Supreme Court rejects Sen. Lindsey Graham's bid to avoid testifying in Georgia election probe

The senator has been fighting a subpoena requiring him to answer questions.

November 1, 2022, 2:48 PM

The Supreme Court has rejected Sen. Lindsey Graham's wholesale bid to block a subpoena for testimony before a Georgia grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump's attempts to overturn 2020 election results in that state.

An unsigned statement appended to the order, however, made clear that Graham does not need to answer questions about conduct protected by the Constitution's Speech or Debate Clause. The senator contends that his communications regarding the 2020 election results in Georgia were protected "informal investigative fact-finding" related to legislative activity.

"The lower courts assumed that the informal investigative fact-finding that Senator Graham assertedly engaged in constitutes legislative activity protected by the Speech or Debate Clause ... and they held that Senator Graham may not be questioned about such activities. The lower courts also made clear that Senator Graham may return to the District Court should disputes arise regarding the application of the Speech or Debate Clause immunity to specific questions. Accordingly, a stay or injunction is not necessary to safeguard the Senator’s Speech or Debate Clause immunity," the order read.

The order ultimately means that Graham will have to sit before the grand jury and answer questions, but there are limits to what prosecutors can ask about. Graham still retains the right to return to court to challenge anything he believes out of bounds in the course of the questioning.

Still, the order marks a win for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is investigating efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn Georgia's election results in 2020, when President Joe Biden narrowly won the state by over 11,000 votes.

Graham, in the aftermath of the 2020 election, called Georgia election officials to discuss the election. At around the same time, Trump called Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and pleaded with him to "find 11,780 votes" -- the exact total needed to reverse Biden's victory. Raffensperger also later said that Graham asked him if he could toss certain absentee ballots.

Trump has called his phone conversation "perfect," while Graham has said Raffensperger's recounting of their conversation as "ridiculous."

Graham has been fighting Willis' subpoena since the summer, though he has struggled to attain a legal victory. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that Willis could ask questions regarding "communications and coordination with the Trump campaign regarding its post-election efforts in Georgia, public statements regarding the 2020 election, and efforts to 'cajole' or 'exhort' Georgia election officials." The Supreme Court in the following days temporarily halted the circuit court's order, though Tuesday's ruling will allow it to move forward.

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