When he made those calls, Graham "was engaged in quintessentially legislative factfinding — both to help him form election-related legislation, including in his role as then-Chair of the Judiciary Committee, and to help inform his vote to certify the election," his lawyers wrote in a court filing on Friday.
Graham's lawyers cite a provision of the U.S. Constitution that they say “provides absolute protection against inquiry into Senator Graham's legislative acts.” They also argue “sovereign immunity" prevents a local prosecutor from summoning a U.S. senator “to face a state ad hoc investigatory body.” And they assert that Willis has failed to demonstrate “the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ necessary to order a high-ranking federal official to testify.”
Willis' office will respond in court and expects Graham to testify before the special grand jury, spokesperson Jeff DiSantis said.
Given that Graham has been summoned to testify on Aug. 23, his lawyers asked for expedited consideration of his motion to quash. The judge granted that request, setting a hearing for Aug. 10.
Graham had previously filed a federal court challenge in South Carolina to try to stop Willis' efforts to compel him to testify. Before a judge there could hold a hearing, he withdrew that case and agreed to file any challenges to a subpoena in the investigation in either state superior court or federal court in Georgia, according to a court filing.
U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, a Georgia Republican, filed a federal court challenge similar to Graham's after he received a subpoena to testify before the special grand jury. After hearing arguments from his lawyers and from Willis' office, a federal judge last week declined to quash his subpoena.
U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May, who is also assigned to hear Graham's challenge, sent the matter back to Fulton County Superior Court, saying that there are at least some questions that Hice may be compelled to answer. If disagreements arise over whether Hice is protected under federal law from answering certain questions, he can bring those issues back to her to settle, she said.
Willis has confirmed that the investigation's scope includes a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call between Trump and Raffensperger during which Trump urged Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to overturn his loss in the state.
“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump said during that call.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly described his call to Raffensperger as “perfect.”
Willis is also interested in false allegations of election fraud made by former New York mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and others during Georgia legislative committee meetings in December 2020. Jacki Pick Deason, a Dallas-based lawyer and podcaster, spoke at one of those meetings on Dec. 3, 2020.
Willis is trying to compel Deason's testimony. Because she lives outside Georgia, Willis has to use a process that involves getting a judge in Texas to order her to appear. A judge in New York has already ordered Giuliani to testify next week.
In a court filing in Texas last week, Deason argued that she shouldn't be ordered to testify. She cited alleged flaws with the paperwork Willis filed seeking her testimony, argued that a summons to appear before a Georgia special grand jury is not recognized in Texas and said that the demand for her appearance is based on a false assertion that she was a lawyer for the Trump campaign. She also said that it would be an undue burden for her to travel to Atlanta on days when the special grand jury is meeting in August because of professional obligations and other commitments.
Associated Press writers Meg Kinnard in Columbia, S.C., and Jamie Stengle and Jake Bleiberg in Dallas contributed to this report.