Georgia district attorney says Graham's testimony is crucial in election probe
The Washington Post August 19, 2022
The Atlanta-area district attorney conducting a criminal investigation of Republican efforts to reverse the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia argued in a court filing Friday that Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., should appear before a special grand jury next week despite his appeal to postpone offering testimony.
In the filing, the Fulton County District Attorney's Office, which is leading the probe into the actions of former president Donald Trump and his allies, argued that delaying Graham's appearance would also "delay the revelation of an entire category of relevant witnesses," pushing back the timeline of the investigation.
Graham has formally appealed a judge's order requiring him to testify on Tuesday. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat, has expressed interest in questioning Graham about conversations he had in the wake of the 2020 election with Georgia's secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger, among other things.
Graham's lawyers have characterized Willis's investigation as a fishing expedition and said his outreach to Raffensperger was consistent with his duties as a senator.
The U.S. district judge who issued the order, Leigh Martin May, denied Graham's request for a stay Friday as well as his request for an emergency hearing.
"Senator Graham's arguments are entirely unpersuasive, and they do not even demonstrate a 'substantial case on the merits,' " the judge wrote.
The question of whether Graham testifies is up to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, after the senator filed an appeal Wednesday.
In the filing, Willis's office seeks to turn Graham's argument as to why he is entitled to a delay on its head.
"Senator Graham insists that he seeks to delay his appearance before the Special Purpose Grand Jury not just for his own sake, but also for the sake of the separation of powers, federalism, and 'for the People,'" the filing said. "The Special Purpose Grand Jury, however, is the People: a collection of citizens called together to perform their civic duty on behalf of their neighbors and families. ... The District Attorney asks that this Court deny Senator Graham's motion in order that he, for a single day, can assist them in that great task without further delay."
Democrat Joe Biden won Georgia by nearly 12,000 votes, flipping the state after a long string of Republican victories in presidential elections.
Willis's probe began after reports that Trump and his allies had placed calls to Georgia officials seeking to overturn state election results. It expanded to include efforts to send the names of Trump electors in multiple states to Washington in hopes of delaying or halting the certification of a Biden electoral victory.
Willis named Graham, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, as part of her inquiry into what she has deemed "a multistate, coordinated plan by the Trump Campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere."
While Graham continues efforts to kill his subpoena, a member of Congress who once raised similar objections, Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., testified before the grand jury for more than two hours Wednesday.
"The congressman already provided his testimony," said his lawyer, Chris Gober. "We don't anticipate that the Fulton County District Attorney's Office will seek additional information from us. It is our expectation that our client's role in this process is over." Gober declined to provide details.
Like Graham, Hice had sought to kill a subpoena, citing constitutional protections of the speech or debate clause. The judge hearing Graham's claim, Leigh Martin May of the Northern District of Georgia, rejected Hice's motion. Hice is a Trump ally who echoed claims of widespread election fraud after the 2020 election and in his failed bid for Georgia secretary of state.
Related arguments from two state Republicans - Georgia's Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and former state senator William Ligon - also failed in state court. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney wrote that any legislative protections end with the grand jury's "authority to question witnesses about possible criminal electoral interference by others."
Willis requested a special grand jury this year. It began meeting in June and has identified more than 100 people of interest. The panel has heard testimony from Raffensperger and his staff; Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr, a Republican; state lawmakers and local election workers.
On Wednesday, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani appeared for six hours before a grand jury, the highest-profile member of Trump's inner circle to appear before grand jurors. Giulania had been informed this week that he is a target of the inquiry.
It is not clear what Giuliani said in his closed-door appearance.
Separately, Georgias Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, filed a 121-page motion late Wednesday alleging that the sweeping probe was being pursued "for improper political purposes" and asking the court to kill a subpoena requiring his testimony later this month.
The Washington Post's Matt Brown in Georgia contributed to this report.