A judge has dashed former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ hopes of moving his racketeering case out of a Georgia courtroom and into federal jurisdiction.
The ruling represents a triumph for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is pursuing legal action against former President Donald Trump, Meadows, and 17 additional defendants, Politico reported. They have been charged under the state’s broad criminal racketeering statute due to their involvement in attempting to support Trump’s challenge of the 2020 election results.
Politico said that Meadows’ legal team immediately filed a motion with 11th Circuit Court of Appeals late Friday.
“The Court concludes that Meadows has not shown that the actions that triggered the State’s prosecution related to his federal office,” U.S. District Judge Steve Jones wrote in his ruling, adding that he wasn’t ruling on any of the other defendants to try and have their cases moved to a federal court.
Jones, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, concluded that Meadows was not acting within the scope of his employment at the White House when he organized a Jan. 2, 2021 phone call where Trump pressed Georgia’s secretary of state Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to declare him the victor in that state. Other actions that Meadows took, as described in a grand jury’s indictment last month, similarly fell outside Meadows’ official duties, the judge said.
“Meadows’s participation on the January 2, 2021 call was political in nature and involved the President’s private litigation, neither of which are related to the scope of the Office of White House Chief of Staff,” Jones wrote.
“The Court finds that these contributions to the phone call with Secretary Raffensperger went beyond those activities that are within the official role of White House Chief of Staff, such as scheduling the President’s phone calls, observing meetings, and attempting to wrap up meetings in order to keep the President on schedule,” the ruling continued.
In determining that Meadows had operated beyond the boundaries of his official duties, Jones ruled that Meadows did not qualify for what is commonly referred to as “removal.” The procedure, established by federal law, enables federal officials to shift a case from state court to federal court when the case hinges on their official actions.
Meadows’ legal team had previously indicated their intention to transfer the case to federal court as a preliminary step towards arguing that, as a former federal officer, he is immune from charges related to his official duties. Furthermore, if the case were to proceed in federal court, the potential jury pool would probably be more extensive and somewhat more sympathetic to Trump and his associates compared to a pool of jurors exclusively drawn from Fulton County, home to the Democrat-heavy city of Atlanta.
In addition, a federal trial likely would not have been televised, whereas the proceedings in Fulton County are going to be.
“What the Court must decide for purposes of federal officer removal is whether the actions Meadows took as a participant in the alleged enterprise (the charged conduct) were related to his federal role as White House Chief of Staff,” Jones wrote. “The actions at the heart of the State’s charges against Meadows were taken on behalf of the Trump campaign with an ultimate goal of affecting state election activities and procedures.”
So far, Trump has not filed to move his case out of Willis’ jurisdiction. However, on Thursday, Trump, through his attorneys, formally informed the judge overseeing the election subversion case that he “may” attempt to transfer his state-level case to federal court.
“President Trump hereby notifies the Court that he may seek removal of his prosecution to federal court,” his lawyer Steven Sadow said in a brief court filing. “To be timely, his notice of removal must be filed within 30 days of his arraignment.”