South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is due to testify before a grand jury in georgia investigating the conduct of former President Donald Trump after losing the 2020 election.
Graham had asked a federal judge to overturn a subpoena, arguing he was doing “legislative acts” when he twice called Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger after the election. Lawyers for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis argued in court filings that Graham was in fact calling for “exploring the possibility of a more favorable outcome” for Trump.
U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May wrote in her order Monday that Graham’s position as a senator does not shield him from the special grand jury in Fulton County.
“Interviewees publicly suggested that Senator Graham was not merely engaged in a legislative inquiry, but rather was suggesting or implying that Georgia election officials change their processes or potentially alter the state’s results,” May wrote. .
May ordered Graham to appear as a witness before the special grand jury on August 23.
“[T]The Court finds that the District Attorney demonstrated extraordinary circumstances and a special need for Senator Graham’s testimony,” the judge wrote.
May’s order includes 11 pages devoted to Graham’s argument that the Constitution’s speech or debate clause prevents senators from being compelled to testify. She wrote that “the Supreme Court has expressly rejected a sweeping interpretation of the speech or debate clause that would include conduct that is merely ‘related’ to the legislative process.”
“The Supreme Court has recognized that there are a number of activities that a member of Congress might engage in that are unquestionably outside the scope of protected legislative activity because they are, in fact, ‘political in nature rather than legislative,'” May wrote.
Graham’s office said in a statement Monday that it would appeal the decision.
“Senator Graham was doing his due diligence prior to the Voter Count Act certification vote – where he voted to certify the election,” Graham’s office said. “While the District Court recognized that the speech or debate may shield some of Senator Graham’s activities, it nonetheless ignored constitutional text and binding Supreme Court precedent.”
The Fulton County prosecutor declined to comment on the ruling.
Graham’s attorneys argued in their motion to quash the subpoena that he “was engaged in primarily legislative fact-finding – both to assist him in developing election-related legislation, including in his role as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee at the time, and to help inform his vote to certify the election.”
President Joe Biden won Georgia by just under 12,000 votes, a margin of 0.5%. Graham acknowledged the phone calls in the past and denied any allegations of wrongdoing, telling “Face the Nation” in January that he “asked how the system worked in terms of mail-in voting, balloting.”
Graham is among a slew of Trump allies subpoenaed since May by the Fulton County Special Grand Jury, which also heard from Georgia state officials who rebuffed the former president’s attempts to cancel the elections. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was Trump’s personal attorney in the aftermath of the election, is due to appear before the special grand jury on Wednesday.
Giuliani had asked the judge overseeing the special grand jury to postpone his appearance because earlier this summer he underwent heart stent surgery, and cited a New York doctor who said Giuliani was not cleared to travel by plane. The judge, Robert McBurney, denied the request and suggested Giuliani travel to Atlanta for his testimony.”by train or bus or Uberwhatever.”
The decisions mandating Graham and Giuliani appear to come as Trump comes under increasing scrutiny from a series of high-profile investigations. On Friday, a New York judge blocked an attempted dismissal criminal charges of tax evasion against Trump’s company and its former chief financial officer. Two days earlier, Trump invoked the Fifth Amendment hundreds of times while attending a court-ordered deposition in an extensive civil fraud investigation led by New York Attorney General Letitia James. The deposition took place two days after the The FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence for top secret documents allegedly improperly removed from the White House. Federal agents in this case are investigating Trump for potential violations of three criminal statutes, including the Espionage Act.