ATLANTA (AP) — A federal judge on Monday said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham must testify before a special grand jury in Atlanta that is investigating whether then-President Donald Trump and his allies broke any laws while attempting to overturn his narrow 2020 general election loss within the state.
Attorneys for Graham (R-S.C.) had argued that his position as a U.S. senator provided him immunity from having to seem before the investigative panel and asked the judge to quash his subpoena. But U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May wrote in an order Monday that immunities related to his role as a senator don’t protect him from having to testify. Graham’s subpoena instructs him to seem before the special grand jury on Aug. 23, but he is anticipated to appeal the judge’s ruling.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis opened the investigation last yr, and a special grand jury with subpoena power was seated in May at her request. Last month she filed petitions looking for to compel testimony from seven Trump advisers and associates.
Prosecutors have indicated they need to ask Graham about phone calls they are saying he made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff within the weeks following Trump’s election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.
Graham had argued that a provision of the Structure provides absolute protection against a senator being questioned about legislative acts. However the judge found there are “considerable areas of potential grand jury inquiry” that fall outside that provision’s scope. The judge also rejected Graham’s argument that the principle of “sovereign immunity” protects a senator from being summoned by a state prosecutor.
Graham also argued that Willis, a Democrat, had not demonstrated extraordinary circumstances vital to compel testimony from a high-ranking official. However the judge disagreed, finding that Willis has shown “extraordinary circumstances and a special need” for Graham’s testimony on issues related to alleged try to influence or disrupt the election in Georgia.
May, the judge, last month rejected an analogous attempt by U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., to avoid testifying before the special grand jury. Former Recent York mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani had argued he couldn’t travel to Atlanta to testify due to health issues, but Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who’s overseeing the special grand jury, instructed him to seem on Wednesday.
A Graham spokesperson, Kevin Bishop, said Monday the senator had no comment but referred to what Graham said when asked in regards to the probe last week. During a news conference in Columbia, S.C., Graham said, “We are going to take this so far as we want to take it” when asked about his efforts to fight his subpoena.
“I used to be chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and needed to vote on certifying an election,” Graham told reporters. “That is ridiculous. This weaponization of the law must stop. So I’ll use the courts. We are going to go so far as we want to go and do whatever must be done to ensure that that individuals like me can do their jobs without fear of some county prosecutor coming after you.”
In calls made shortly after the 2020 general election, Graham “questioned Secretary Raffensperger and his staff about reexamining certain absentee ballots solid in Georgia with the intention to explore the potential of a more favorable final result for former President Donald Trump,” Willis wrote in a petition.
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 any voter fraud sufficient to affect the final result of his 2020 presidential election loss.
Associated Press author Meg Kinnard in Columbia, S.C., contributed reporting.