Donald Trump’s former attorney Rudy Giuliani is a target of the criminal investigation in Georgia that has been examining efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in that state by the former president and his allies, a source briefed on the matter confirmed on Monday.
The move to designate Giuliani, 78, as a target – as opposed to a subject – raises the legal stakes for the ex-New York mayor, identified as a key figure in the attempt to reverse the former president’s electoral defeat to Joe Biden in the state.
It also raises the legal pressure on Trump, who is himself facing increased legal exposure amid a justice department investigation over his unlawful retention of government documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort, along with a state investigation in New York over his business practices.
The notice that Giuliani was now a target of the Georgia investigation came on Monday from the office of Fulton county district attorney Fani Willis, the source said. Being identified as a target means only that a person may be a defendant in the event of an indictment.
Still, the disclosure, earlier reported by the New York Times, presents Giuliani with difficult choices, including whether to invoke his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination in a deposition or cooperate in the hope of earning leniency at sentencing.
Giuliani is scheduled to testify before the special grand jury in Atlanta on Wednesday, where he is expected to invoke attorney-client privilege if asked about his discussions with Trump about efforts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election, the source said.
The target designation came after a Fulton county judge said informing Giuliani about his status would give some clarity on “what impact that has on the extent of his time in front of the grand jury”, given he is expected to take a lengthy road trip to Georgia from New York.
Giuliani is under scrutiny by the special grand jury because of his integral role in the former president’s potentially unlawful scheme to pressure Republican legislatures to send to Congress fake electoral certificates for Trump in states – like Georgia – actually won by Biden.
That effort, coordinated in part by Giuliani alongside the Trump campaign and Trump White House officials, is also the subject of the congressional inquiry into the Capitol attack being conducted by the House January 6 select committee, as well as a separate justice department investigation.
Giuliani is additionally understood to be under investigation for propagating false claims about fraud in the 2020 election, including that thousands of underage teenagers had voted illegally in Georgia – a claim disproven in an audit conducted by the secretary of state.
The latest legal development for Giuliani came the same day that a federal judge rejected an attempt by another prominent Trump ally, the Republican senator Lindsey Graham, to avoid testifying in the same investigation before the special grand jury in Atlanta, Georgia.
In the ruling against Graham, US district court judge Leigh Martin May said that prosecutors showed there was “a special need for Mr Graham’s testimony on issues relating to alleged attempts to influence or disrupt the lawful administration of Georgia’s 2022 elections”.
Graham is scheduled to testify on 23 August, though he has said he will appeal. Graham – a subject in the investigation, according to his lawyers – is a person of interest because he placed two calls to the Georgia secretary of state in 2020 and asked about ways to invalidate certain mail-in-votes.