Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks during a panel titled “Make the Greatest Economy in the World Work for All Americans” at the America First Policy Institute America First Agenda Summit in Washington, U.S., July 26, 2022.
Sarah Silbiger | Reuters
A federal judge on Friday denied a request from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to delay his scheduled testimony before a special grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, as part of an investigation of possible interference in the state’s 2020 election by former President Donald Trump and his allies.
The ruling came four days after Judge Leigh Martin May rejected Graham’s bid to entirely quash a court-ordered subpoena for his testimony as a witness in the probe. Graham is currently scheduled to testify before the grand jury next Tuesday.
The senator had asked the judge to temporarily halt the enforcement of the subpoena, pending his appeal of Monday’s ruling trying to entirely quash the subpoena and get out of testifying. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit received Graham’s appeal on Thursday.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is conducting the probe, wants to question Graham about phone calls he made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff after the November 2020 election. Raffensperger reportedly said at that time that Graham had questioned him about Georgia’s election laws, including whether the secretary had the power to toss out certain mail ballots.
Trump, who falsely blames widespread fraud for his loss to President Joe Biden, called Raffensperger days before Congress convened to confirm the election results and urged him to “find” enough votes to change the outcome of Georgia’s contest.
Lawyers for Graham, a close ally of Trump’s, had argued to May that the calls were “quintessentially legislative factfinding” by a sitting U.S. senator, and as such are protected by the speech and debate clause of the Constitution.
May wrote in Monday’s ruling that even if that clause protected Graham from testifying about the calls to Raffensperger, he could be still questioned about other issues relevant to the probe.
In Friday’s decision, May reiterated that some of Graham’s arguments “are entirely unpersuasive.”
“Senator Graham’s arguments ignore the idea that more than one subject may have been discussed on the calls,” she wrote, and “the Court finds no basis for concluding that its holdings as to these issues are likely to be reversed on the merits.”
May also rejected the argument that those other potential areas of inquiry will simply be used as a “backdoor” way to question him about the phone calls.
“The problem for Senator Graham is that the record thoroughly contradicts” that suggestion, May wrote. “Senator Graham’s insistent repetition of this argument does not make it true.”
The judge also agreed with Willis’ argument that delaying Graham’s testimony will harm the grand jury investigation, as well as the public interest.
“The public interest is well-served when a lawful investigation aimed at uncovering the facts and circumstances of alleged attempts to disrupt or influence Georgia’s elections is allowed to proceed without unnecessary encumbrances,” May wrote.
“Indeed, it is important that citizens maintain faith that there are mechanisms in place for investigating any such attempts to disrupt elections and, if necessary, to prosecute these crimes which, by their very nature, strike at the heart of a democratic system,” she wrote.