Appeals court pauses Lindsey Graham’s testimony in Ga election inquiry
On Sunday, a federal appeals court temporarily stayed a lower court’s decision requiring Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., to testify before a grand jury in Georgia investigating pro-Trump efforts to sway the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state.
In a brief order, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the decision to the district court, asking the judge to weigh any potential changes to Graham’s Fulton County grand jury subpoena pursuant to to the speech and debate clause of the Constitution.
The clause, which provides lawmakers with certain legal protections when acting in the course of their official duties, is at the heart of Graham’s challenge to the subpoena for his testimony.
Graham was scheduled to testify on Tuesday.
The appellate circuit ruled that the district court must “determine whether [Graham] is entitled to a partial cancellation [rejection] or modifying the subpoena to appear before the Special Purpose Grand Jury based on the protections afforded by the Speech or Debate Clause of the United States Constitution.
“Following the resolution of the issue of partial reversal on limited remand, the matter will be returned to this Court for further consideration,” the appeals judges wrote.
The decision is the latest development in Fulton County’s investigation into efforts to cancel the 2020 race – an investigation that turned into a pitched legal battle with Graham after Georgia prosecutors demanded his testimony more early this year.
District Court Judge Leigh Martin May had ruled on Friday that “further delay of … Graham’s testimony would materially aggravate the overall delay in completing the grand jury’s investigation” and thus “presents a significant risk of overall obstruction of the grand jury’s investigation”. “
“The Court therefore finds that granting a stay would almost certainly result in material harm to the grand jury and its investigation,” May wrote.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat leading the investigation, first requested Graham’s testimony in July.
The South Carolina lawmaker, a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump, became embroiled in the matter following two calls he made to Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger shortly after the last presidential race .
Graham has since insisted he is investigating how signatures on Georgia’s mail-in ballots are verified and is not pushing for votes to be cast in favor of Trump. Graham’s legal team said his appeals should be protected under the speech and debate clause, arguing they related to legislative work in his role as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the era.
The Georgia grand jury probe was launched after Raffensperger, a Republican and the state’s top election watcher, was asked by Trump to ‘find 11,780 votes’ – the number the then president needed to win the state against Joe Biden, who won Georgia (which was later reconfirmed by a full handbook recount).
While seeking a grand jury earlier this year, Willis wrote in court that she had reason to believe there was “a reasonable likelihood that the administration of the 2020 State of Georgia elections…will be subject to possible criminal disturbances”. She previously told The Associated Press that she was reviewing calls from Graham and Trump with Raffensperger.
The Fulton County grand jury can make recommendations but does not have the power to indict, which would be up to another grand jury to weigh after the inquest.
Trump insisted his pressure campaign in Georgia was appropriate and he did nothing wrong, saying Willis was politically persecuting him.
ABC News‘ Alexander Mallin and Will Steakin contributed to this report.
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