Georgia judge said senator.Lindsey Graham must testify in 2020 election inquiry

senator. A federal judge ruled Thursday that Lindsey O. Graham (RS.C.) must appear before a Georgia grand jury investigating possible attempts by Donald Trump and his allies to disrupt the state’s 2020 presidential election.

But the judge limited the range of questions prosecutors could ask, acknowledging in part Graham’s claim that his status as a sitting senator would prevent such an investigation.

Graham’s attorneys had tried to throw away the subpoena from a Georgia grand jury, arguing that his calls to Georgia officials after the 2020 election were his official Senate duty and therefore unaffected by the investigation.

“The Court is unconvincing about the breadth of Senator Graham’s arguments and finds that the speech or debate clause does not fully prevent all calls related to the call,” U.S. District Judge Ray Martin May wrote, referring to protections Legislators are immune to questioning legislative activity.

Prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia, launched an investigation into attempts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election. (Video: Mahlia Posey/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The ruling, which is unlikely to be final on the matter, will be reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Graham, a close Trump ally, turned down a subpoena from Fulton County District Attorney Fanny Willis (D), who wanted to file charges against Georgia shortly after Trump lost to Joe Biden. Calls from election officials questioned senators. Prosecutors said Graham had a “unique knowledge” of Trump’s campaign and “a multi-state, coordinated effort to influence the outcome of the 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.”

Georgia’s criminal investigation into Trump and his allies explained

Graham said his actions were protected by the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause. Lawyers for the senator said in court filings that his call was a legitimate legislative activity and that they had been told Graham was a witness, not the target of an investigation.

In August, May rejected Graham’s request to delay his testimony and invalidate the subpoena, saying she would not accept his description of the call as “containing only a legitimate legislative fact-finding.” She wrote that the Supreme Court has made clear that political activity is not constitutionally protected and that Graham could be challenged on some aspects of the discussion.

Otherwise, she wrote, “any sitting senator would be allowed to shield the full range of potential criminal conduct that occurred during the call—regardless of whether the call subsequently took a different turn—by simply asserting that the purpose of the call was to legislate fact-finding.”

Last week, the appeals court granted Graham a temporary reprieve after ordering a district court judge to revisit the senator’s argument that he should be shielded from answering some questions and that the subpoena should be narrowed. The 11th Circuit said it would hear Graham’s appeal after a district court review.

In her latest opinion, May acknowledged that part of Graham’s appeal to Georgia officials “could constitute legitimate legislative activity that falls under the protection of the speech or debate clause.”

As for Graham’s questions related to whether his upcoming vote certifies the election result, “they are exempt from investigation,” May wrote. “In other words, Senator Graham cannot be asked about the legislative fact-finding part of the call.”

But the judge left room for Willis’ team to ask Graham for “any alleged ‘coaxing’ or encouragement” of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffinsberg (R) or other Georgia election officials “The act of throwing away ballots or otherwise altering Georgia’s electoral practices and procedures.” . “

The grand jury could also question Graham’s “purported communications and coordination with the Trump campaign and its post-election efforts in Georgia, as well as Senator Graham’s public statements related to Georgia’s 2020 election,” she wrote. “.

Willis’ team has interviewed more than half of the planned witnesses, including Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Willis is seeking testimony from Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows and another former legal counsel, Sidney Powell, and has not ruled out calling Trump as a witness. This week, a state court judge ordered the governor of Georgia. Brian Kemp (R) complied with the subpoena but delayed his testimony until after the November election.

On Wednesday, John Eastman, a conservative lawyer who advised Trump on a plan to challenge the 2020 election, appeared before a grand jury. Before his testimony, Eastman’s attorneys said they directed their clients to invoke attorney-client privilege and his constitutional right to remain silent.

Trump allies refuse to testify as Georgia election probe expands

Once the special grand jury has completed its work, it will make recommendations to Willis on whether to bring criminal charges. Willis has said she expects this to happen by the end of the year.

The Graham subpoena controversy centers on the senator’s call to Ravensberg and his staff, prosecutors said in court filings that the senator asked the state to “re-examine certain absentee ballots” to “explore the challenge of the former president.” Donald’s likelihood of a more favorable outcome.” trump card. Graham’s lawyers rejected that description and said he was gathering information before the vote to justify Biden’s election and co-sponsoring election-related legislation.

Graham, who was critical of the investigation this week, said in an interview with Fox News that prosecutors should not be allowed to call congressmen to testify “in the exercise of their duties.” He warned that such a challenge undermined the constitutional separation of powers and vowed to continue fighting the subpoena in court.

Source link