A judge has ordered former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to testify before a Georgia grand jury that is investigating the alleged attempt by then-President Donald Trump and his allies to illegally interfere in the 2020 presidential election.
At a court hearing in Fairfax County, Va. — a suburb of Washington, D.C. — Judge Robert Smith on Wednesday ordered Gingrich to appear on Nov. 29 before a special grand jury in Georgia's Fulton County that is investigating alleged "criminal disruptions" in the state related to the 2020 election.
Gingrich's lawyer John Burlingame told the judge that the Republican was already planning to talk later this month to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, and that he was seeking to avoid the hassle of traveling to Atlanta to provide the local grand jury with similar testimony.
Burlingame noted that according to the specific law under which the Georgia grand jury sought Gingrich's testimony, the jury cannot itself issue any criminal indictments but can only write a report.
But Kyle Mandelbaum, a Virginia prosecutor representing Georgia authorities at Wednesday's hearing, told the judge that the county grand jury was specifically looking at whether Georgia laws were violated following the 2020 election and that the grand jury "will be issuing a report recommending whether criminal charges" should be filed by Georgia prosecutors.
Burlingame argued that Georgia prosecutors had not described their grand jury as a criminal grand jury but rather said its investigation was "criminal in nature."
"I respect the court ruling," Gingrich said after the hearing. But Burlingame said they would "most likely" appeal the judge's decision.
In support of his unsuccessful argument that Gingrich should not have to testify, Burlingame cited a Sept. 1 letter to the former speaker in which Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who chairs the House Jan. 6 committee, lays out issues related to post-election activities that the committee wants to question Gingrich about.
"The committee has obtained information indicating that you have knowledge about former President Donald J. Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, and we write to seek your voluntary cooperation," Thompson wrote to Gingrich.
Thompson said the committee had obtained emails that Gingrich exchanged with top advisers to Trump, including Jared Kushner and Jason Miller, in which Gingrich allegedly "provided detailed input" on TV ads that promoted "false claims" about 2020 election fraud. The ads allegedly encouraged voters to lobby state officials to challenge and overturn election results.
Thompson's letter said email exchanges show that Gingrich urged Trump's campaign to air ads promoting false claims that election workers had smuggled suitcases containing fake ballots into State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Thompson said such claims have been "disproven after numerous independent reviews."
Thompson's letter said that even after the Capitol was attacked on Jan. 6, Gingrich "continued to push efforts to overturn the election."