Watch CBS News

Judge pauses subpoena of Sen. Lindsey Graham in Georgia's Trump investigation

Georgia prosecutor seeks testimony from Trump allies
Georgia prosecutor seeks testimony from Trump allies 00:24

A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily halted a subpoena demanding testimony from South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham in a Georgia special grand jury investigation into former President Donald Trump's behavior after losing the 2020 election.

Graham filed a motion earlier Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in South Carolina in an effort to avoid testifying about Trump's efforts to overturn the state's 2020 election results.

Earlier this month, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis subpoenaed the Republican senator and several other Trump allies, seeking to compel them to testify before a special grand jury this summer. The others subpoenaed included former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and campaign attorneys Cleta Mitchell, Kenneth Chesebro and Jenna Ellis.

Graham's subpoena calls for him to be available to appear before the special grand jury in less than three weeks, on Aug. 2. In issuing a stay of the subpoena Wednesday, Judge Henry Herlong Jr. set up a rapid schedule for arguments. Willis' office has until the end of the day on July 18 to respond to Graham's motion. Graham's reply to Willis is due on July 19, and the first hearing in the matter is schedule for July 20,

Prosecutors alleged in Graham's subpoena that he spoke to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger after the 2020 election and questioned him "about reexamining certain absentee ballots cast in Georgia in order to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome" for Trump.

President Joe Biden won Georgia by just under 12,000 votes, or 0.5%. Graham has acknowledged the phone calls in the past and dismissed any allegations of wrongdoing, telling "Face the Nation" in January that he "asked about how the system worked when it came to mail-in voting, balloting."

Graham's attorneys argued in their motion  that his conversations with Raffensperger fall within the "legislative sphere," because his calls related to his responsibilities as then-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Georgia Election Investigation
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., listens during a hearing on the fiscal year 2023 budget for the FBI in Washington, on May 25, 2022.  Ting Shen / AP

"Senator Graham has been concerned about election security and ensuring that absentee voting procedures are secure long before the 2020 election," Graham's attorneys wrote.

The attorneys contended that Graham "did not inject himself into Georgia's electoral process, and never tried to alter the outcome of any election." 

"The conversation was about absentee ballots and Georgia's procedures," Graham's attorneys wrote. 

The subpoena demands that Graham be available for testimony from Aug. 2 through Aug. 31. His attorneys argued he cannot be available for that length of time, because it could nterfere with his role in the Senate. They saidn his role as a senator gives him "sovereign immunity" from testifying. 

Willis' office has not yet responded to a request for comment. 

Trump called Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021, asking him to "find" 11,780 votes, or enough to make him the winner of the state. "The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry," Mr. Trump can be heard saying on the audio recording of the call, which was obtained by CBS News. "And there's nothing wrong with saying that, you know, um, that you've recalculated."

Raffensperger testified before the House Jan. 6 committee on June 21, 2022. The White House, including Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, called and texted Raffensperger's office 18 times to set up a call, Raffensperger said. 

Raffensperger said Trump also called the state's chief investigator for the secretary of state who was supervising the election audit, and told her that "when the right answer comes out you'll be praised." That call, like the one with Raffensperger, was set by Meadows.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.