Decaturish contributor and journalist George Chidi subpoenaed as part of Trump probeGeorge Chidi. Photo by Dean Hesse
This story has been updated.
Atlanta, GA — Decaturish contributor and local journalist George Chidi has been subpoenaed as part of a probe into former President Donald Trump’s attempts to interfere with the 2020 election in Georgia, according to multiple media reports.
“Chidi is the first subpoenaed witness whose name has surfaced publicly in the election interference case, which Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and her team are expected to present to one of the grand juries at some point over the next three weeks,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.
Chidi, who publishes The Atlanta Objective substack newsletter and writes for The Intercept, wrote an article for the latter explaining what he intends to tell a Grand Jury about what he saw. During his reporting about the aftermath of the 2020 election, Chidi visited the Capitol on Dec. 14 to watch the casting of the electoral votes.
“As Stacey Abrams led the Democratic delegation upstairs, Republicans sat in a reserved room on the Capitol’s second floor to prepare a competing — and potentially illegal — slate of their own,” Chidi’s article for The Intercept says. “The Republicans threw me out of the room moments after I entered, camera phone in hand, going live on Facebook. When I asked what kind of gathering they were having, they told me it was an ‘education meeting.’ As it turns out, Donald Trump’s election team had sent an email the previous night, instructing the group to maintain ‘complete secrecy.'”
To read Chidi’s full article for The Intercept, click here.
In a statement to Decaturish, Chidi said he has mixed feelings about testifying in the case. He recalled a college lecture on the topic of journalists and grand juries.
“About 25 years ago, I vividly remember a lecture in Karen List’s journalism and law class at the University of Massachusetts Amherst about grand juries,” Chidi said. “She said she knew of journalists who wouldn’t ever set foot in a grand jury room because it would become impossible to assure a source that they were not compelled to testify. Her tone changed as she talked about it. My instructor had always struck me as focused on the workaday legal concerns of journalism: how not to get sued, the limits of copyrights, Times v. Sullivan. This was different. In this, List was messianic, and it stuck with me. I thought it an abstract hypothetical at the time. Who knew?”
Chidi said even though social media users are cheering him on, “I don’t actually want to be here.”
“Journalists are not agents of the government,” Chidi said. “We are critics of the government. We can debate the degree to which proper journalism must be permanently and perfectly adversarial, but it must retain the capacity to threaten in order to be useful to the public. It is for that reason that it is the only private business categorically shielded from government interference in the U.S. Constitution.”
One of the reasons journalists tend to stay away from such situations is that they are required to keep secrets, Chidi said.
“When someone tells me something off-the-record, I file that away in a safe place in my head and only let it out when I can confirm it with an on-the-record source,” he said. “People need to be able to tell me things quietly so that I can go prove or disprove them loudly. Just like a grand jury. Grand juries are secret because if they weren’t, unscrupulous government agents could smear people’s reputations with no recourse. Alas, we see this every day in Congress, with legislators … flinging baseless and stupid accusations at people in public.
“We saw it during the 2020 election aftermath, with Rudy Giuliani accusing Shaye Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, of crimes in terms he now admits are false. You may recall that he accused them of election fraud, of ‘passing around USB ports like they were vials of heroin or cocaine,’ and more, lies which led to their lives being turned upside down by the raging Republican mob. If I think someone might lose their job (and their health insurance) or their life if they are connected to some piece of information I write, I won’t disclose their identity. And I am absolutely in possession of information that could upend people’s lives.
“That is why this isn’t some fun, glorious moment in the annals of George Chidi, Citizen Journalist.”
Chidi speculated that he might’ve received a subpoena because he’s less able to fight it.
“The district attorney’s office believes that my testimony is necessary because I’m the only person who can confirm it,” Chidi said. “But it isn’t lost on me that the mighty Atlanta Journal-Constitution, with its $500-an-hour media attorneys, has managed to avoid wrestling with this conundrum. Increasingly, the best and most useful journalism isn’t being produced by nine-figure media firms with hundreds of employees. It’s being produced by people like Dan Whisenhunt at Decaturish. And perhaps, by people like me. Keep that in mind as the circus rolls into town this month.”
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