US Senator Lindsey Graham is questioned in Georgia election inquiry

ATLANTA (AP) — U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham testified Tuesday before a special grand jury investigating whether President Donald Trump and others illegally meddled in the 2020 Georgia election.

The South Carolina Republican’s appearance before the panel came after a protracted legal fight that went all the way to the US Supreme Court when Graham tried to avoid testifying. He had argued that his position as a senator protected him from being challenged. The courts rejected his claim, but ruled that prosecutors and grand juries could not question him about protected legislative activities.

Graham’s office said in a statement that he spent just over two hours with the special grand jury and “answered all questions.”

“The senator feels that he was treated with respect, professionalism and courtesy,” the statement said.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis launched the investigation early last year. She is considered one of the biggest potential legal threats to the former president, who last week announced a third run for the White House. Graham is one of several high-profile Trump allies whose testimony has been sought.

When Willis filed documents in July seeking Graham’s testimony, he wrote that he wanted to ask him about a phone call he made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger shortly after the election.

Raffensperger has said Graham asked if he could reject certain absentee ballots, which the secretary of state said he took as a suggestion to discard legally cast ballots. Graham has called that idea “ridiculous.”

Willis said in August that he hoped to be able to send the special grand jury home by the end of the year. But that timeline could be complicated by the fact that some of the testimony he seeks is related to appeals.

For witnesses who live outside of Georgia, Willis has to rely on a process that involves a judge in the state where a potential witness lives ordering that person to travel to Atlanta to testify.

Michael Flynn, a retired lieutenant general who briefly served as a national security adviser under Trump, was ordered to testify Tuesday, but a Florida judge issued a temporary stay of that order after Flynn appealed. Former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich was ordered by a Virginia judge to testify on November 29, but it was stayed pending his appeal. And an appeal of former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ order to appear on November 30 is pending in the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Former Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who previously testified before the US House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, answered questions from the big special jury last week.

When Willis filed documents in July seeking Graham’s testimony, he wrote that he wanted to ask him about a phone call he made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger shortly after the election.

Raffensperger has said Graham asked if he could reject certain absentee ballots, which the secretary of state said he took as a suggestion to discard legally cast ballots. Graham has called that idea “ridiculous.”

The special grand jury proceedings are secret, but related public court documents have shed light on the scope of the investigation.

From the beginning, Willis has said she was interested in a January 2, 2021 phone call between Trump and Raffensperger. The Republican president urged the state’s top elections official to “find” the votes needed to reverse his narrow loss in the state to Democrat Joe Biden.

It has also become clear that it is interested in several other areas, including: submitting a fake list of Georgia Republican voters who falsely declared that Trump won the state; false statements about the elections made by former New York mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and others to state legislators; efforts to pressure a Fulton County poll worker into admitting wrongdoing; Election Equipment Violations in Rural Coffee County; the abrupt departure of the US attorney in Atlanta in January 2021.

Willis notified Giuliani, who testified before the special grand jury in August, and the fake Georgia voters that they could face criminal charges in the investigation.

Special grand juries in Georgia are typically used to investigate complex cases with many witnesses. They can demand evidence and subpoena witness testimony, but cannot issue indictments. Once its investigation is complete, a special grand jury may recommend action, but it is left to the district attorney to decide whether to pursue a regular grand jury indictment afterwards.

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