September 26, 2022

Atlanta — A federal appeals court on Sunday agreed to temporarily put on hold a lower court’s order requiring that Sen. Lindsey Graham testify before a special grand jury that’s investigating plots to overturn former President Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential election loss in Georgia.

The South Carolina Republican had received a subpoena to appear before the special grand jury on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May had denied Graham’s request last Monday to quash the subpoena and on Friday rejected his effort to put her decision on hold while he appealed. Graham’s lawyers then appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Sunday, a three-judge panel of the appeals court issued an order temporarily pausing May’s order declining to quash the subpoena. The panel sent the case back to May to decide whether the subpoena should be partially quashed or modified because of protections granted to members of Congress by the U.S. Constitution. 

Graham’s representatives did not immediately respond Sunday to messages seeking comment on the appellate ruling. A spokesperson for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis declined to comment.

On Monday, May gave Graham until Wednesday to file a motion laying out exactly which questions and categories of information he is requesting the court to address in an order to partially quash the subpoena. 

“The arguments should address whether, and to what extent, certain alleged conduct (including specific lines of inquiry on the telephone calls) is shielded from questioning under the Speech or Debate Clause,” she said in her order.  

The Fulton County district attorney will have until Mon., Aug. 29 to respond, and Graham’s response is due Aug. 31. Then, the case will return to the 11th Circuit for further consideration, according to the appeals court order.

Willis opened the investigation early last year, prompted by a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. During that conversation, Trump suggested Raffensperger could “find” the votes needed to overturn his narrow loss in the state.

Willis and her team have said they want to ask Graham about two phone calls they say he made to Raffensperger and his staff shortly after the 2020 general election. During those calls, Graham asked about “reexamining certain absentee ballots cast in Georgia in order to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump,” Willis wrote in a petition seeking to compel his testimony.

Graham 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,” she wrote.

During a hearing earlier this month on Graham’s motion to quash his subpoena, Willis’ team argued that Graham may be able to provide insight into the extent of any coordinated efforts to influence the results of the 2020 general election in Georgia.

Robert Legare contributed to this report.

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