Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday temporarily halted a subpoena issued by an Atlanta-area grand jury seeking Sen. Lindsey Graham’s testimony in its probe of efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia.
Thomas issued an order that will stay the Fulton County court’s subpoena “pending further order of the undersigned or of the Court.” The justice, who supervises the 11th Circuit, handed down the stay on his own — without indicating he’d referred the matter to the full court — which typically signals an order is administrative or interim.
The move comes just a few days after Graham (R-S.C.) asked the Supreme Court on Friday to intervene in his fight to block the subpoena from the grand jury, which is seeking his testimony on phone calls with Georgia officials in the aftermath of the election. The senator stepped up his request to the high court after a federal appeals court on Thursday unanimously rejected his claim that he was constitutionally immune from such questioning. The Supreme Court gave Fulton County prosecutors until Thursday to respond to the ruling.
The South Carolina Republican’s lawyers had asked that the Supreme Court grant an emergency stay so that Graham wouldn’t be forced to testify while the legal issues are still being sorted out. Thomas’ order on Monday will temporarily delay the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ proceedings as the high court continues to work on Graham’s application and his lawyers appeal the subpoena.
Prosecutors in the Fulton County probe have sought Graham’s testimony on a post-2020 election call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, which the senator has claimed in court filings was about legislative fact-finding and would be protected from questioning by the speech and debate clause of the Constitution. But Raffensperger has said Graham asked him about tossing out ballots during the call.
While Thomas’ order will temporarily delay Graham’s forced testimony, it is not the final answer on his emergency application to halt the subpoena. The justice, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, can still choose to grant Graham’s request on his own, but such high-profile cases are typically referred to the full court for action.