The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Sen. Lindsey Graham will have to give testimony to a Georgia grand jury investigating efforts by former President Donald Trump and his cronies to tamper with the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
Without any noted dissents, the Supreme Court wrote that 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.”
In late August, the South Carolina senator filed a brief that argued the subpoena for him to testify was invalid, based on a rarely used section of the U.S. Constitution.
“The Constitution guarantees that a Senator ‘shall not be questioned’ about his protected ‘Speech or Debate’—and yet the District Attorney insists that Senator Graham must submit to questioning to ascertain whether he can be questioned or is immune from questioning. That makes no sense,” Graham’s motion read.
Then last month, Graham begged the Supreme Court to intervene.
CBS News reported that Graham’s emergency filing was made “to defend the Constitution and the institutional interest of the Senate,” adding that the lower court’s ruling “would significantly impact the ability of senators to gather information in connection with doing their job.”
Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis is hoping to get Graham to discuss two calls made to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger after the 2020 presidential election, in which he allegedly asked about “reexamining certain absentee ballots cast in Georgia in order to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump,” Willis wrote in a petition seeking to compel his testimony, per CBS.
Willis has written that Graham’s testimony is vital to interpreting “a multistate, coordinated plan by the Trump Campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere,” according to The Washington Post.
Then, in one of the more bizarre pieces of news from SCOTUS to date, just last week, Justice Clarence Thomas unilaterally agreed to temporarily freeze Graham’s order to testify. Thomas has jurisdiction over the lower court, CNN reported, and the response was likely given in order to give Supreme Court justices more time to review the case.
Graham’s attorneys have argued that the South Carolina senator’s calls to Georgia election officials were a simple good-faith effort toward congressionally certifying President Joe Biden’s win, according to CNN.
The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals retorted that “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” are not legislative activities protected by the Speech and Debate Clause.”
In Graham’s latest efforts to skirt testifying, Willis’ team says “the grand jury’s work [would] be delayed indefinitely, ensuring that information which could either clear the innocent of suspicion or increase scrutiny on the guilty will continue to lie beyond the grand jury’s grasp… Such interference with the grand jury’s ongoing investigation is not necessary in order to ensure the protection of the senator’s rights.”
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