WASHINGTON - A federal judge denied Sen. Lindsey Graham's attempt to dissentle a subpoena seeking his testimony in an investigation into possible 2020 election interference in Georgia by former President Donald Trump and others.
In a 22-sided order, U.S. District Court Judge Leigh Martin May rejected Graham's argument against having to testify before a special grand jury, including his contention that the speech and debate clause of the Constitution shields the South Carolina Republican from giving testimony.
Graham's lawyers argued that Graham's post-election phone call made by Graham to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in November 2020 had a legislative purpose and was therefore covered by the clause.
The judge rejected Graham's argument that sovereign immunity protects him from having to testify because he's a sitting U.S. senator.
If the court were to accept Senator Graham's sovereign immunity argument, it would mean that U.S. senators would not have to testify before state grand juries, May wrote. The immunity would be given to them based solely on their status as federal officials. The judge said Graham's reasoning for being exempt from testifying is because he's a high-ranking official doesn't hold weight. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has shown extraordinary circumstances that necessitated the testimony of Graham, who has unique personal knowledge about the phone calls with Georgia election officials, as well as the logistics of setting them up and his actions afterward, May said.
Senator Graham's potential testimony on these issues, in addition to his knowledge about topics outside of the calls, is unique to Senator Graham, and Senator Graham has not suggested anyone else from his office can speak to these issues or has unique personal knowledge of them, the order said.
Graham's office released a statement saying he will appeal the judge's decision.
The statement said that the Constitution's speech or debate clause prevents a local official from questioning a senator about how that senator did his job. Senator Graham was doing his due diligence before the Electoral Count Act certification vote, where he voted to certify the election. Although the district court acknowledged that speech or debate may protect some of Senator Graham's activities, she ignored the constitutional text and binding Supreme Court precedent, so Senator Graham plans to appeal to the 11th Circuit. Rudy Giuliani, the former Trump lawyer, was ordered to testify in person on Wednesday.
Willis said she is looking into whether there was a coordinated attempt to alter the outcome of the 2020 elections in Georgia. Willis is looking into the call made by Graham to Raffensperger in the days after the November 2020 election. Raffensperger said Graham had pressed him about whether he had the power to reject certain absentee ballots, which Raffensperger interpreted as a suggestion to toss out legally cast votes.
The subpoena seeking Graham's testimony in the case said he made at least two phone calls to Raffensperger and his staff. During the phone calls, Graham asked Secretary Raffensperger and his staff about reexamining certain absentee ballots cast in Georgia in order to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump. Graham made reference to allegations of widespread voter fraud at the November 2020 election in Georgia, consistent with public statements made by known affiliates of the Trump CampaignTrump Campaign, the subpoena said.