Little-Known Lawyer, a Trump Ally, Draws Scrutiny in Georgia

The U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, on March 8, 2023. (Hailey Sadler/The New York Times)

The U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, on March 8, 2023. (Hailey Sadler/The New York Times)

ATLANTA — At a Georgia state Senate hearing a few weeks after President Donald Trump lost his bid for reelection, Rudy Giuliani began making outlandish claims. “There are 10 ways to demonstrate that this election was stolen, that the votes were phony, that there were a lot of them — dead people, felons, phony ballots,” he told the assembled legislators.

After Giuliani’s testimony, a like-minded Georgia lawyer named Robert Cheeley presented video clips of election workers handling ballots at State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta. Cheeley spent 15 minutes laying out specious assertions that the workers were double- and triple-counting votes, saying their actions “should shock the conscience of every red blooded Georgian” and likening what he said had happened to the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

His comments mostly flew under the radar at the time, overshadowed by the election fraud claims made by Giuliani, who was then Trump’s personal lawyer, and by other higher-profile figures. But Cheeley’s testimony did not end up in the dustbin. He was among witnesses questioned last year by a special grand jury in Atlanta that investigated election interference by Trump and his allies, the grand jury’s forewoman, Emily Kohrs, said in an interview last month.

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The fact that Cheeley was called to appear before the special grand jury adds to the evidence that although the Atlanta investigation has focused on Trump’s biggest areas of legal exposure — calls he made to pressure local officials and his involvement in a scheme to draft bogus presidential electors — false claims made by his allies at legislative hearings have also been of significant interest. Giuliani has been told that

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