ATLANTA — A federal appeals court temporarily blocked Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, on Sunday from testifying in the investigation into efforts by President Donald J. Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia. The appeals court instructed a lower court to determine whether Mr. Graham should be exempt from answering certain kinds of questions, given his status as a federal lawmaker.
The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit gives a temporary reprieve to Mr. Graham, who has been fighting prosecutors’ efforts to bring him before a special grand jury. After a protracted bout of legal sparring, Mr. Graham, at the end of last week, appeared to have failed in his efforts to remain above the matter and had been expected to testify behind closed doors on Tuesday in a downtown Atlanta courthouse.
Mr. Graham has argued, among other things, that he should be exempt from testifying under the U.S. Constitution’s speech and debate clause, which prohibits asking lawmakers about their legitimate legislative functions. The appeals court laid out further steps on Sunday that must be taken before Mr. Graham gives any testimony.
First, the court ruled, a Federal District Court must determine whether Mr. Graham is “entitled to a partial quashal or modification of the subpoena to appear before the special purpose grand jury” based on the speech and debate clause issue. After that, the appeals court said, it will take up the issue “for further consideration.”
Lawyers for Mr. Graham have said that he was informed by Fulton County prosecutors that he was a witness, not a target, in the case.
Even so, prosecutors want Mr. Graham’s testimony for a number of reasons. Among them are two phone calls that he made just after the 2020 election to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, in which Mr. Graham inquired about ways to help Mr. Trump by invalidating certain mail-in votes.
They also want him to answer other questions about what they have called “the multistate, coordinated efforts to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.” Prosecutors have said in court documents that they expect Mr. Graham’s testimony “to reveal additional sources of information” related to their investigation.