Investigators said they want to ask Graham about two phone calls he had with Georgia election officials in late 2020, just as Trump was trying to overturn his defeat. Graham acknowledged talking with officials about the state’s process for counting mail-in ballots.
His lawyers argued that those conversations related to his official duties as a senator, but May ruled there were indications the exchanges went beyond “legislative fact-finding.”
“Senator Graham has unique personal knowledge of the substance and circumstances of the telephone calls with Georgia election officials, as well as the logistics of their establishment and his subsequent actions,” May wrote in his ruling. last Monday.
“And although other Georgia election officials were allegedly present during these calls and made public statements about the substance of these conversations, Senator Graham has widely (and even publicly) challenged their characterizations of the nature of the calls. and what was said and implied. Therefore, Senator Graham’s potential testimony on these matters…is unique to Senator Graham.
The appeals court characterized its Sunday morning action as “pretrial detention” and said the subpoena would essentially be stayed while the possibility of constraints on the scope of Graham’s questioning would be discussed in district court.
It’s unclear whether the appeals court’s order will lead to further oral argument before May or just the filing of additional legal briefs, but the appeals court ordered her not to hang around.
“The District Court will expedite the briefing of the parties in such manner as it deems appropriate,” the 11th Circuit order said.
Graham’s stay request was heard by a three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based conservative appeals court: Justices Charles Wilson, Kevin Newsom and Britt Grant. Wilson is nominated by former President Bill Clinton, while Newsom and Grant are both nominated by Trump. They are likely to hang on to the case when it comes back to the appeals court, at least for any urgent proceedings.
May briefly considered the option of “partially overturning” the subpoena during oral arguments in her court on August 10, but said she would need more information to decide whether there were any appropriate question areas that would not be subject to a speech or debate clause. immunity. An example, she said, would be any coordination between Graham and the Trump campaign ahead of Graham’s phone calls with Georgia election officials.
But May said in her ruling denying Graham’s relief that her lawyers’ written submissions only asked her to dismiss the subpoena “totally” and that her bid for a partial victory came late in the process. She also agreed that speed was key for the grand jury as it investigates potential criminal conduct in an effort to overturn the 2020 election.
“The Court finds that the District Attorney has shown extraordinary circumstances and a particular need for the testimony of Senator Graham on matters relating to alleged attempts to influence or disrupt the legal administration of the 2022 election in Georgia,” said wrote May last week in her order denying Graham’s federal government. Case.
The DA raised similar concerns, suggesting that additional briefings could require Graham’s already delayed testimony to be postponed for weeks or even months, significantly hampering the criminal investigation. Prosecutors for Willis said they expect Graham’s testimony to lead to new investigative leads that are key to the overall investigation.
May’s ruling last week left open the option for Graham to decline to answer specific questions before the grand jury and seek rulings on those matters from a county judge, but Graham’s team insisted that as a US senator he was entitled to the protection of the federal courts.
A spokesperson for Willis declined to comment on the appeals court order; a lawyer for Graham did not immediately respond to a request for comment.