Appeals Court Rules Lindsey Graham Must Testify in Georgia Election Investigation

US Sen. Lindsey Graham must testify A federal appeals court said Thursday before a special grand jury to investigate whether then-President Donald Trump and others tried to illegally influence the 2020 election in Georgia.

The decision of the three-judge panel of the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals paved the way for Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Willis to bring Graham in for questioning. She wants to ask the South Carolina Republican about the phone calls she made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Riffensperger in the weeks following the election.

Raffensperger said Graham asked if he had the power to reject certain absentee ballots, something Raffensperger took as a suggestion to toss out legally cast votes. Graham has dismissed that interpretation as “ridiculous”.

Graham could appeal the decision to the full appellate court. An attorney for Graham deferred comment Thursday to a spokesman for the senator’s office, who did not immediately comment on the ruling.

Graham challenged his subpoena, saying that his status as a US senator protected him from testifying in a state investigation. He has also denied wrongdoing. In a six-page order, the judges wrote that Graham “failed to demonstrate that this approach would infringe on his rights under the speech and debate clause.”

Willis launched the investigation early last year, shortly after recordings of a January 2021 phone call between Trump and Raffensperger were made public. In that call, Trump suggested that Riffensperger could “find” the votes needed to reverse his narrow loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

Willis requested a special grand jury, saying that the panel’s summoning power would allow interrogation of people who would not otherwise cooperate with the investigation. She has since filed several rounds of paperwork with the court seeking to coerce the testimony of Trump’s close advisers and aides.

Some of those aides include former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who has testified before a special grand jury, according to a person familiar with Cipollone’s testimony, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a private appearance. But spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday. Cipollone’s presence was first reported by CNN.

Cipollone strongly opposed attempts to undo the election, saying he did not believe there was enough fraud to affect the outcome of a race won by Biden.

Graham was among the first group of people close to Trump, whose testimony Willis sought to compel in a batch of petitions filed in court in early July. He challenged his summons in federal court, but U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin Mayhew refused to toss his summons, Graham then appealed to the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

Graham’s lawyers argued that the speech or debate clause of the US Constitution, which protects members of Congress from answering questions about legislative activity, protects them from testifying. He argues that the call he made to hire Raffensperger was secure because he was asking questions to inform his decisions on the 2020 election and voting to certify future legislation.

Lawyers for Willis’ team argued that the comments Graham made in news interviews at the time, as well as Raffensperger’s statements, suggest the senator was politically motivated rather than legislative fact-finding.

He also argued that the scope of the Special Grand Jury’s investigation includes several other subjects that have nothing to do with the Raffensperger call. They also want to ask Graham about his briefings by the Trump campaign, including whether he was briefed on the Trump-Raffensperger call, and whether he has been asked about attempts to reverse election results in Georgia and elsewhere. communicated or coordinated with Trump and his campaign.

Graham’s lawyers also argued that the principle of “sovereign immunity” protects a US senator from being called by a state prosecutor.

Even if the speech or debate clause or sovereign immunity did not apply, Graham’s lawyers argued, his status as a “high-ranking official” protects him from testifying. This is because Willis has failed to show that his testimony is necessary and that the information he will provide cannot be obtained from anyone else, he argued.

In their ruling on Thursday, the appellate judges ruled that Willis can “ask about non-investigative conduct that falls within the scope of the subpoena” but “cannot ask about any investigative conduct,” noting that that Graham could note any issues in specific areas at the time. of his inquiry.

Others have already made their appearances before a special grand jury. Former New York mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who was told he could face criminal charges in the investigation, testified in August. Attorneys John Eastman and Kenneth Chesebro have also appeared before the panel.

The paperwork has been filed for testimony from former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich, among others.

Associated Press writers Kate Brumback in Atlanta and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.

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