Three legal ethics experts filed an official complaint on Wednesday with the Senate Ethics Committee demanding an investigation into whether Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) pressured Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to exclude legally cast absentee ballots to help Donald Trump gain ground on Joe Biden in the Peach State.
Raffensperger told the Washington Post on Monday that Graham called him last week to ask, first, if political bias may have played a role in election officials counting ballots with mismatching signatures and, second, to find out whether the secretary had the authority to reject all mail-in ballots from counties with high rates of non-matching signatures.
Raffensperger said he interpreted this as Graham trying to get him to find ways to throw out legally cast ballots; Graham denied the allegations that he had done anything untoward as “ridiculous.”
In a letter to Committee Chairman Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Vice Chairman Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), the trio of attorneys said the claims against Graham likely amount to abuse of office (other lawyers went much further than that).
“If these allegations are true, Senator Graham’s conduct constitutes an abuse of office and conduct unbecoming of a senator,” the complaint stated. “For the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to suggest to a state Secretary of State that he refrain from counting lawful votes threatens the electoral process and damages representative democracy. The Senate Select Committee should investigate this matter and, if it finds Chairman Graham committed the alleged misconduct, seek an appropriate sanction or any other appropriate remedy.”
The letter was signed by former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub, the chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush’s administration Richard Painter, and Claire Finkelstein, the director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law.
“There can be no legitimate reason for the Judiciary Committee’s chairman to call a top election official regarding an ongoing vote count,” they wrote. “Any call by a sitting chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to a state election official during an ongoing count of votes is inherently coercive and points to an attempt to influence the outcome of the ballot counting. The allegation that Senator Graham placed a behind-the-scenes call to a member of his own political party, without having launched a formal investigation, suggests that he hoped to act out of public view.”
Georgia is currently in the midst of a state-wide hand recount of ballots cast in the 2020 election where Biden holds a nearly insurmountable lead of approximately 14,000 votes. That hasn’t stopped the president and his allies—including Graham—from repeatedly suggesting that the election isn’t over.
Asked this week if he recognized Biden as the President-elect, Graham said he did not.
“No, not until the courts have rendered a verdict on the claims made by the president,” Graham replied. “All of y’all are all over us ’cause you want the guy to lose. If the shoe were on the other foot, you’d be asking questions about widespread fraud.”
Read the full complaint below:
[Image via NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images]
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