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Supreme Court clears way for Graham to testify in Georgia election probe

Sen. Lindsey Graham
Sen. Lindsey Graham. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

The Supreme Court rejected an effort by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to block a subpoena for him to testify in front of a Georgia grand jury investigating attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

In an unsigned order released Tuesday afternoon, the Supreme Court said that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis could continue her investigation into efforts to overturn the election in Georgia. The state was the focus of former President Donald Trump and his allies in their attempt to subvert the election results, with Joe Biden winning the state by about 12,000 votes.

The grand jury is scheduled for Nov. 17 and is set to expire in April. Willis had written in her filing to the court that “the delay resulting from a stay would be unavoidably harmful to the administration of its investigation.”

The order removed a temporary stay by Justice Clarence Thomas on Oct. 24 that had blocked the subpoena while waiting for a response from Georgia investigators. Shortly after the 2020 election, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, told the Washington Post that Graham had tried to pressure him over the phone into throwing out legal ballots.

Fulton County, Ga., District Attorney Fani Willis.
Fulton County, Ga., District Attorney Fani Willis, right. (Ben Gray/AP)

While a lower court had ruled that Graham did not have to testify about anything tied to legislative activity — citing the Constitution’s speech or debate clause — the grand jury would be able to ask him questions about any coordination with Trump before he made the alleged calls pressuring officials. Graham could still plead the Fifth Amendment, and the Supreme Court did not block further litigation into what was and was not protected from questioning.

“Without a stay, Senator Lindsey Graham will soon be questioned by a local Georgia prosecutor and her ad hoc investigative body about his protected ‘Speech or Debate’ related to the 2020 election,” Graham’s lawyers wrote in their initial Oct. 21 filing.

They added that the questioning itself would cause “irreparable harm” to the senator and that the Constitution immunized him from testimony.