Judge Rules Graham Must Testify In Fulton County Probe

OPINION:  This article contains commentary which may reflect the author’s opinion

The ongoing investigation into the 2020 election in Fulton County, Georgia is continuing and there are conflicting rulings as to testimony from a U.S. Senator.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsay Graham made phone calls involving the state of Georgia and says the constitution protects those calls.

The Senator maintains that the calls were part of his job as a member of Congress.

The senator’s attorneys argued that his calls were legislative and therefore protected.

Fulton county officials say the calls are said to be of interest to the investigation of allegations of efforts to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

Senator Graham objected to the subpoena he was given to appear and testify to the information that he says is protected.

Late last month, a federal appeals court ruled that Graham didn’t have to comply, for now, with a subpoena to testify to an Atlanta grand jury, Politico reported.

“The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the subpoena at Graham’s request after a federal district court judge in Atlanta turned down the South Carolina Republican’s bid to avoid testifying on the grounds that the local grand jury is intruding on legal protections he enjoys as a federal lawmaker.

The appeals court said in a two-page order that Graham’s attorneys and prosecutors for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis needed to flesh out arguments about whether Graham is entitled to have the federal courts place legal guardrails on the questioning Graham could face.

The 11th Circuit panel’s order said that those arguments should be presented first to U.S. District Court Judge Leigh Martin May, Graham’s team raised under the Constitution’s speech or debate clause — which immunizes lawmakers from most legal consequences for actions relating to their lawmaking responsibilities.

Investigators have said they want to query Graham about two phone calls he had with Georgia election officials in late 2020, at the same time Trump was attempting to subvert his defeat. Graham has acknowledged discussing with the officials the state’s process for counting absentee ballots.”

The senator’s attorneys said that his calls were within his fact-finding duties as a senator.

“Senator Graham did not inject himself into Georgia’s electoral process, and never tried to alter the outcome of any election. The conversation was about absentee ballots and Georgia’s procedures,” his attorneys said in a court filing.

But last week, District Judge Leigh Martin May issued a ruling rejecting the constitutionally-based arguments by Graham and his lawyers, as well as the ruling by the 11th Circuit of Appeals.

Judge May, an Obama appointee, said that Graham would have to testify.

“Senator Graham has unique personal knowledge about the substance and circumstances of the phone calls with Georgia election officials, as well as the logistics of setting them up and his actions afterward,” Judge May said last week.

“And though other Georgia election officials were allegedly present on these calls and have made public statements about the substance of those conversations, Senator Graham has largely (and indeed publicly) disputed their characterizations of the nature of the calls and what was said and implied. Accordingly, Senator Graham’s potential testimony on these issues … are unique to Senator Graham,” she said.

“The Court finds that the District Attorney has shown extraordinary circumstances and a special need for Senator Graham’s testimony on issues relating to alleged attempts to influence or disrupt the lawful administration of Georgia’s 2022 elections,” she said.

“The public interest is well-served when a lawful investigation aimed at uncovering the facts and circumstances of alleged attempts to disrupt or influence Georgia’s elections is allowed to proceed without unnecessary encumbrances,” the judge said.

“Indeed, it is important that citizens maintain faith that there are mechanisms in place for investigating any such attempts to disrupt elections and, if necessary, to prosecute these crimes which, by their very nature, strike at the heart of a democratic system,” she said.

The federal judge now has ruled that South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham must appear before a grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia,

District Judge May ruled Graham must appear before the grand jury, but also limited the scope of the testimony by the Republican lawmaker.

“The Court quashes the subpoena only as to questions about Sen. Graham’s investigatory fact-finding on the telephone calls to Georgia election officials, including how such information related to his decision to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election,” May wrote in her ruling. “The Court finds that this area of inquiry falls under the protection of the Speech or Debate Clause, which prohibits questions on legislative activity.”

The judge added: “Graham may be questioned about any alleged efforts to encourage [Georgia] Secretary [of State Brad] Raffensperger or others to throw out ballots or otherwise alter Georgia’s election practices and procedures.”

So even though the judge is ruling that Graham must testify, she is limiting the information in the testimony.

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