Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder
Donald Trump’s former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows suffered a legal setback Friday afternoon when a federal judge ordered that his Fulton County election interference case remain in state court.
U.S. District Court Steve Jones’ decision to reject Meadows’ attempt to thwart the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office sweeping racketeering and conspiracy case could signal what’s ahead for several other defendants seeking to move their cases to federal court. In his order, Jones disputed Meadows’ attorneys’ claim that he is protected by immunity because the charges in the case were directly related to his job duties as Trump’s top aide during the 2020 election.
Jones said that testimony and other evidence in the case shows that Meadows was working on behalf of the Trump campaign when he participated in the infamous Jan. 2, 2021 phone call in which Trump asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough to tilt the election in the outgoing president’s favor.
That phone conversation became a lynchpin in District Attorney Fani Willis’ yearslong investigation that resulted on Aug. 14 with a grand jury levying a 41-count indictment against the Trump and 18 of his Republican allies on multi-state charges of racketeering and conspiracy related to the 2020 election.
Jones wrote that he agreed with Fulton prosecutors that Meadows appeared to have violated the federal Hatch Act that bans most federal executive branch employees from being involved in partisan political activities.
Meadows admitted during an Aug. 27 federal court hearing that he was unsure whether some attorneys on the Raffensperger call should be considered a Trump campaign lawyer. He also claimed that the phone call was made out of concern about a signature verification process for absentee ballots after mail-in ballots helped Democratic candidate Joe Biden narrowly win the presidential contest in Georgia.
There are several of Meadows’ co-defendants, including Trump, who have already filed or are expected to file for moving their cases to a federal court jurisdiction that could be more receptive to their arguments and might dismiss their cases outright.
Prosecutors in Fulton who are pushing to try all 19 defendants simultaneously predicted on Wednesday that 150 witnesses would be called to the stand over the course of four months.
Trump and his 18 co-defendants have pleaded not guilty.
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