On Friday, federal Judge Leigh Martin May denied a request from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to temporarily suspend her previous ruling denying his attempt to quash a subpoena for his testimony. As his losses accumulate, he’s moving closer to testifying.
The subpoena demanded Graham’s testimony as part of the ongoing criminal investigation led by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis into pro-Trump election meddling in Georgia after the last presidential race. In a key time period under investigation, Graham spoke with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, to whom he evidently raised the prospect of discarding entire counties’ caches of mail-in ballots — which would obviously entail throwing out legally cast votes. According to POLITICO’s Kyle Cheney, May wasn’t the final word on whether her original denial of Graham’s attempt to quash his subpoena would be suspended. “Federal judge has *denied* Sen. Graham’s effort to stay the ruling requiring him to testify to the Fulton County grand jury on Aug. 23,” Cheney reported Friday afternoon. “Now the question of a stay rests with the appeals court, which received Graham’s case yesterday.”
Earlier on Friday, Willis herself filed a comprehensive rebuttal of arguments that Graham made in an attempt to get requirements for his imminent testimony undone. Among other issues, Willis noted that Graham relied on some of the same arguments he originally unsuccessfully presented, including that protections for certain legislative activities ought to shield him from the kind of scrutiny he’s facing. The problem with that argument is it’s not a given that Graham calling a state elections official to essentially leer at the process of calculating the results is somehow legislative in nature and protected. Accepting certain contentions from Graham would “allow any sitting senator to shield all manner of potential criminal conduct occurring during a phone call merely by asserting the purpose of the call was legislative fact-finding — no matter whether the call subsequently took a different turn,” May wrote in her Friday rejection.
May took the question a step further and insisted in additional comments from her Friday ruling that the matter of whether actions from Graham under scrutiny in the Willis probe are all protected legislative activity is, essentially, settled. The “record shows that there are multiple areas of proper inquiry that in no way implicate protected legislative activity as that term has been defined and clarified by numerous Supreme Court decisions interpreting the Speech or Debate Clause,” the judge said Friday. In her Friday filing, Willis noted a fear of months-long delays arising from potentially waiting for further litigation before questioning the Senator. Graham will once again have the opportunity to bring challenges to federal court over (evidently more limited) privilege-related concerns while eventually dealing in state court with the matter of his testimony. Meanwhile, Willis recently revealed Trump ally Rudy Giuliani as a target in the same investigation, meaning charges are possible — though not yet unveiled.