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Lindsey Graham testifies before Georgia grand jury in election investigation

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ATLANTA — After months of unsuccessful legal challenges, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (RS.C.) appeared before a special grand jury on Tuesday investigating efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to reverse the election defeat of Trump in Georgia in 2020, the latest summit – profile witness in an investigation that appears to be nearing its conclusion.

A sheriff said Graham entered the courthouse around 8 a.m.

A spokesperson for Graham did not respond to a request for comment on the grand jury proceedings, which are legally secret. A spokesperson for the Fulton County Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Graham’s testimony follows a lengthy legal challenge to block his appearance which went all the way to the US Supreme Court, which this month refused to overturn lower court rulings compelling him to appear.

The South Carolina Republican and Trump confidant was first subpoenaed in July by the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, which sought to question Graham about phone calls he made to Secretary Brad Raffensperger. of State of Georgia, in the weeks following the 2020 election, and other matters related to the election.

Trump personally urged Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn his loss in the state, where Biden won by less than 12,000 votes. Trump has insisted the election there was marred by fraud, though multiple legal inquiries have found no evidence.

Raffensperger later told the Washington Post that he felt pressured by other Republicans, including Graham, who he said echoed Trump’s claims about voting irregularities in the state. He claimed that Graham, on a call, appeared to be asking him to find a way to void legally cast ballots.

Graham and his attorneys have strongly rejected that characterization, describing the senator’s interactions with Raffensperger as “investigative phone calls” meant to inform his decision to vote to certify Biden’s election and inform other Senate business.

In court filings, Graham claimed that his actions were legitimate legislative activity protected by the Constitution’s “speech or debate clause” and that he should not be required to answer questions from a large jury.

In September, U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May ruled that Fulton County prosecutors could not question Graham on portions of his appeals that sought to establish legislative fact.

But May paved the way for prosecutors to question Graham about his coordination with the Trump campaign on post-election efforts in Georgia. The judge also said Graham could also be questioned about his public statements about the 2020 election and “any alleged effort to ‘cajole’ or encourage ‘Georgia election officials’ to reject ballots or otherwise change practices. and Electoral Procedures of Georgia”.

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit later upheld that lower court ruling. The Supreme Court rejected a final appeal by Graham this month, clearing the way for his appearance this week. Graham’s attorneys said he was told he was a witness, not a target, in the Fulton County investigation.

Graham’s testimony came as the grand jury appears to be nearing the conclusion of its work. Jurors heard testimony from several Trump lawyers, including Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman and Boris Epshteyn. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R), who also unsuccessfully tried to quash a subpoena in the case, appeared before the panel last week.

District Attorney Fani T. Willis also sought testimony from other high-level Trump advisers, including former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows; former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. All three continue to pursue legal efforts to overturn their subpoenas – ongoing appeals that could delay proceedings.

The 23-person grand jury is allowed to meet until May 2023. But Willis said earlier this year she hoped the panel would complete its work by the end of this year. The panel does not have the power to issue indictments, but would make its recommendations in a report to Willis, who would then weigh potential charges.

At a hearing in Florida last week where Flynn was challenging his subpoena, Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Will Wooten told a judge there were “very few” witnesses left.

“It’s likely that this grand jury won’t be hearing testimony for much longer,” Wooten said, according to CNN.

Bailey reported from New Orleans and Brown from Atlanta. Ann E. Marimow and Tom Hamburger contributed to this report.

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