Graham is asking the Supreme Court to intervene after the election decision

COLUMBIA, SC (AP) – U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to intervene after a lower court ordered him to testify before a special Georgia grand jury investigating whether then-President Donald Trump and others illegally tried to influence the state’s 2020 election.

In a court filing, lawyers for Graham, a top Trump ally, sought to halt his possible testimony while he continues to appeal the order to appear before a Fulton County special grand jury.

Graham’s office described the South Carolina Republican’s filing as an attempt “to defend the Constitution and the institutional interests of the Senate.” The lower court’s ruling, Graham’s office said, “would significantly affect the senators’ ability to gather information in the course of doing their jobs.”

The legal action is the latest in Graham’s ongoing battle to prevent his testimony in a case that has ensnared the former president’s allies and associates. Some have already appeared before the special grand jury, including former New York mayor and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani – who has been told he may face criminal charges in the investigation – attorney John Eastman and Kenneth Chesebro and former White House attorney Pat Cipollone.

Papers have been filed seeking testimony from others, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadowsformer national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Speaker of the US House, Newt Gingrich.

Graham, a four-term senator who last won re-election in 2020, was first recalled in July by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who opened her investigation shortly after a recording of a January 2021 phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was made public. In that call, Trump suggested Raffensperger could “find” the votes needed to overturn his narrow loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

Willis will question Graham about two phone calls he made to Raffensperger and his associates in the weeks after the election.

During those calls, Graham asked to “reconsider certain absentee ballots cast in Georgia 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 referred to allegations of widespread voter fraud in the November 2020 election in Georgia, consistent with public statements by known associates of the Trump campaign,” she wrote. She said in a hearing last month that Graham may be able to provide insight into the extent of any coordinated effort to influence the results.

Raffensperger said he took Graham’s question about missing ballots as a suggestion to throw out legally cast votes. Graham has dismissed this interpretation as “ridiculous”. Graham has also argued that the call was protected because he asked questions to inform his decisions about voting to confirm the 2020 election and future legislation.

Graham challenged his subpoena in federal court, but a judge refused to throw it out. Graham then appealed to the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals, and a three-judge panel ruled in favor of Willis on Thursday. Graham can appeal to the full court.

Graham’s lawyers argued that the Constitution’s speech or debate clausewhich protects members of Congress from having to answer questions about legislative activities, protects him from having to testify.

Graham is represented by former White House counsel Don McGahn, who was embroiled in a long-running legal battle over a congressional subpoena for his own testimony related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. After years of back-and-forth the two sides reached an agreement, and McGahn answered investigators’ questions in a private session.

Graham’s filing Friday was directed to Judge Clarence Thomas, who handles emergency appeals from Georgia and several other southern states. Thomas can act on his own or refer the matter to the courts.

Trump’s lawyers recently filed a Supreme Court petition with Thomas asking the Supreme Court to step into a legal battle over the classified documents seized during an FBI search of Trump’s Florida estate.

Thomas has previously come under scrutiny for his vote in another Trump documents case, where he was the only member of the court to vote against allowing the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot to obtain Trump records , as the National Archives and Archives Administration.

Thomas’ wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomasis a conservative activist and staunch Trump supporter who attended the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally at the Ellipse and wrote to Meadows in the weeks after the election urging him to work to overturn Biden’s victory and keep Trump in office .

She also contacted lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin in the weeks after the election, although no evidence has emerged that she contacted Georgian officials. Thomas was recently interviewed by the House committee investigating the January 6 riot, and she stuck by the false claim that the 2020 election was fraudulent, despite the fact that numerous federal and local officials, numerous courts, former top campaign staffers and even Trump’s own attorney general have all said there is no evidence of mass fraud.

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Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

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Mark Sherman in Washington contributed to this report.

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