Lindsey Graham testifies before Georgia grand jury in election probe

Lindsey Graham testifies before Georgia grand jury in election probe


ATLANTA — After months of unsuccessful legal challenges, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R.C.) appeared Tuesday before a special grand jury investigating efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn Trump’s 2020 election defeat in Georgia, the latest top- profile witness in the investigation, which is believed to be nearing completion.

The sheriff said Graham entered the Fulton County Courthouse around 8 a.m. to appear before the grand jury, which is hearing testimony in private. Kevin D. Bishop, a spokesman for Graham, later said in a statement that the senator testified “for just over two hours and answered all questions.”

“The senator feels he was treated with respect, professionalism and courtesy. Out of respect for the grand jury process, he will not comment on the merits of the matter,” Bishop said.

A spokesman for the Fulton County District Attorney’s office, which is handling the investigation, did not respond to a request for comment.

Graham’s testimony followed a prolonged legal challenge to block his appearance that went all the way to the US Supreme Court, which is this month refused to roll over lower court judgments requiring him to appear.

The South Carolina Republican and Trump confidant was first subpoenaed in July as Fulton County prosecutors sought to question Graham about phone calls he made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in the weeks after the 2020 election and other election-related matters.

Trump called Raffensperger personally to “find” enough votes to reverse his defeat in the state, where Biden won by less than 12,000 votes. Trump has insisted that the election there was marred by fraud, although multiple legal investigations have found no evidence of it.

Raffensperger later told the Washington Post he felt under pressure from other Republicans, including Graham, who he said echoed Trump’s claims about voting irregularities in the state. He claimed that Graham, in one call, appeared to ask him to find a way to set aside legally cast ballots.

Graham and his lawyers strongly rejected that characterization, describing the senator’s interactions with Raffensperger as “investigative phone calls” intended to inform his decision-making on whether to vote to confirm Biden and inform other Senate business.

In court filings, Graham argued that his actions were legitimate legislative activity protected by the Constitution’s “Speech or Debate Clause” and that he should not be required to answer questions from a grand jury.

In September, US District Judge Leigh Martin May ruled that Fulton County prosecutors he could not cross-examine Graham about the parts of his calls that were legislative fact-finding.

But May cleared the way for prosecutors to question Graham about his coordination with the Trump campaign on post-election efforts in Georgia. The judge also said Graham could also be questioned about his public statements about the 2020 election and “any alleged efforts to ‘incite’ or encourage” Georgia election officials “to throw out ballots or otherwise alter election practices and procedures in Georgia”.

A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit later confirmed that judgment of the lower court. Supreme Court rejected the final appeal from Graham this month, paving the way for his appearance this week. Graham’s attorneys said he was told he was a witness, not a target, in the Fulton County investigation.

Graham’s testimony came as the grand jury appears to be nearing the end of its work. Jurors heard testimony from several of Trump’s attorneys, including Rudy GiulianiJohn Eastman and Boris Epstein. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who also unsuccessfully sought to quash the subpoena in the case, appeared before the panel last week.

District Attorney Fannie T. Willis also sought testimony from other high-profile Trump advisers, including Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows; former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. All three are continuing legal efforts to overturn their subpoenas — ongoing appeals that could delay the proceedings.

The 23-member grand jury is authorized to convene until May 2023. But Willis said earlier this year that she hoped the panel would complete its work by the end of this year. The panel has no indictment authority, but will make its recommendations in a report to Willis, who would then weigh potential charges.

During a court hearing in Florida last week where Flynn contested his subpoena, Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Will Wooten told the judge there were “very few” witnesses left.

“It’s likely that this grand jury won’t be hearing much more testimony,” Wooten said, according to CNN.

Bailey reported from New Orleans and Brown from Atlanta. Ann E. Marimow and Tom Hamburger contributed to this report.

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