US judge rejects Mark Meadows’ request to move Georgia case to federal court

US judge rejects Mark Meadows’ request to move Georgia case to federal court

Ruling means the prosecution of Meadows brought by the Fulton county district stays in the superior court of Atlanta


A federal judge denied a request from former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to transfer his Georgia 2020 election interference case from state to federal court on the basis that some of the charged conduct was within the scope of his official duties.

The ruling from US district judge Steve Jones on Friday means the prosecution of Meadows brought by the Fulton county district attorney Fani Willis stays in superior court in Atlanta, unless Meadows appeals and the decision is reversed by the US court of appeals for the 11th circuit.

“The Court finds insufficient evidence to establish that the gravamen, or a heavy majority of overt acts alleged against Meadows relate to his role as White House Chief of Staff,” the judge wrote in an unusually detailed and extensive 49-page decision.

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“Even if Meadows took on tasks that mirror the duties that he carried out when acting in his official role,” the judge wrote, “he has failed to demonstrate how the election-related activities that serve as the basis for the charges in the indictment are related to any of his official acts.”

Mark Meadows on the South Lawn of the White House in October 2020.

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Last month, the Atlanta-area grand jury handed up a sprawling 41-count indictment against Donald Trump and 18 others, including Meadows, alleging that they violated Georgia’s state Rico statute in their efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 election.

Meadows had sought to remove the case to federal court arguing that the sprawling racketeering charges related to his normal work undertaken as a White House chief of staff, which gave him immunity from prosecution and prevented him from being prosecuted at the state level.

But the judge rejected his arguments in a detailed 49-page decision, determining that Meadows did not meet his burden to show that he was acting within his job description when he undertook efforts to benefit Trump as a political candidate rather than Trump as president.

“The color of the Office of the White House Chief of Staff did not include working with or working for the Trump campaign,” the judge wrote, “except for simply coordinating the President’s schedule, traveling with the President to his campaign events, and redirecting communications to the campaign.

The rationale to seek removal to federal court is seen as twofold: the jury pool would expand beyond just the Atlanta area – which skews heavily Democratic – and a federal judge might be less deferential to local prosecutors compared with judges in the Fulton county superior court.

Trump has weighed for weeks whether to file a similar removal motion, and the Guardian has previously reported that the Trump legal team was watching to see how Meadows fared before deciding whether to make a request before their statutory deadline at the end of September.

Meadows’s defeat compounds his legal difficulties in Fulton county because his value as a cooperating witness has now diminished, legal experts said. The ruling is also ominous for Trump, who is seen as having a weaker case for removal compared to his former chief of staff.

Broadly speaking, Jones determined that Meadows could not have undertaken any political actions as part of his official duties because the US constitution does not provide any basis for the executive branch to involve itself in state election and post-election procedures.

To determine Meadows’s scope, the judge used the Hatch Act, which plainly prohibits executive branch officials like Meadows from using their official authority to influence or interfere with the results of an election through partisan political activity.

The indictment described Meadows as having participated in several so-called overt acts in furtherance of the racket and Meadows had argued that even if one of those acts fell under the scope of his chief of staff role, the case should be transferred to federal court.

But the judge interpreted the removal statute differently and he decided that Meadows having a single overt act come under his duties was not enough for the federal court to assume jurisdiction.

The more important question was what activities were at the “heart” of Meadows’s participation in the racket and whether those activities as a whole related to the scope of his federal office, the judge wrote, before concluding that they were not.

And even if the remaining overt acts were characterized as everyday chief of staff duties like making phone calls or preparing meetings for the purpose of advising the president, the underlying substance of the actions were political in nature and therefore outside his official duties, the judge wrote.

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