A federal judge on Monday denied Sen. Lindsey Graham’s bid to throw out a subpoena for his testimony before a special grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, as part of its investigation into possible criminal election interference by former President Donald Trump and his allies in 2020.
The court rejected Graham’s contention that the subpoena should be quashed because of his status as a high-ranking government official, among other arguments. The subpoena requires the South Carolina Republican, who is a witness in the probe, to appear before the grand jury on Aug. 23.
District Attorney Fani Willis, who is conducting the investigation, “has shown extraordinary circumstances and a special need for Senator Graham’s testimony” about “alleged attempts to influence or disrupt” Georgia’s elections, Judge Leigh Martin May wrote in Monday’s order in U.S. District Court in South Carolina.
Graham’s office said the senator plans to appeal the ruling. His attorneys are reviewing the ruling, their spokesperson Beth Huffman of the law firm Nelson Mullins told CNBC.
The district attorney wants to question Graham about phone calls he made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in the weeks after the November 2020 election. Graham’s lawyers argued that those 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.
But that argument fizzled before May, who ruled 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.
“The mere possibility that some lines of inquiry could implicate Senator Graham’s immunity under the Speech or Debate Clause does not justify quashing the subpoena in its entirety because there are considerable areas of inquiry which are clearly not legislative in nature,” May ruled.
In a statement later Monday morning, Graham’s office defended the calls to Raffensperger and accused the judge of ignoring relevant legal precedents.
“The Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause prevents a local official from questioning a Senator about how that Senator did his job. Here, Senator Graham was doing his due diligence before the Electoral Count Act certification vote — where he voted to certify the election,” the statement said.
“Although the district court acknowledged that Speech or Debate may protect some of Senator Graham’s activities, she nevertheless ignored the constitutional text and binding Supreme Court precedent, so Senator Graham plans to appeal to the 11th Circuit,” Graham’s office said.
Trump called Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021, four days before Congress convened to confirm Biden’s electoral victory.
In that call, Trump urged Raffensperger to “find” him enough votes to overturn Biden’s win in Georgia.
“All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes,” Trump told him.