Stephen Fowler, GPB News
A federal judge ruled Monday that South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham must answer questions in front of a special grand jury investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia.
The 22-page order from Judge Leigh Martin May rejected Graham’s claims that testimony regarding alleged calls to Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger were protected by the U.S. Constitution, sovereign immunity and because he is a high-ranking government official.
“The Court finds that the District Attorney has shown extraordinary circumstances and a special need for Senator Graham’s testimony on issues relating to alleged attempts to influence or disrupt the lawful administration of Georgia’s  elections,” May wrote.
Graham allegedly called Raffensperger in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election and asked about ways to reject legally cast absentee ballots and questioned Georgia’s absentee ballot signature matching process.
In an effort to block the request from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to testify in front of a special grand jury investigating potential crimes committed in the failed attempt to overturn the results, Graham’s attorneys argued that the calls were made as part of his role as then-Senate Judiciary chairman and were shielded from scrutiny.
But the judge ruled that the Speech or Debate clause Graham cited does not protect actions that are “political in nature rather than legislative,” such as efforts to “‘cajole’ or ‘exhort’ state elections officials to change their election practices or alter election results.”
May also wrote that Graham would likely be asked to testify about more than just the substance of the two phone calls.
“The fact that Senator Graham may be questioned on topics outside the two phone calls — including (1) his potential communications and coordination with the Trump Campaign and its post-election efforts in Georgia; (2) his knowledge of other groups or individuals involved with efforts to influence the results of Georgia’s 2020 election; and (3) his public statements following the 2020 election—is of great significance to the issue presently before the Court,” May wrote.
Another reason for Graham to testify is the disagreement over the context and content of his calls, the judge said, and the fact that he is the only person that can answer questions about certain aspects of the call and other post-election activities.
“The issues that Senator Graham has direct knowledge of are also highly material to those that are within the investigative purview of the grand jury,” she wrote.
The Georgia probe into former President Donald Trump and his allies’ unsuccessful attempts to reverse his defeat has heated up in recent weeks, with Willis’ office recently issuing several petitions for lawyers and others in Trump’s inner circle to appear before the special grand jury. This week, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani is scheduled to appear in Atlanta, and the DA’s office has also indicated that the 16 Republicans who served as fake electors are targets of the investigation.
Graham said in a statement Monday that he would appeal the ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the judge “nevertheless ignored the constitutional text and binding Supreme Court precedent” regarding the Speech or Debate clause.
This story comes to Polialert.com through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.