U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist called to testify before grand jury on Trump election interference

Incident Details

Date of Incident
July 31, 2023
Atlanta, Georgia

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue

A portion of a July 31, 2023, subpoena ordering independent journalist George Chidi to be “on call” to testify before two grand juries potentially hearing cases alleging 2020 election interference by then-President Donald Trump and his allies.

August 31, 2023 - Update

Journalist testimony not needed by grand jury hearing Trump election interference case

On Aug. 14, 2023, freelance journalist George Chidi was dismissed without having to testify before the grand jury hearing allegations that Donald Trump and others had worked to overturn the former president’s electoral defeat in Georgia.

Chidi had received two subpoenas on July 31 ordering him to be “on call” between Aug. 7 and Aug. 31 to testify before two recently empaneled grand juries. After initially being called to testify on Aug. 15, he was notified on Aug. 14 that he needed to come in that day instead.

In a series of social media posts about his experience at the courthouse, Chidi noted that the jury might not need his testimony at all.

“If I am not required to testify, it's a victory for journalism, because none of the bigger problems of confidentiality or government influence come into play,” Chidi wrote. “Perhaps the jury understands that as well.”

The grand jury indicted Donald Trump and 18 others for their alleged efforts to overturn the former president’s electoral defeat in the state. While Chidi was not called to testify again before Aug. 31, he told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that it is possible that he could be subpoenaed again when the case goes to trial.

July 31, 2023

Freelance journalist George Chidi was subpoenaed for the second time on July 31, 2023, to testify before a grand jury in Atlanta, Georgia. Chidi told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that it is connected to alleged 2020 election interference, though the subpoenas do not specify what Chidi would be questioned about.

In December 2020, Chidi was covering the meeting of electors casting their official votes for President-elect Joe Biden at the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta when he observed a Republican elector entering a side room. Chidi wrote in his newsletter, The Atlanta Objective, that when he began filming and asked what was going on in the room, he was quickly ushered out.

Chidi was immediately suspicious and believed Republican electors were working to submit fabricated election results certifying the state’s electoral college votes for Trump, despite Biden’s victory in Georgia.

The journalist was subpoenaed to testify before a special grand jury in July 2022, which he unsuccessfully fought in court. Chidi was able to limit the scope of the questions to election interference and what he witnessed at the Capitol.

A little over a year later, Chidi wrote in The Intercept that he met with an investigator from the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, who handed him two subpoenas. Chidi told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he was ordered to be “on call” to testify between Aug. 7 and Aug. 31 before both of the recently empaneled grand juries, and that he will receive notice at least 48 hours before he is expected to appear.

Chidi said that he is not certain whether he will be asked to testify before one of the juries, both or neither.

The journalist told the Tracker that he has received some assurances in writing that the scope of questioning will again be limited to exclude any unrelated reporting and so expects to testify again. Were the circumstances different, he added that he would fight the subpoena.

“No district attorney anywhere in the United States should be making a habit of issuing subpoenas to journalists,” Chidi said. “This erodes the independence of a free press. And were it for anything less substantial than democracy and the principles of the United States, I would resist with complete vigor.”

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].