A week after Donald J. Trump announced his third presidential bid, one of his closest friends on Capitol Hill, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, was compelled to appear before a Georgia special grand jury investigating electoral involvement by Mr. Trump and his advisors.
Mr. Graham’s attorneys battled for months to prevent him from having to testify, including appealing to the Supreme Court. His legal team, which included Mr. Trump’s former White House counsel, Donald McGahn, eventually failed, leaving Mr. Graham vulnerable to questioning over whether he worked with the Trump campaign or others in their attempt to overturn the Georgia 2020 election results in Mr. Trump’s favour.
Mr. Graham, like a number of other recent witnesses summoned to testify before the special grand jury, did not enter the Fulton County courtroom via the front entrance on Tuesday morning to testify in the closed-door meeting. His attorneys have previously said that Mr. Graham is not a subject of the inquiry in Georgia.
“Today, Senator Graham went before the Fulton County special grand jury and answered every question,” his office stated in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “The senator believes he was handled with kindness, professionalism, and respect. He would not comment on the content of the inquiries out of respect for the grand jury procedure.
His attendance was a win for Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis, who is overseeing the investigation and has suggested it might result in a multi-defendant racketeering or conspiracy charge. Mr. Graham’s visit occurred a few streets away from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which heard arguments in a lawsuit that may decide whether a special master should examine records taken from Mr. Trump’s Florida property in August.
The appearance of Mr. Graham comes as three other prominent friends of Mr. Trump continue to resist requests to fly to Atlanta to testify. Mark Meadows, the former top of staff of the White House, Michael Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, and Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, have all challenged judgments requiring them to cooperate with subpoenas.
Mr. Trump declared his candidacy for a second term on November 15. Even before he formally launched his new campaign, he openly assailed Ms. Willis and other prosecutors investigating him as “vicious, terrible, psychologically ill individuals” during an early rally this year.
This rhetoric has had no effect on the inquiry in Georgia, which has been ongoing for almost two years. In the next months, the special grand jury is scheduled to complete its study of the copious papers and evidence. While it cannot issue charges, it is likely to provide a report that might serve as the foundation for ordinary grand jury indictments.
Mr. Gingrich contended that his willingness to be interviewed by the House committee investigating the assault on the Capitol on January 6 should exclude him from participating in the Atlanta criminal probe. Last week, though, Mr. Gingrich’s attorney, John A. Burlingame, disclosed in a court filing that the Jan. 6 committee had cancelled its invitation. However, Mr. Gingrich continued to contend that he should not be required to testify in Atlanta.
Mr. Graham had denounced Mr. Trump as a “race-baiting, xenophobic bigot,” but he has since become one of Mr. Trump’s staunchest friends in the Senate, parroting his phoney assertions about stolen elections.
Mr. Graham’s legal team achieved a partial triumph by persuading the judges that he should be guarded from some sorts of questioning under the Speech or Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits members of Congress from discussing their legislative work in court.
However, the courts decided that this protection did not extend to issues that were “political in character rather than legislative,” leaving Mr. Graham open to questions about why he called Georgia’s secretary of state shortly after the November 2020 election. According to Mr. Raffensperger, Mr. Graham proposed rejecting all mail-in ballots from counties with high percentages of dubious signatures.
In August, U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May decided that Mr. Graham should not be protected from inquiries about his “alleged collaboration” with the Trump campaign or other third parties in Georgia post-election actions.
Mr. Graham was set to appear at a gun club in Powder Springs, Georgia, on Tuesday night for a rally in favour of Herschel Walker, the former NFL football player and Trump-backed Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.
Mr. Walker fraudulently said on Twitter on January 4, 2021 that “Countrywide election fraud” had happened.