by Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder [This article first appeared in the Georgia Recorder, republished with permission]
September 11, 2023
A ruling by a federal appeals court judge based in Atlanta could become a seminal judgment in the Fulton County 2020 presidential election interference case sweeping in Donald Trump and his inner circle.
Trump’s ex-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has filed a motion before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals after U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones late Friday rejected Meadows attorneys’ motion for his case to be moved from state court to federal jurisdiction. Meadows’ lawyers asked in the court filing for a stay of the order as he seeks an expedited appeal that prevents the case from moving too far along while the appeal is underway ahead of an Oct. 23 trial scheduled right now for former Trump attorneys Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell.
“Absent a stay, the state will continue seeking to try Meadows 42 days from now on Oct. 23,” Meadows’ lawyers wrote in the court motion. “If the state gets its way, Meadows could be forced to go to trial—and could be convicted and incarcerated— before the standard timeline for a federal appeal would play out.”
Friday’s court order is the latest step in a prosecution of Trump and 18 co-defendants who are charged with attempting to illegally overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election that Trump lost to Democratic nominee Joe Biden by fewer than 12,000 votes.
Meadows’ attorneys argued at an Aug. 28 hearing that Meadows was lawfully acting as a federal officer in the aftermath of the 2020 election as a federal officer. If that argument is successful, it would bolster his chances for a not guilty verdict or outright dismissal of the case.
Jones on Friday disagreed with Meadows’ assertion that he was acting in the capacity of his federal job in the infamous Jan. 2, 2021 phone call in which Trump asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to tilt the election in the outgoing president’s favor.
Jones ruled that the evidence in the case shows that Meadows was working on behalf of the Trump campaign, which would be a violation of the federal Hatch Act that bans most federal executive branch employees from being involved in partisan political activities.
Trump requests D.C.-based judge recuse herself in DOJ case
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.
Meanwhile, Trump’s attorneys are trying to preemptively block a D.C. District federal judge overseeing a separate election interference case from presiding over a trial connected to charges brought by the U.S. Department of Justice. The federal indictment was unsealed in June, one of multiple indictments of the former president and his allies charging attempts to overturn Biden’s 2020 election victory.
Trump’s lawyers are seeking to force federal court judge Tanya Chutkan to recuse herself from the case because she has previously said while hearing other cases that Trump is guilty for his involvement in election interference.
“Judge Chutkan has, in connection with other cases, suggested that President Trump should be prosecuted and imprisoned,” the court filing states. “Such statements, made before this case began and without due process, are inherently disqualifying.
“Although judge Chutkan may genuinely intend to give President Trump a fair trial- and may believe that she can do or so- her public statements unavoidably taint those proceedings regardless of outcome.”
Felony charges of false statements, forgery, racketeering and election fraud, solicitation of a government employee have also been filed against in the Fulton case that’s been more than a year in the making.
Meadows is one of 19 people a grand jury indicted on Aug. 14 on felony conspiracy and racketeering charges now pending against the 2024 Republican presidential frontrunner. Other Trump allies indicted include Meadows, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and ex-Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer.
The indictments have widened a rift in the Georgia Republican party.
Fulton prosecutors are pushing to try all 19 defendants simultaneously and predicted last week that 150 witnesses would be called to the stand over the course of four months.
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