ATLANTA (AP) — A federal judge said Monday that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham must testify before a special grand jury in Atlanta that is investigating whether former President Donald Trump and his allies broke any laws in trying to overturn his narrow loss in the state’s 2020 general election.
Graham Lawyers, RS.C., had discussed that his position as a US senator gave him immunity from appearing before the investigative panel and asked the judge to vacate his subpoena. But US District Judge Leigh Martin May wrote in an order Monday that immunities related to his role as a senator do not protect him in this case, and he is due to appear before the special grand jury on August 23.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis opened the investigation last year, and at her request, a special grand jury with subpoena power was seated in May. Last month she filed petitions seeking testimony from seven Trump advisers and associates.
Prosecutors have indicated they want to question Graham about phone calls they say he made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff in the weeks after the election.
Graham had argued that a provision of the Constitution provides absolute protection against a senator being challenged on legislative action. But the judge found that there are “considerable areas of potential grand jury investigation” that fall outside the scope of that provision. The judge also rejected Graham’s argument that the principle of “sovereign immunity” protects a senator from being subpoenaed by a state prosecutor.
Graham also argued that Willis, a Democrat, had failed to demonstrate the extraordinary circumstances necessary to obtain testimony from a high-ranking official. But the judge disagreed, finding that Willis has shown “extraordinary circumstances and a special need” for Graham’s testimony on issues related to his alleged attempt to influence or disrupt elections in Georgia.
Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Graham, said Monday that the senator had no comment but was referring to what Graham said when asked about the investigation last week. During a press conference in Columbia, South Carolina, Graham said, “We’ll take this as far as it takes” when asked about his efforts to fight and appear to testify.
“I was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and I had to vote to certify an election,” Graham told reporters. “This is ridiculous. This militarization of the law needs to stop. So I will use the courts. county persecute them.”
During the calls cited by Willis, Graham “questioned Secretary Raffensperger and his staff about reexamining certain absentee ballots cast in Georgia to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump,” Willis wrote in a petition.
Graham also “referenced allegations of widespread voter fraud in the November 2020 election in Georgia, consistent with public statements made by known Trump campaign affiliates,” he wrote.
Republican and Democratic state election officials, courts, and even trump’s attorney general found there was not enough evidence of voter fraud to affect the outcome of his 2020 presidential election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.
Associated Press writer Meg Kinnard contributed to this report.