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Federal judge rejects Sen. Lindsey Graham's bid to quash grand jury subpoena in Georgia case

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 8/15/2022 Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
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A federal judge in Georgia denied Sen. Lindsey Graham's bid to avoid testifying before a Atlanta-area grand jury investigating interference in the 2020 election, rejecting the Trump ally's claim that he was shielded from such scrutiny by legislative privilege.

U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May ruled that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis had "shown extraordinary circumstances and a special need for Senator Graham’s testimony on issues relating to alleged attempts to influence or disrupt the lawful administration of Georgia’s 2020 elections."

"It's time for him to go. He's a war criminal," U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said March 16, calling for the people of Russia to stand up to President Vladimir Putin. © Jose Luis Magana, AP "It's time for him to go. He's a war criminal," U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said March 16, calling for the people of Russia to stand up to President Vladimir Putin.

The South Carolina Republican had asserted that he was engaging in legitimate inquiries as a lawmaker under the Constitution's speech and debate clause when he contacted Georgia officials following the 2020 election.

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"The Court finds that there are considerable areas of potential grand jury inquiry falling outside the Speech or Debate Clause’s protections," May ruled. "Additionally, sovereign immunity fails to shield Senator Graham from testifying before the Special Purpose Grand Jury."

The judge, however, left open the prospect that the privilege could apply to some questions posed by prosecutors working with the grand jury.

Graham placed at least two telephone calls to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and members of Raffensperger's staff in the weeks following the November 2020 election, seeking additional review of the absentee ballots, according to court documents filed in support of the subpoena request.

More: Sen. Lindsey Graham challenges Georgia grand jury subpoena, asserts legislative privilege

"The Witness also made reference to allegations of widespread voter fraud in the November 2020 election in Georgia, consistent with public statements made by known affiliates of the Trump Campaign," the court documents state.

Graham has previously denied claims that he was pressuring officials to exclude ballots, saying he was attempting to understand the method for which different states examine ballots.

"This is all politics," Graham's lawyers Bart Daniel and Matt Austin said last month. "Fulton County is engaged in a fishing expedition and working in concert with the January 6 Committee in Washington."

Graham's challenge comes after the same judge rejected a similar bid by Georgia Rep. Jody Hice, who has echoed Trump’s election fraud claims. Hice also argued that the Constitution’s speech and debate clause shielded him from law enforcement scrutiny related to his work as a legislator.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Federal judge rejects Sen. Lindsey Graham's bid to quash grand jury subpoena in Georgia case

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