A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected Sen. Lindsey Graham’s emergency request that it halt a subpoena for his testimony from the Atlanta-area grand jury investigating efforts to undermine the 2020 election in Georgia.
The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court judge in ruling that the South Carolina Republican senator may be questioned about certain topics.
“(C)ommunications 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 of the Constitution, the three-judge panel ruled.
With its new ruling, the appeals court lifted the temporary hold it had placed on the subpoena while it was considering Graham’s case.
However, Graham may not be questioned about conduct related to any fact-finding he was doing about whether to vote to certify the 2020 election results, the court ruled, okaying the approach taken by the lower court.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is leading the investigation, has indicated that she wants to question Graham about his phone calls with Georgia election officials as former President Donald Trump and his allies were seeking to reverse his defeat in the state.
The appeals court said if there was a dispute over whether investigators’ questions about those calls related to the fact-finding he was doing for the certification vote, Graham could raise those issues when he is testifying. But the new ruling makes clear that the three other categories of conduct fall outside of the protections of the Speech and Debate Clause, which shields legislators from certain law enforcement activities connected to their duties as lawmakers.
The 11th Circuit order was unanimous and came from a panel made up of two Trump appointees and a Clinton appointee.
Graham has argued that all of the topics of questioning previewed by the subpoena were out of bounds and thus the entire subpoena should be quashed.
His attorneys did not immediately respond to CNN’s inquiry as to whether he will turn to the Supreme Court for emergency relief.
The 11th Circuit ruling in favor of Willis’ investigation comes as the probe has also secured the grand jury testimony of former US Sen. Kelly Loeffler and former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, CNN reported Thursday.
This story has been updated with additional details.