Sen. Lindsey Graham asked the Supreme Court on Friday to block a special grand jury subpoena in Atlanta to investigate efforts to nullify Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.
The South Carolina Republican filed the emergency petition in the Supreme Court after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Thursday that the grand jury could subpoena his testimony.
Graham says his efforts in Georgia after the 2020 election were legislative activities protected by the Speech or Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
But a three-judge appeals panel ruled that “communications and coordination with the Trump campaign about post-election efforts in Georgia, public statements about the 2020 election, and efforts to ‘incite’ or ‘solicit’ Georgia election officials” are unconstitutional. protected
The emergency petition was filed with Judge Clarence Thomas, who oversees the 11th Circuit. The Thomas case is likely to be escalated to the full court.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is leading the investigation into efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election.
The investigation was sparked by an hour-long phone call Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in January 2021 asking Trump to “find” the votes needed to win the state. CNN reports that it includes filings with state lawmakers about unsubstantiated claims of election fraud, fraudulent voter schemes, attempts by unauthorized people to access voting machines in a Georgia county and a campaign of threats and harassment against lower-level election workers.
Graham asked the justices on Friday to freeze the lower court’s order while trials are underway.
“This court’s action is necessary in order for this appeal to be heard before it becomes moot, meaning that Senator Graham suffers the constitutional harm that this appeal seeks to avoid,” the filing states.
In the new filing, Graham says he needed information from Georgia officials as part of his legal duties that should be protected by the Constitution’s Speech or Debate clause. He stressed that the information is necessary “for the next vote to secure the election” and because as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee he is responsible for “reviewing issues related to the election”.
“Following the phone calls, Senator Graham relied on information obtained from the calls both to vote for Joe Biden as the ‘legitimate President of the United States’ and to support legislation to amend the Election Counting Act,” the filing states.
But Graham’s motives were irrelevant to the protections the Constitution affords lawmakers for legislative conduct, the senator argued to the high court.
“The apparent suspicions about the motives of the District Court and the District Attorney are without merit, but even assuming the contrary, the Speech or Debate Clause was designed to avoid that kind of scrutiny,” he wrote. He added that a lower court “also erred in thinking that any other hypothetical question would have been legitimate along these lines.”
This story has been updated with additional details.