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Sen. Lindsey Graham testifies in Georgia election probe after long legal battle

ATLANTA – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham testified Tuesday before a special grand jury investigating whether President Donald Trump and others illegally interfered in the 2020 election in Georgia.

The South Carolina Republican’s appearance before the panel came after a protracted legal battle that went all the way to the US Supreme Court, as Graham tried to avoid testifying. He argued that his position as a senator protected him from questioning. The courts rejected his claim, but ruled that prosecutors and grand juries could not ask him about protected legislative activities.

Graham’s office said in a statement that he spent just over two hours with the special grand jury and “answered all questions.”

“The senator feels he was treated with respect, professionalism and courtesy,” the statement said.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis launched the investigation early last year. It is seen as one of the main potential legal threats to the former president, who announced a third run for the White House last week. Graham is one of a number of high-profile Trump allies whose testimony has been sought.

When Willis filed paperwork seeking Graham’s testimony in July, she wrote that she wanted to question him about a phone call he made to George Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger shortly after the election.

Raffensperger said Graham asked if he could reject certain absentee ballots, which the secretary of state said he interpreted as a proposal to throw out legally cast ballots. Graham called that idea “ridiculous.”

Willis said in August that she hoped to send the special grand jury home by the end of the year. But that timeline could be complicated by the fact that some of the evidence she’s seeking is tied up in appeals.

For witnesses who live outside of Georgia, Willis must rely on a process that involves a judge in the state where a potential witness lives ordering that person to travel to Atlanta to testify.

Michael Flynn, a retired lieutenant general who briefly served as national security adviser under Trump, was ordered to testify on Tuesday, but a Florida judge issued a temporary stay of that order after Flynn appealed. Former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich was ordered by a Virginia judge to testify on November 29, but it has been postponed pending appeal. And an appeal of former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ order to appear on Nov. 30 is pending before the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Former Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who previously testified before the US House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, answered questions from the special grand jury last week.

Special grand jury proceedings are secret, but some related public court filings shed light on the scope of the investigation.

Willis has said from the start that she is interested in a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call between Trump and Raffensperger. The Republican president urged the state’s top election official to “find” the votes needed to reverse his narrow loss in the state to Democrat Joe Biden.

It also became clear that she was interested in several other areas, including: filing a fake list of Georgia Republican electors that falsely declared that Trump had won the state; false statements about the election made to state lawmakers by former New York mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and others; attempts to pressure a Fulton County election worker to admit wrongdoing; election equipment violations in rural Coffee County; the sudden departure of the U.S. attorney in Atlanta in January 2021.

Willis notified Giuliani, who testified before the special grand jury in August, and the fraudulent voters in Georgia that they could face criminal charges in the investigation.

Special grand juries in Georgia are generally used to investigate complex cases with many witnesses. They can compel evidence and subpoena testimony from witnesses, but they cannot issue charges. Once its investigation is complete, a special grand jury can recommend action, but it’s up to the district attorney to decide whether to seek an indictment from a regular grand jury.

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