Explaining Lindsey Graham’s Supreme Court Argument On Trump’s Big Lie

In the upcoming case involving a close associate of President Trump‘s, the Supreme Court will show just how far it will go to defend its Republican political appointees.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis asked a Georgia court to convene a special grand jury at the start of this year “to investigate the facts and circumstances relating directly or indirectly to possible attempts to disrupt the lawful administration of the 2020 elections in the State of Georgia.” For his alleged role in Trump’s plan to ignore the results of the 2020 election and install himself for a second term, investigators want to speak with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Explaining Lindsey Graham's Supreme Court Argument On Trump's Big Lie
Explaining Lindsey Graham’s Supreme Court Argument On Trump’s Big Lie

Willis has requested testimony from Graham regarding two phone calls between the senator and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which Graham allegedly “questioned Secretary Raffensperger and his staff about reexamining certain absentee ballots cast in Georgia to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump.”

In contrast, Graham maintains that he should be exempt from giving testimony.

A federal appeals court agreed with Willis and her team after several rounds of litigation, ruling that Graham must testify but limiting the questions they can ask him. Two of the three judges on the appeals court panel that ruled against Graham were Trump appointees.

Undeterred, Graham petitioned the Supreme Court late last week to absolve him of his testimony obligations. Graham v. Fulton County Special Purpose Grand Jury is the official name of this court case.

Graham’s main line of defense is the speech and debate provision of the Constitution, which states that members of Congress “shall not be questioned in any other Place” for “any Speech or Debate in either House.” The Supreme Court has long held that this provision shields legislators from “inquiry into acts that occur in the usual course of the legislative process and into the motivation for those acts.” This includes investigations into legislators’ behavior during actual floor speeches and debates. That means Graham can’t be questioned by Willis about his work as a lawmaker to the extent that he wants to.

However, the lower courts found that several of Willis’s proposed investigations have no bearing on Graham’s formal obligations as a federal lawmaker. Willis is looking into whether Graham influenced Secretary Raffensperger or others to toss out ballots or change election practices and procedures in Georgia. It was thus established by the lower courts that Graham might have to testify regarding his interactions with Raffensperger and others.

Graham, though, is hoping that the Supreme Court would grant him even broader protection from Willis’s investigation now that Republican appointees hold a supermajority of the Court’s seats. Even if Graham loses in court, it will likely be a while before the Georgia authorities get anything meaningful from him.

 

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