a comment had to be made about whether that is a legitimate legislative act,” said Assistant District Attorney Donald Wakeford.
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In the end, Judge Robert McBurney split the difference. He ruled the lawmakers, including Ligon and Duncan do have to answer the subpoenas and testify, but he limited the questions they can be asked. He said they can testify with whom they had conversations with outside of staff and other lawmakers but cannot be compelled to say what the conversations were about. For that, the grand jurors will have to subpoena the other parties.
Those lawmakers could start testifying before the special grand jury in two weeks.
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