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Former Trump chief of staff ordered to testify in Georgia election interference probe

Mark Meadows failed to convince a South Carolina judge that executive privilege shields him from testifying before a grand jury.

PICKENS, S.C. (CN) — A South Carolina judge ruled Wednesday that Donald Trump's former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows must comply with his subpoena and testify before a Georgia special grand jury investigating attempts to overturn the state's 2020 presidential election results.

In a ruling from the bench, Pickens County Circuit Court Judge Edward Miller held that Meadows is a "necessary and material witness" in the investigation.

The probe was launched by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis last year to examine “the multistate, coordinated efforts to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.”

Willis filed a petition to summon Meadows, who currently lives in South Carolina, from out of state to question him about about his facilitation of the infamous Jan. 2, 2021. phone call that has become the center of the investigation, in which then-President Trump pressed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to overcome Joe Biden's victory in the Peach State.

After Raffensperger's office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigations conducted an absentee ballot signature match audit in December 2020, Meadows unexpectedly attempted to personally observe the auditing process at the Cobb County Civic Center but was prevented from doing so because it was not open to the public.

Willis also wants the former North Carolina congressman to testify about a meeting he attended at the White House with Trump and campaign staff on Dec. 21, 2020, “to discuss allegations of voter fraud and the certification of Electoral College votes from Georgia and other state.”

According to the petition, Meadows tweeted about the meeting after, stating that Trump's team was "preparing to fight back against mounting evidence of voter fraud."

The grand jury is also seeking answers on the publicly released series of emails that Meadows sent to Justice Department officials and then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, which detail how Trump's voter fraud claims were not just remarks but an official project of his campaign.

Though he has publicly supported Trump's disproven claims of a rigged election against him, Meadows himself was removed from the North Carolina voter rolls for using an address of a mobile home that he never stayed in to register to vote in 2020.

Since Meadows does not live in Georgia, Willis needed a local judge in South Carolina to sign off on her certificate of material witness for the subpoena to be enforceable.

Like many other witnesses who have been summoned, Meadows tried to argue that executive privilege shields him from testifying, just as he has done in his fight against a subpoena from the House Jan. 6 committee.

His attorney James Bannister also made the same argument that successfully got witness Jacki Pick out of testifying in a ruling from a Texas appeals court, claiming Meadows cannot be summoned to appear out of state because the investigation is civil, not criminal.

However, the Fulton County Superior Court judge overseeing the special grand jury, Robert McBurney, has said that the proceedings are criminal in nature.

Judge Miller in South Carolina denied Meadows’ motion from the bench Wednesday, finding he is “material and necessary to the investigation and that the state of Georgia is assuring not to cause undue hardship to him.”

Meadow's testimony was initially sought in September, but prosecutors said they will reschedule his appearance for a date after the November midterm election.

Bannister said he plans to appeal Miller's ruling to the South Carolina Court of Appeals.

The Georgia grand jury has already heard testimony from several witnesses, including Raffensperger and his staff, Georgia Attorney General Christopher M. Carr and Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

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