Last week, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham pulled every trick in the book to avoid testifying to the special grand jury in Georgia empaneled to hear evidence of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. In a brief filed by his attorneys on Aug. 24, Graham reasoned that the subpoena was invalid based on a rarely used section of the U.S. Constitution.
“The Constitution guarantees that a Senator ‘shall not be questioned’ about his protected ‘Speech or Debate’—and yet the District Attorney insists that Senator Graham must submit to questioning to ascertain whether he can be questioned or is immune from questioning. That makes no sense,” Graham’s motion reads.
Thursday, a federal judge ruled that Graham must give testimony but added a caveat that limits the senator’s questioning, The Washington Post reports.
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“The Court is unpersuaded by the breadth of Senator Graham’s argument and does not find that the Speech or Debate Clause completely prevents all questioning related to the calls,” wrote U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has written that Graham’s testimony is vital to interpreting “a multistate, coordinated plan by the Trump Campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere,” according to the Post.
Graham has continued to claim that he’s protected by the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution, and although, as the Post reports, the legal maneuver has failed politicians in the past, but did put his testimony on hold temporarily.
In early August, Graham’s legal team requested that May quash a subpoena forcing him to testify, but prosecutors pushed back against Graham’s attorneys, and May ultimately refused.
Thursday, May cut Graham some slack—kinda of.
“(T)he Court quashes the subpoena only as to questions about Sen. Graham’s investigatory fact-finding on the telephone calls to Georgia election officials, including how such information related to his decision to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election,” May wrote in her ruling. “The Court finds that this area of inquiry falls under the protection of the Speech or Debate Clause, which prohibits questions on legislative activity.”
Willis is particularly interested in Graham’s calls to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which the senator allegedly asked Raffensperger to throw out ballots and alter the outcome of the 2020 election.
“As to the other categories, the Court finds that they are not legislative, and the Speech or Debate Clause does not apply to them. … As such, Graham may 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,” May wrote.
“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, as well as into Senator Graham’s public statements related to Georgia’s 2020 elections,” the judge continued.
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