Sen. Graham Must Appear Before Grand Jury, US Judge Rules

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
August 15, 2022 Updated: August 16, 2022

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) must testify before a special grand jury in Georgia that is investigating possible criminal conduct related to the 2020 election, a federal judge ruled on Aug. 15.

Graham’s lawyers had argued he was exempt from testifying because he’s a U.S. senator protected by the U.S. Constitution, including the speech or debate clause.

U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May, an Obama appointee, disagreed.

“In sum, the Court finds that there are considerable areas of potential grand jury inquiry falling outside the Speech or Debate Clause’s protections,” May wrote in a 22-page order.

“Additionally, sovereign immunity fails to shield Senator Graham from testifying before the Special Purpose Grand Jury,” the judge added. “Finally, though Senator Graham argues that he is exempt from testifying as 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 2022 elections.”

The judge denied Graham’s motion to quash the subpoena, but did so without prejudice, which means Graham can pursue the motion in the future.

The judge remanded the case to Fulton County Superior Court, where the case had been before being moved to federal court, for further proceedings.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney had already issued a ruling saying Graham must testify.

Graham told reporters in South Carolina in a recent briefing that he would appeal if the U.S. judge ruled against him.

“I was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and had to vote on certifying an election. This is ridiculous,” he said. “We will go as far as we need to go and do whatever needs to be done to make sure that people like me can do their jobs without fear of some county prosecutor coming after you.”

The Investigation

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat, opened the investigation in 2021, focusing on alleged misconduct among allies of former President Donald Trump related to the 2020 election.

Willis subpoenaed Graham, Rep. Jodi Hice (R-Ga.), and five others in July.

Graham called the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, at least twice in the weeks following the 2020 election, according to state officials. He sought a reexamination of mail-in ballots, among other issues.

Graham “possesses unique knowledge concerning the substance of the telephone calls, the logistics of setting up the telephone calls, and any communications between himself, others involved in the planning and execution of the telephone calls, the Trump Campaign, and other known and unknown individuals involved in the multi-state, coordinated efforts to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere,” McBurney said in his ruling.

Graham originally was told to appear at the Fulton County courthouse in Atlanta on Aug. 23.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.