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Court puts on hold Sen. Lindsey Graham’s testimony in Georgia election probe

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U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks at a press conference on the U.S. Capitol on August 05, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images

A federal appeals court on Sunday agreed to temporarily placed on hold a lower court’s order requiring that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham testify before a special grand jury that is investigating possible illegal efforts to overturn then-President Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia.

A subpoena had instructed the South Carolina Republican to look before the special grand jury on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May last Monday denied Graham’s request to quash his subpoena and on Friday rejected his effort to place her decision on hold while he appealed. Graham’s lawyers then appealed to the eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Sunday, a three-judge panel of the appeals court issued the order temporarily pausing May’s order declining to quash the subpoena. The panel sent the case back to May to make a decision whether the subpoena ought to be partially quashed or modified due to protections granted to members of Congress by the U.S. Structure.

Once May decides that issue, the case will return to the eleventh Circuit for further consideration, in accordance with the appeals court order.

Graham’s representatives didn’t immediately respond Sunday to messages looking for comment on the appellate ruling. A spokesperson for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis declined to comment.

Willis opened the investigation early last yr, prompted by a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. During that conversation, Trump suggested Raffensperger could “find” the votes needed to overturn his narrow loss within the state.

Willis and her team have said they wish to ask Graham about two phone calls they are saying he made to Raffensperger and his staff shortly after the 2020 general election. During those calls, Graham asked about “reexamining certain absentee ballots forged in Georgia with a purpose to explore the opportunity of a more favorable final result for former President Donald Trump,” Willis wrote in a petition looking for to compel his testimony.

Graham also “made reference to allegations of widespread voter fraud within the November 2020 election in Georgia, consistent with public statements made by known affiliates of the Trump Campaign,” she wrote.

Republican and Democratic state election officials across the country, courts and even Trump’s attorney general found there was no evidence of voter fraud sufficient to affect the final result of the election.

During a hearing earlier this month on Graham’s motion to quash his subpoena, Willis’ team said Graham may give you the option to supply insight into the extent of any coordinated efforts to influence the outcomes of the 2020 general election in Georgia.

The U.S. Structure’s speech or debate clause protects members of Congress from questioning about official legislative acts. The eleventh Circuit court instructed May to find out whether Graham “is entitled to a partial quashal or modification of the subpoena” because of this.

Graham’s attorneys have argued that the calls were made as a part of his legislative duties and that provision gives him absolute protection from having to testify on this case.

In her order last week, May noted that the clause doesn’t protect actions which might be political fairly than legislative. Even when she accepted that the calls were “comprised entirely of legislative factfinding,” and thus protected, “there would still be significant areas of potential testimony related to the grand jury’s investigation on which Senator Graham might be questioned that will on no account fall inside the Clause’s protections,” she wrote.

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