ATLANTA (AP) — As promised, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham has challenged a subpoena to testify before a special grand jury investigating whether then-President Donald Trump and others broke any laws when they tried to undo Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia.
Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, received a subpoena issued on July 26 and orders him to appear before the special grand jury to testify on August 23, his attorneys said in a court filing. Graham challenged the subpoena in federal court rather than the Fulton County Superior Court judge overseeing the special grand jury.
The senator is one of the Trump allies that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis wants to interview as part of his investigation into what she claims is “a coordinated multi-state plan by the Trump campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 elections in Georgia and elsewhere.
Graham had repeatedly said he would fight the subpoena once he received it, which happened last week, according to his lawyers. He denied any interference in the Georgian elections.
In a court filing last month, Willis, a Democrat, wrote that Graham made at least two phone calls to Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and members of his staff in the weeks following Trump’s defeat to Biden, asking to review some absentee ballots “to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump.
When he made those calls, Graham “was engaged in a largely legislative investigation – both to help him develop election-related legislation, including in his role as chairman of the Judiciary Committee at the time, and to help inform his vote to certify the election”. his attorneys wrote in a court filing on Friday.
Graham’s attorneys cite a provision of the U.S. Constitution which they say “provides absolute protection from investigation into the legislative acts of Senator Graham.” They also argue that “sovereign immunity” prevents a local prosecutor from summoning a US senator “to face an ad hoc investigative body of the state.” And they claim that Willis failed to demonstrate “the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ necessary to order a senior federal official to testify.”
Given that he was called to testify on August 23, his lawyers are asking for an expedited review of his motion to quash.
U.S. Representative Jody Hice, a Republican from Georgia, filed a similar challenge in federal court after receiving a subpoena to testify before the special grand jury. After hearing arguments from his attorneys and Willis’ office, a federal judge last week declined to quash his subpoena.
U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May returned the case to Fulton County Superior Court, saying there were at least a few questions Hice might be required to answer. If disagreements arise over whether Hice is protected by federal law from answering certain questions, he can bring those issues to her for resolution, she said.
Willis confirmed that the scope of the investigation includes a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call between Trump and Raffensperger in which Trump urged Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to undo his loss in the state.
“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump said on that call.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly described his appeal to Raffensperger as “perfect”.