The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham to testify before the Fulton County Special Grand Jury investigating former President Donald Trump’s attempts to void Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.
The ruling overturned a temporary reprieve Associate Justice Clarence Thomas had granted Graham.
Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis subpoenaed Graham to testify about two phone calls he made to Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger after Democrat Joe Biden took Georgia on his way to winning the presidency on Trump.
Graham’s attorney filed a motion to quash the subpoena, arguing that the senator was protected by the Constitution’s speech or debate clause from being questioned on matters relating to legislative business.
As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time, Graham said he made the calls as part of factual inquiries into mail-in voting and potential reforms to the Electoral College vote counting process.
But U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May ruled the issues Graham raised with Raffensperger were political — not legislative — in nature.
Tuesday’s decision gave Graham leeway to potentially avoid answering some questions.
“The lower courts … made it clear that Senator Graham could return to the district court in the event of a dispute regarding the application of speech or debate clause immunity to specific matters,” the ruling reads. “As a result, a stay or injunction is not necessary to protect the senator’s speech or debate immunity.”
Willis has subpoenaed a long list of elected state and federal leaders and other government officials since the special grand jury was convened last spring.
Witnesses who testified include Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan; Raffensperger; State Representative Bee Nguyen, D-Atlanta, who is running against Raffensperger; Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr; declare Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, who is running against Carr; U.S. Representative Jody Hice, R-Greensboro; and Georgia House President David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.
Governor Brian Kemp and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows have been subpoenaed. As Meadows fights the subpoena in court, Kemp’s testimony has been delayed until after next week’s election.
Willis had subpoenaed Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. But Jones won’t have to testify after a court ruled that Willis’ organizing a fundraiser for Democrat Charlie Bailey, Jones’ opponent, constituted a conflict of interest.
This story is available through a partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.