A unanimous three-judge panel from the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit last week refused an attempt by Graham to block a subpoena from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) in which the lawmaker claimed a sitting senator is protected from testifying in such investigations.
A district court judge had said Graham should appear, but narrowed the range of questions prosecutors could ask.
Without a stay of lower court rulings, Graham’s attorney, Donald F. McGahn, told the Supreme Court“Sen. Graham will suffer the specific harm he asks to be prevented: to be questioned in state court about his legislative activity and official acts.
Thomas is the Supreme Court judge assigned to hear emergency applications from the 11th Circuit. His one-sentence order stated that the lower court’s decision “is hereby stayed pending further order by the undersigned or the Court.” Such language usually indicates that the court does not want the impugned action to occur before the court can act.
Willis said in a previous interview with The Washington Post that the grand jury will not be active until after the mid Road elections on November 7. A subpoena for Graham’s testimony orders him to appear on November 17.
Jeff DeStantis, a spokesman for Willis, said “we will decline to comment” on the Thomas order, pending the filing of prosecutors’ response to the Supreme Court.
The Atlanta grand jury investigating alleged interference in the 2020 presidential election has already heard testimony from multiple Trump lawyers, including Rudy GiulaniJohn Eastman and Boris Epstein. Willis also wants to interview former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Graham would be asked to testify about calls he made to Georgia election officials shortly after Trump lost the election to Joe Biden. Prosecutors say Graham has “unique knowledge” of the Trump campaign and “coordinated multistate efforts to influence the results” of elections in Georgia and elsewhere.
But Graham said his actions were legitimate legislative activity protected by the Constitution’s “speech or debate clause.” Lawyers for the senator said they were told Graham was a witness to the investigation and not a target of it.
Last month, a district court judge said prosecutors could not question Graham about parts of calls they were legislative inquiries. But the judge said Willis’ team could explore coordination with the Trump campaign in its post-election efforts in Georgia, public statements regarding the 2020 election, and any effort to ‘cajole’ or ‘urge’ election officials from Georgia.
In its order Thursday, the 11th Circuit panel agreed with the lower court judge that these actions “could not qualify as legislative activities under Supreme Court case law.” Two of the panel’s three judges were appointed by Trump.
Graham can still enforce his rights, the court noted, if there is a dispute over certain issues.
Tom Hamburger and Ann E. Marimow contributed to this report.