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Editorials represent the institutional view of the newspaper. They are written and edited by the editorial staff, which operates separately from the news department. Editorial writers are not involved in newsroom operations.

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Editorial: Just testify, Sen. Graham

Biden

There's no legitimate reasons for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham to refuse to testify before a grand jury over his phone calls to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in the days following the 2020 presidential election. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s claim that he called Georgia Secretary of State Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in the days following the 2020 presidential election because he was curious about how the state verified absentee voters never made sense.

It made less sense last week when his attorneys tried to dress it up with the suggestion that he was doing his duty as chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to “discuss with state officials the processes and procedures around administering elections.” After all, the U.S. Constitution leaves it up to the states to decide whether they even hold a presidential election — and Mr. Graham’s home state was the last one in the country to allow voters to participate in a decision that had been made by our all-powerful Legislature for nearly a century.

Still, even if you reject Mr. Graham’s efforts to downplay the disturbing phone calls and accept Mr. Raffensperger’s interpretation of the calls, it never looked to us like Mr. Graham had done anything illegal. Bad judgment to call the person overseeing the highly contested count in an election that your best pal is claiming was rigged, yes. Something we never would have imagined Mr. Graham doing, yes. But illegal pressuring from someone who has no power over the Georgia secretary of state? No.

So it was no surprise when Mr. Graham’s attorneys said they had been assured that he was not a target of a grand jury investigating whether then-President Donald Trump and his allies illegally interfered with Georgia’s 2020 election results.

The surprise — the latest in a growing list of disappointing surprises — was Mr. Graham’s refusal to do his duty as a citizen of the United States and comply with a subpoena to testify.

The surprise was the absurd claim made through his attorneys that compelling him to testify as a witness in an criminal investigation would somehow “erode the constitutional balance of power and the ability of a Member of Congress to do their job.”

The surprise was the insulting suggestion that Mr. Graham shouldn’t appear as a witness to testify in a lawfully convened grand jury investigation because he doesn’t believe the motives of the investigation meet his standard of apolitical purity.

As a witness, you don’t get to decide whether a prosecutor is “politically motivated.” That’s something the jurors or the courts will ultimately determine. As a witness, your job is to provide your honest testimony. Just like you would if you witnessed a murder or a robbery or a simple traffic accident. Or if the prosecutor simply wanted to know more about a conversation you had with a victim.

The assurances Mr. Graham received that he is not a target should have removed any hesitation he had about testifying. Because, let’s face it, there are only three reasons to try to avoid testifying: You’re worried you’ll incriminate yourself; you’re worried you’ll incriminate someone else you don’t want to  incriminate; or you’re worried the investigation will turn up something you don’t like and so you want to undermine its credibility.

In the first case, the Constitution says you don’t have to testify. The two others, however, are not legally or morally justifiable reasons to try to weasel out of a subpoena. It’s possible that Mr. Graham’s high-powered lawyers will convince a judge that he shouldn’t be compelled to share what he knows in a criminal investigation that might not go anywhere. But that won't make it right. We expect and deserve better from our senator.

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