(Bloomberg) -- A federal judge has again ordered Sen. Lindsey Graham to testify before a state grand jury investigating whether former President Donald Trump and his supporters violated the law in their efforts to undo Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia.
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US District Judge Leigh Martin May previously ruled that Graham must testify in the probe by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. But an appeals court stayed May’s order for further consideration of Graham’s argument that calls he made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger were part of his legislative duties.
May in a Thursday order limited certain questions that Graham could be asked about the Raffensperger calls to the extent they related to “investigatory fact-finding” in his role as a senator and his decision on whether to certify the election results. But the judge rejected Graham’s effort to quash the subpoena in its entirety and said he could be asked about allegations that he encouraged Raffensperger to discard votes.
The judge found that wasn’t covered by the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause, which protects lawmakers from being forced to testify about their legislative activities.
Graham appealed May’s previous order to the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, and his office released a statement indicating he would do so again.
“We are pleased that the district court recognized that Senator Graham’s testimony is protected by the Speech or Debate Clause. He will continue to defend the institutional interests of the Senate and the Constitution before the Eleventh Circuit,” a Graham spokesperson wrote.
The judge said that she couldn’t accept Graham’s “sweeping and conclusory characterizations” of the calls to Raffensperger as being solely about fact-finding. She noted that Raffensperger himself said he believed Graham was trying to get him to throw out ballots.
Off-limit topics might include Graham’s efforts to simply understand how Georgia ran its elections, May wrote, but the senator could be asked “precise, targeted questions regarding decidedly non-legislative activity.”
Along with his alleged questions to Raffensperger on discarding ballots, he can also be asked about public comments at the time and any coordination with to Trump’s campaign separate from the calls, since that would be “political” and not “legislative” activity, the judge said. She also said Graham could be asked about about any effort to “encourage” or “cajole” state election officials to change voting procedures going forward.
(Updates with additional detail from ruling and comment from Graham’s office.)
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