A federal appeals court on Thursday denied a request by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to be shielded from testifying in an investigation into former President Trump’s alleged interference in the 2020 election in Georgia.
The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit comes after the senator earlier this month urged the court to find that constitutional protections for lawmakers bar his testimony before a Fulton County, Ga., special grand jury.
The panel’s decision hands a partial victory to District Attorney Fani Willis (D), who has expressed particular interest in hearing from Graham about calls he made to Georgia’s top election official following the 2020 election as part of her probe.
Graham has attempted to block Willis’s subpoena for months, arguing the Constitution’s Speech and Debate Clause prohibits his testimony about the calls and merits the complete blocking of his appearance.
“Senator Graham has failed to demonstrate that this approach will violate his rights under the Speech and Debate Clause,” the appeals court ruled on Thursday.
The South Carolina Republican’s appeal came after a federal trial judge only barred questioning of Graham for his calls to state election officials as it related to fact-finding for his own vote on certifying of the 2020 election while allowing his testimony to otherwise proceed.
Graham had voiced opposition to the previous court order, suggesting the setup still enabled investigators to leverage “backdoor ways” to question him about the calls.
“The court noted that Senator Graham may still seek to assert his Speech and Debate Clause privilege if there is a dispute about whether a concrete question implicates his factfinding relating to certification,” the appeals panel wrote in its ruling.
The Hill has reached out to a Graham spokesperson for comment.
Unless Graham appeals further, the ruling clears the way for Willis to question the senator about communications with the Trump campaign, public statements on the election and Graham’s alleged effort to “cajole” Georgia election officials.
But she will be limited in discussing Graham’s calls with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) following the election.
Willis opened the probe shortly after a now-infamous call went public between Trump and Raffensperger in which the former president asked Raffensperger to “find” the roughly 11,000 votes he needed to win the state.
Willis has brought in Raffensperger and many others in Trump’s orbit following the 2020 election before the grand jury.
CNN reported on Thursday that the grand jury heard testimony from Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone and former Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.).
Willis in recent days has also taken steps to secure testimony from former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former White House attorney Eric Herschmann.
At least 17 individuals have been notified that they are targets of a criminal investigation from Willis: former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and the 16 people put forth as unofficial or “fake” electors who had not actually been selected as Electoral College electors by their states.
Willis has indicated she will suspend her investigation’s public activities until after the November midterm elections and that she expects to make a decision about whether to seek Trump’s testimony later this fall.
—Updated at 5:42 p.m.