U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist subpoenaed to testify in grand jury hearing on Georgia election interference

Incident Details

July 1, 2022

Independent journalist George Chidi was subpoenaed in July 2022 to testify before a grand jury in Atlanta, Georgia, investigating possible 2020 election interference by former President Donald Trump and his allies.

Chidi, a former reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution whose work has appeared in The Intercept and the Atlanta hyperlocal news site Decaturish, publishes an award-winning newsletter called The Atlanta Objective.

In his June 29 newsletter, Chidi wrote that he was covering the Dec. 14, 2020, meeting of electors at the Georgia Capitol to cast their official votes for Joe Biden when he observed a Republican elector entering a side room.

“I looked around for [a] minute, asking other reporters what’s going on in there, then I launched a Facebook live and walked in,” Chidi wrote. “I asked the people there what they were doing. One of them, a woman, said they were having a meeting. What’s it about, I asked? ‘Education,’ she replied.”

When someone noted that he was filming, someone else quickly ushered him out of the room, Chidi wrote. After that, someone stood guarding the door.

Chidi wrote that he was immediately suspicious and believed 16 Republican electors were working to submit fabricated election results certifying the state’s electoral college votes for Trump despite Biden’s victory in Georgia, posting his suspicions on Facebook.

A special grand jury began meeting in Fulton County in June 2022 to investigate the alleged election interference, according to The Washington Post, and it has identified more than 100 people of interest to date.

According to Chidi’s newsletter, an investigator for the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office contacted him on June 27 to ask whether he’d be willing to testify before the grand jury. Chidi did not indicate his response.

Chidi was ultimately issued a subpoena which he unsuccessfully fought in court, according to the Saporta Report. However, the journalist was able to limit the scope of the questions to exclude any unrelated reporting.

“Journalists cannot act as agents of the government. Georgia has a longstanding tradition and legal precedent providing for ‘reporter’s privilege’ to prevent journalists from being used as a witness in a case,” Chidi wrote in his newsletter. “The thing is, the reporter’s privilege bends under extraordinary circumstances. And, honestly, how much more extraordinary does it get than a case that might send Donald Trump to prison.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that prosecutors notified the newspaper to expect a subpoena for the testimony of reporter Greg Bluestein, who was also present at the December 2020 meeting and who reported extensively about the election and its fallout. The outlet said it will file a motion to quash any subpoena issued to one of its journalists. As of publication, it is unclear if a subpoena has been issued to Bluestein.

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