Judge rejects a request by Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, to transfer his Georgia election case to federal court

ATLANTA (AP) — A judge on Friday denied Mark Meadows’ request to transfer his Georgia election-sabotaging case to federal court, ruling that Trump’s White House chief of staff must fight the charges in state court instead.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones in Atlanta wrote in a 49-page ruling that Meadows “did not meet even the ‘extremely low’ threshold” to move his case to federal court, noting that the question was whether the proceedings in question were related to his case. His role as a federal official.

“The evidence presented at the hearing demonstrates that the actions at the heart of the state’s charges against Meadows were taken on behalf of the Trump campaign with the ultimate goal of influencing the state’s election activities and procedures,” Jones wrote. “Meadows himself testified that working for the Trump campaign would be outside the scope of the White House chief of staff.”

The ruling is a big early win for Fulton County District Attorney Fanny Willis, who spent two and a half years investigating and building the case against former President Donald Trump, Meadows and 17 others before obtaining a comprehensive indictment under Georgia’s anti-extortion law. She said she wanted all defendants to be tried together.

Trump indicated that he is considering a request to transfer his trial to federal court, and several other defendants have already submitted the request. The ruling by Jones v. Meadows could signal that others may struggle to shoulder the burden required to win extradition when their lawyers present their arguments before a judge later this month, though Jones has made clear he will assess each of those cases on a case-by-case basis.

The practical effects of moving to federal court would be a jury that would cover a wider area than just majority-Democratic Fulton County and a trial that would not be filmed or televised, as cameras are not allowed inside federal courtrooms. But it would not open the door for Trump, if re-elected in 2024, or another president to issue a pardon because any conviction would still occur under state law.

Meadows filed a notice of appeal Friday night. In a court filing earlier this week, he asked that his case be separated from the other defendants in the case and that his proceedings in state court be stayed until a final decision is reached on his bid to move to federal court, “including by appeal, if appealed.”

A Willis spokesman declined to comment.

Meadows, Trump and the others have pleaded not guilty to charges of participating in a sprawling scheme to illegally attempt to overturn Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, even though the state’s voters chose Democrat Joe Biden.

Meadows said his actions were taken as part of his role as the Republican president’s chief of staff. He and his attorneys also said that because he was a federal official at the time, the charges against him should be heard in federal court and eventually dismissed for lack of merit.

Prosecutors said the measures laid out in the indictment were intended to keep Trump in office after his loss to Biden. They said these actions were clearly political in nature and are illegal under the Hatch Act, which restricts partisan political activity by federal employees. As such, they said the case should remain in Fulton County Superior Court.

Meadows served as Trump’s fourth and final chief of staff after being appointed in March 2020 to replace Mick Mulvaney. Before being elevated to Senior Assistant to the President, Meadows was a congressman representing North Carolina.

First elected in the post-Tea Party wave in 2012, Meadows quickly established himself as the leader of a new generation of conservative Republicans on Capitol Hill. He served as chairman of the Whig Freedom Caucus, and his actions in the House helped spur Speaker John Boehner’s sudden retirement.

With the rise of Trump in 2016, Meadows shifted from his previous support of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to a Trump supporter.

Jones wrote that the evidence “overwhelmingly indicates” that most of the actions charged against Meadows in the indictment did not fall within “the scope of his executive branch duties.”

“Even if Meadows performed duties that mirrored the duties he performed while serving in his official position as White House chief of staff (such as attending meetings, scheduling phone calls, and managing the President’s time), he failed to explain how the election-related activities formed the basis of the charges,” the judge wrote. “The indictment is linked to any of his official actions.”

Jones also made clear that he is making no judgment on the merits of the case against Meadows or any defense he may present.

(tags for translation)Georgia

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