Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) lost this Monday in an attempt before a federal judge at getting a subpoena for his testimony in an election meddling investigation thrown out.
The investigation is the ongoing probe into pro-Trump attempts at meddling with the 2020 presidential election outcome led by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who’s focusing on machinations in her state, Georgia. After the 2020 elections (in which Biden won Georgia) concluded, Graham got in touch with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to essentially raise the prospect of throwing out entire counties’ caches of mail-in ballots. Graham disputes he did anything wrong — he was simply examining the procedures, his side claimed. In the push for quashing his subpoena in the Willis investigation, Graham argued on the basis of what The Washington Post summarizes as “speech or debate clause protections, sovereign immunity and his position as a high-ranking government official.” It all failed.
The speech or debate clause is a portion of the U.S. Constitution that provides certain protections to officials in Congress for key actions taken as part of their official duties. In a court filing, Willis essentially undercut the notion that Graham’s communications with Raffensperger and overall involvement in the 2020 Georgia presidential election process had anything meaningful to do with his present-day duties as a member of the United States Senate. “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,” U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May concluded in the subpoena dispute.
The judge presented the finding of “extraordinary circumstances” as a rebuttal to the notion Graham’s role as a high-ranking government official meant he was free from requirements to testify. May also wrote that “the Court finds that there are considerable areas of potential grand jury inquiry falling outside the Speech or Debate Clause’s protections.” Rudy Giuliani, the longtime Trump ally, was also recently ordered to testify — in-person — in Willis’s investigation. The date directed for that testimony was August 17. Giuliani’s side pushed alternatives including virtual testimony and meeting somewhere that’s closer to New York, where Giuliani resides, than the distance between there and Georgia, but Georgia Judge Robert McBurney concluded directing Giuliani to appear on August 17 provided him with sufficient time for traveling to Georgia.
“We just want a reasonable accommodation so a 78-year-old who has health conditions can get here, satisfy the directives from a New York court and this court,” Bill Thomas, a lawyer for Rudy, said. “That’s plenty of time to make the trip, a 13-hour drive,” McBurney said of directing Giuliani to appear for Georgia testimony on August 17. “New York is not close to Atlanta, but it’s not traveling from Fairbanks.”