Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks during a press conference on the U.S. Capitol May 10, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Win Mcnamee | Getty Images
A federal judge on Thursday denied Sen. Lindsey Graham’s latest effort to totally quash a subpoena for his testimony before a special grand jury in Georgia as a part of its probe into possible criminal election interference by former President Donald Trump and his allies in 2020.
However the judge also limited the scope of the subpoena by ordering that Graham, a South Carolina Republican and shut Trump ally, can’t be asked about his “investigatory fact-finding on telephone calls to Georgia election officials” during his testimony.
She was referring to phone calls Graham made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff within the weeks after the November 2020 election between Trump and President Joe Biden. Graham’s lawyers have 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 Structure.
That off-limits topic includes how the knowledge he gathered “related to his decision to certify the outcomes of the 2020 presidential election,” the judge ruled.
“The Court finds that this area of inquiry falls under the protection of the Speech or Debate Clause, which prohibits questions on legislative activity,” Judge Leigh Martin May wrote in Thursday’s order in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.
But May rejected Graham’s other arguments to either throw out the subpoena or sharply limit the questions that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ office can ask him.
“As to the opposite categories, the Court finds that they are usually not legislative, and the Speech or Debate Clause doesn’t apply to them,” May wrote.
“As such, Senator Graham could also be questioned about any alleged efforts to encourage Secretary Raffensperger or others to throw out ballots or otherwise alter Georgia’s election practices and procedures,” the judge ordered.
“Likewise, the grand jury may inquire into Senator Graham’s alleged communications and coordination with the Trump Campaign and its post-election efforts in Georgia, in addition to into Senator Graham’s public statements related to Georgia’s 2020 elections,” May wrote.
Graham’s challenge now goes back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, where the senator filed an appeal after a previous ruling from Judge May denying his bid to quash the subpoena.
“We’re pleased that the district court recognized that Senator Graham’s testimony is protected by the Speech or Debate Clause,” Graham’s office said in an announcement later Thursday. “He’ll proceed to defend the institutional interests of the Senate and the Structure before the Eleventh Circuit.”
The order for Graham’s testimony in Georgia’s probe got here at some point after John Eastman, a pro-Trump lawyer who worked to overturn Biden’s presidential victory, appeared before the grand jury and refused to reply questions.
Eastman invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, in addition to protections under attorney-client privilege, in refusing to reply a minimum of some questions he was asked before the grand jury, his attorneys said.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s former personal attorney who was a number one voice difficult the 2020 election results, also recently testified before the grand jury.