Sen. Lindsey Graham’s legal troubles in Georgia may just be getting started.
The South Carolina Republican’s actions, including his phone calls to state officials after the 2020 election, “certainly appear interconnected” with former President Trump’s attempts to “find” enough votes to reverse his defeat in Georgia, a local prosecutor wrote in a court filing on Thursday.
And that can hardly be welcome news for Graham, coming from the prosecutor now running the most aggressive investigation into Trump’s activities in the country: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.
Willis laid out fresh details in a new federal court filing about why she subpoenaed the outspoken Trump ally for testimony before a Special Grand Jury investigating possible election interference.
Willis’ attempt to enforce Graham’s testimony is the latest step in her rapidly escalating investigation of Trump and his allies over their efforts to flip Trump’s 2020 defeat in Georgia into a win and collect the state’s 16 electoral college votes.
Willis has said she’s investigating a range of possible crimes including racketeering and making false statements to officials.
Her investigators have subpoenaed a lengthy list of key Trump allies including Graham, longtime Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, local state officials, lawyers who represented the Trump campaign, and 16 local Republicans involved in putting forth a slate of alternative pro-Trump electors.
Independent legal experts have told VICE News that Willis may be attempting to put together a sweeping racketeering case under a statute known as Georgia RICO, or the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. That move has the potential to wrap Trump together with his allies into a single grand case, if Willis can prove they used an organization, such as the Trump Campaign, to commit a series of crimes.
Georgia RICO is the junior cousin of the federal RICO statute, which was originally devised to bring down organized crime, and happens to be Willis’ signature move. She’s used Georgia RICO multiple times, including against the rapper Young Thug and teachers in Atlanta accused of cheating.
Willis’ team has put a “central focus” on Trump’s notorious Jan. 2, 2021 phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, she wrote Thursday. During that call, Trump urged the state official to “find” 11,780 votes for Trump, or exactly enough to allow him to win the state.
Willis’ team argued the judge should refuse Graham’s bid to block the subpoena in part because Graham’s actions appear linked with Trump’s “similar efforts to pressure Georgia election officials into ‘finding 11,780 votes’ and to spread Georgia election fraud disinformation.”
Now Willis wants to know more about Graham’s phone calls with Raffensperger shortly after the Nov. 3, 2020 election, according to the Thursday filing.
Raffensperger has claimed that Graham pressured him to find ways to throw out ballots—a charge Graham has denied.
Raffensperger told CBS in November 2020 that “Senator Graham implied for us to audit the envelopes and then throw out the ballots for counties who have the highest frequency error of signatures.”
Graham later downplayed the significance of his outreach to Raffensperger, saying he was trying to understand Georgia’s election and never meant to imply ballots should be tossed.
“That wasn’t the purpose of the conversation, to throw out ballots,” Graham told CNN. “I categorically reject that—that wasn’t my intent.”
Willis’ team wants to question Graham under oath about the circumstances that spurred his telephone calls, who else he consulted before the calls, what he sought and obtained in his conversations with Georgia officials, and who he communicated with “after Raffensperger declined his entries.”
Graham’s lawyers have argued that he shouldn’t have to answer the subpoena, in part, thanks to a Constitutional protection that shields Congressional debate. Willis “has not shown the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ necessary to order a high-ranking federal official to testify,” his team said.
Willis’ team countered that Graham’s activities in the peach state shouldn’t be considered a protected legislative act.
Graham originally brought his objection to the subpoena in a South Carolina court, but the case has now moved to federal court in the Northern District of Georgia. The case is being heard by Judge Leigh Martin May, who was nominated by former Democratic President Barack Obama.
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