Afederal judge in Georgia on Friday denied Sen. Lindsey Graham’s latest attempt to escape a subpoena to testify before a grand jury investigating alleged election interference in the state.
Lawyers for Graham, R-S.C., had asked Judge Leigh Martin May to temporarily block an order she issued earlier this week denying his bid to quash the grand jury subpoena. They appealed the decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and asked May to put her ruling on hold during the appeals process.
The Fulton County district attorney’s office urged the judge to deny the request in a court filing Friday, arguing that Graham’s legal maneuverings have already cost the special grand jury precious time. The DA’s office noted it first sought Graham’s appearance in early July.
“Six weeks later, after litigation in three separate jurisdictions, the District Attorney is still attempting to provide the [Special Purpose Grand Jury] with the Senator’s crucial testimony,” the DA’s office wrote, noting that a stay of May’s ruling could lead to months of additional litigation.
“Given the possibility that Senator Graham’s testimony could reveal additional routes of inquiry, staying remand and enjoining his appearance at this stage could ultimately delay the resolution of the SPGJ’s entire investigation,” their filing said.
The judge sided with the DA’s office later Friday.
“Senator Graham raises a number of arguments as to why he is likely to succeed on the merits, but they are all unpersuasive,” she wrote in the ruling.
The grand jury was impaneled this year to assist District Attorney Fani Willis’ criminal investigation into possible 2020 election interference by former President Donald Trump and others.
Among the incidents Willis has said she’s investigating is a pair of post-election phone calls Graham made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, and his staff. Raffensperger said Graham pressed him about whether he had the power to reject certain absentee ballots, which Raffensperger interpreted as a suggestion to toss out legally cast votes.
Graham “also made reference to allegations of widespread voter fraud in the November 2020 election in Georgia, consistent with public statements made by known affiliates of the Trump Campaign,” according to a subpoena demanding his testimony.
Graham and his lawyers have said he made the calls in his then-role as a chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, adding in a statement last month that he “was well within his rights to discuss with state officials the processes and procedures around administering elections.”
In court filings, Graham’s lawyers also argued that because he was acting in a legislative role, the speech and debate clause of the Constitution shields him from testifying.
The judge found that Graham’s interpretation was too broad, and said investigators could ask him about the circumstances of the calls, including whether there was “any coordination either before or after the calls with the Trump campaign’s post-election efforts in Georgia.”
Graham’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.
Barring a stay from the higher court, Graham is scheduled to testify Aug. 23.