Graham’s attorneys sought to have the subpoena thrown out by a Georgia grand jury, arguing that his calls to Georgia officials after the 2020 election were part of his official Senate duties and therefore immune from investigation.
“The Court is unconvinced by the breadth of Senator Graham’s argument, finding that the Speech or Debate Clause completely precludes all questions related to calls,” U.S. District Judge Lee Martin May wrote. A question was raised about legislative function.
The verdict is unlikely to be the final word on the matter It will be reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and can be appealed to the US Supreme Court.
Graham is a close ally of Trump. Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Willis (D) has resisted a subpoena seeking to question the senator about calls he made to Georgia election officials shortly after Trump lost the election to Joe Biden. Prosecutors say Graham has “unique knowledge” of the Trump campaign and “multilevel, coordinated efforts” to influence the outcome of the 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.
Graham says his actions are protected by the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause. The senator’s attorneys said in court filings that they were told his calls were legitimate legislative action and that Graham was a witness — not a target of the investigation.
In August, May rejected Graham’s request to delay her testimony and invalidate the subpoena, saying she disagreed with his characterization that the phone calls were “only legitimate legal fact-finding.” The Supreme Court has made clear that political activity is not protected by the Constitution, and Graham can be questioned about certain aspects of the debates.
To rule otherwise, he wrote, “any sitting senator would be allowed to defend all forms of criminal activity occurring during a telephone call by insisting that the purpose of the call was legislative fact-finding — no matter if the call later took a different turn . . .”
The appeals court granted Graham a temporary reprieve last week, ordering a district court judge to reconsider the senator’s claim that he should be protected from having to answer certain questions and that the subpoena be shortened. The 11th Circuit said it would take Graham’s appeal after the district court’s review.
In her latest opinion, May acknowledged that parts of Graham’s calls to Georgia officials “may constitute legitimate legislative activity that falls within the protections of the speech or debate clause.”
“Such questions are protected from inquiry,” May wrote, referring to questions about the referendum on whether Graham’s questions should certify the election results. “In other words, Senator Graham cannot be asked about portions of the legislative fact-finding calls.”
But the judge allowed Willis’ panel to question Graham about “‘cajol’ or attempts to induce.” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger (r) or other Georgia election officials to “throw away ballots or alter Georgia’s election practices and procedures.”
He wrote about Graham’s “alleged communications and coordination and public statements by Senator Graham regarding post-election efforts in Georgia and Georgia’s 2020 elections.”
In a statement Thursday, Graham’s office said, “We are pleased that the district court recognized that Senator Graham’s testimony is protected by the Speech or Debate Clause” and that the senator “will continue to protect the institutional interests of the Senate and the Constitution.” Round Eleven.”
An attorney who filed an amicus brief supporting Willis’ position also agreed with the decision.
“The Constitution is not an absolute bar to a senator or anyone else testifying about non-legislative matters, and the judge outlined a list of those here,” said Norman Eisen, counsel for Trump’s first impeachment.
Willis’ office declined to comment Thursday. His team has interviewed more than half of its planned witnesses, including Trump Former attorney Rudy Giuliani. Willis is seeking testimony from Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and another former legal adviser, Sidney Powell, and has not ruled out calling Trump as a witness. A state court judge this week ordered Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to comply with a subpoena. delayed his testimony Until the November election.
On Wednesday, John Eastman, a conservative attorney who advised Trump on the circumstances of challenging the 2020 election results, appeared before a grand jury. Before his testimony, Eastman’s attorneys said they instructed their client to cite the attorney-client privilege and his constitutional right to remain silent.
Once the special grand jury completes its work, it will make recommendations to Willis about whether to bring criminal charges. Willis said he expects that to happen by the end of the year.
Graham’s subpoena was subpoenaed to the senator Raffensberger And when his staff filed a court filing, the senator asked about “reconsidering some absentee ballots” in the state to “explore the possibility of a result more favorable to former President Donald Trump.” Graham’s attorneys rejected that characterization, saying they were gathering information ahead of the vote to certify the election for Biden and co-sponsor the election-related legislation.
Graham criticized the investigation this week, telling Fox News in an interview that members of Congress should not be allowed to call witnesses “while they’re doing their jobs.” He warned that such questions could undermine the constitutional separation of powers and vowed to continue fighting the subpoena in court.