Sen. Lindsey Graham asked the Supreme Court on Friday to block a subpoena from the Atlanta-area special grand jury investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.
The South Carolina Republican filed the emergency request at the high court after the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower-court judge on Thursday that the grand jury could seek his testimony.
Graham maintains that his efforts in Georgia after the 2020 election were legislative activities protected by the Speech or Debate Clause of the US Constitution.
But the three-judge appellate panel ruled 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 constitutionally protected.
The emergency request was filed with Justice Clarence Thomas, who oversees the 11th Circuit. Thomas is likely to refer the matter to the full court.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is leading an investigation into efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election.
The investigation was set off by an hour-long January 2021 phone call from Trump to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger asking him to “find” the votes necessary for Trump to win the state. It now covers presentations on unfounded election fraud claims to state lawmakers, the fake elector scheme, efforts by unauthorized individuals to access voting machines in one Georgia county and a campaign of threats and harassment against lower-level election workers, CNN has reported.
Graham on Friday asked the justices to freeze the lower court order while legal challenges play out.
“This Court’s action is necessary to allow this appeal to be heard before it becomes moot –before, that is, Senator Graham suffers the constitutional injury this appeal is meant to avoid,” the filing states.
In the new filing, Graham says that he needed the information from officials in Georgia as a part of his legislative duties that should be protected by the Speech or Debate clause of the Constitution. He stressed that the information was necessary for an “impending vote on certifying the election” and because as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee he is charged with “reviewing election-related issues.”
“After the phone calls, Senator Graham relied on the information gained from the calls both to vote Joe Biden the ‘legitimate President of the United States’ and to co-sponsor legislation to amend the Electoral Count Act,” the filing states.
But Graham’s motives were irrelevant to the protections that Constitution offers lawmakers for legislative conduct, the senator argued to the high court.
“The district court’s and District Attorney’s apparent suspicions about motives are baseless, but even assuming otherwise, the Speech or Debate Clause was designed to prevent exactly this sort of examination,” he wrote. He added that a lower court was “wrong, also, to think that any other lines of hypothetical questioning would be permissible.”
This story has been updated with additional details.