For The Record

Supreme Court rejects Lindsey Graham’s bid to avoid Fulton grand jury’s 2020 election probe

By: - November 1, 2022 6:08 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court District Court ordered Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham to testify in a Fulton County grand jury investigation into whether illegal efforts were made to overturn the 2020 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham will have to testify before a Fulton County special grand jury investigating 2020 election interference after the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected his attempt to quash the subpoena. 

The Supreme Court’s unsigned decision sets up a scheduled Nov. 17 showdown – which would be the latest trip to Georgia in several weeks for the veteran senator, who is expected to face questions about whether he tried to pressure state election officials to overturn former President Donald Trump’s 2020 loss to President Joe Biden.

The Supreme Court’s order does exempt Graham from having to answer questions directly tied to his legislative duties.

Attorneys for the senator said that when he called the Georgia secretary of state’s office about the state’s procedures for disqualifying absentee ballots and other election matters, he was acting under his responsibilities of certifying elections and as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

According to the unsigned order, Graham’s speech or debate clause immunity does not justify blocking him from appearing before the grand jury. The Constitution’s Speech or Debate clause shields lawmakers from certain criminal or civil proceedings connected to their legislative duties.

Graham asked the Supreme Court last month to reverse a U.S. District Court judge’s ruling denying Graham’s motion to suppress the subpoena, with some restrictions on having to answer questions about details Graham discussed with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and other officials as part of his “fact-finding” mission before certifying the election 

Graham’s appearance is to occur before a 23-member panel that will issue a report with recommendations whether Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis should pursue charges in a wide-ranging and long-running probe with dozens of witnesses that include some of Trump’s closest allies and Georgia political officials. 

Willis initiated the investigation spurred by the public release of a recorded January 2020 phone call in which Trump pressed Raffensperger to find enough ballots to overcome Biden’s victory. 

Last week, a South Carolina judge ordered Trump’s ex-chief of staff Mark Meadows to appear in the Atlanta courthouse after he fought the grand jury’s subpoena. Among those who have testified in the grand jury probe are Trump’s former personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, named by prosecutors as a target for his role in pushing baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud in Georgia.

Meanwhile, a Fulton judge in charge of overseeing the special investigation has ordered that Georgia GOP Gov. Brian Kemp must testify following his Nov. 8 re-election bid against Democrat Stacey Abrams. The judge in that case  rejected arguments that the governor could avoid a grand jury appearance because of executive privilege and sovereign immunity, which protects the state from being sued without its consent.

And the grand jury will also hear from nearly all of the 16 Georgia Republicans who, during a secret December 2020 meeting at the Capitol, served as fake electors and cast illegitimate votes for Trump. A judge ruled in July that the exception is Republican state Sen. Burt Jones, who participated in the meeting of fake electors. Jones does not need to testify in Willis’ investigation because she hosted a June fundraiser for his opponent in this year’s lieutenant governor’s race, Democrat Charlie Bailey. 

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.

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