A federal judge in the United States has ordered Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to answer questions in a Georgia state investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, but limited the scope of what can be asked.
In a 23-page ruling on Thursday, US District Judge Leigh Martin May rejected Graham’s argument that all his calls with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger were protected under the US Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause, which shields members of Congress from questioning about official legislative acts.
She did, however, agree with Graham’s lawyers that legislative protection applies to parts of the calls specifically pertinent to “Georgia’s then-existing election procedures and allegations of voter fraud in the leadup to his certification vote” — portions she noted were “legislative fact-finding”.
The judge ruled that the grand jury is free to ask Graham about other subjects, including “any alleged efforts” to encourage state election officials to “throw out ballots” as well as any coordination that may have existed between Graham and the Trump campaign.
Graham’s office did not immediately comment on the ruling or indicate whether he plans to appeal. Despite Thursday’s decision, continuing appeals in the case mean the senator’s appearance is not imminent.
But the judge’s decision pushes Graham — one of Trump’s top congressional allies and a key figure in the former president’s post-election activities — one step closer to testifying before the special grand jury empaneled this year by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.
Willis has sought testimony from a number of other close Trump allies and advisers, including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Trump-allied lawyer Sidney Powell and conservative lawyer L Lin Wood Jr, who said this week he’s been told Willis wants him to appear.
On Wednesday, a judge ruled that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp must testify, while agreeing with the Republican’s request to delay that appearance until after the November 8 midterm election. Rudy Giuliani, a former Trump lawyer, appeared before the grand jury in mid-August.
May had previously denied Graham’s attempt to quash the Fulton County subpoena, but the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals ordered her to consider whether to partially grant his request based on constitutional protections for sitting members of Congress.
The Georgia probe is one of several involving Trump, including a US Department of Justice investigation into whether the former president violated the law by transporting classified government documents to his Florida estate.