- Lawyers for Sen. Lindsey Graham are seeking to quash a subpoena related to the 2020 election.
- Graham has been asked to testify before a Georgia grand jury about calls he made to Brad Raffensperger.
- Graham's lawyers say the South Carolina Republican enjoys immunity under the US Constitution.
Lawyers for Sen. Lindsey Graham are arguing that the South Carolina Republican cannot be forced to testify before a Fulton County grand jury about alleged election interference, claiming he enjoys "absolute immunity" under the US Constitution for phone calls he placed to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has been investigating efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to pressure officials in Georgia to overturn President Joe Biden's victory.
Graham, one of the former president's most loyal allies, was ordered earlier this month to appear before a grand jury. Others subpoenaed include Rudy Giuliani, Trump's former personal attorney.
At issue are phone calls Graham is alleged to have placed in November 2020 to Raffensperger, a fellow Republican who Trump would later pressure to "find" him the votes necessary to claim victory in the state.
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal at the time, Raffensperger said that Graham had called him and suggested he throw out all mail-in ballots from counties with high rates of mismatched signatures. He refused. "We have laws in place," Raffensperger recounted saying.
Graham has disputed that characterization of the phone call, insisting he only wished to know more about the state's election processes.
In a filing on Wednesday with a US district court, attorneys for the senator maintained that the conversations cannot be subject to legal scrutiny, regardless, and that the subpoena — upheld by a Georgia state judge on Monday — should be discarded.
They insist he is protected by the Constitution's speech and debate clause, which states that federal lawmakers "shall not be questioned in any other place" for their remarks during legislative sessions. Graham's phone calls, because they could potentially be used to craft new laws, fall under this "legislative sphere," the lawyers argue.
In an analysis published by NBC News, Carol C. Lam, a former US Attorney, called Graham's response to the subpoena "disturbing," arguing the senator's legal response is a delay tactic that "impedes Georgia's ability to investigate possible election corruption within its borders."
However, Kermit Roosevelt, a constitutional law expert at the University of Pennsylvania, told Insider that the argument being made by Graham's attorneys is at the very least "plausible."
"The speech or debate clause, if you're just looking at the text, seems like it's about things that members of Congress say on the floor, but the court has read it more broadly," Roosevelt said. The question is whether the court will accept Graham's characterization of his intent, prima facie, or itself seek to examine the substance of his conversations before ruling on whether they were loosely "legislative" in nature.
A spokesperson for the Fulton County District Attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.