ATLANTA (AP) — As expected, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham is contesting a subpoena to testify before a special grand jury investigating whether then-President Donald Trump and others broke laws when they tried to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia.
Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, received a subpoena issued on July 26 ordering him to appear before a special grand jury to testify on August 23, his lawyers said in a court filing. Graham is seeking to have the challenge to the subpoena heard in federal court in Atlanta rather than the Fulton County Superior Court judge who oversees the special grand jury.
The senator is one of the Trump allies Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Willis wants to challenge as part of her investigation into what she claims was “a multi-state, coordinated scheme by the Trump Campaign to influence the outcome of the election of November 2020. Georgia and elsewhere”.
Graham had repeatedly said he would fight the subpoena once he received it, which happened last week, according to his lawyers. He has denied meddling in Georgia’s elections.
In a court filing last month, Willis, a Democrat, wrote that Graham made at least two phone calls to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and members of his staff in the weeks after Trump’s loss to Biden, asking for a reconsideration. some absentee ballots “to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump.”
In making these calls, Graham “engaged in essentially legislative fact-finding—both to help him shape election-related legislation, including in his role as then-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and to help inform his vote for the certification of the elections”. his lawyers wrote in a court filing Friday.
Graham’s lawyers are citing a provision of the US Constitution that they say “provides absolute protection against investigation into Senator Graham’s legislative acts.” They also argue that “sovereign immunity” prevents a local district attorney from subpoenaing a U.S. senator “to face a state ad hoc investigative body.” And they claim Willis failed to demonstrate “the “extraordinary circumstances” required to order a high-ranking federal official to testify.”
Willis’ office will respond in court and expects Graham to testify before the special grand jury, spokesman Jeff DeSandis said.
Since Graham has been subpoenaed to testify on August 23, his lawyers are asking for an expedited hearing on his motion to withdraw.
Graham previously filed a lawsuit in federal court in South Carolina to try to stop Willis’ efforts to compel him to testify. Before a judge there could hold a hearing, he withdrew the case and agreed to file any subpoena challenges to the investigation either in state superior court or in federal court in Georgia, according to a court filing.
U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, Republican of Georgia, filed a similar lawsuit in federal court after receiving a subpoena to testify before the special grand jury. After hearing arguments from his lawyers and Willis’ office, a federal judge last week declined to quash his subpoena.
U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May sent the matter back to Fulton County Superior Court, saying there are at least some questions Hice may be forced to answer. If disputes arise over whether Hice is protected under federal law from answering certain questions, he can bring those issues to her to settle, he said.
Willis confirmed that the scope of the investigation includes a Jan. 2, 2021 phone call between Trump and Raffensperger, during which Trump urged Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn his loss in the state.
“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump said during that call.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly described his call to Raffensperger as “perfect.”
Associated Press writer Meg Kinnard in Columbia, SC, contributed to this report.