Federal judge rejects Meadows' motion for removal in Georgia case

 September 13, 2023

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was denied last week by a federal judge in his bid to move criminal charges against him from state court in Georgia to federal court -- a decision that could impact an expected similar effort from former President Donald Trump, according to former federal prosecutor Harry Litman in a Los Angeles Times column.

Meadows and a few other co-defendants, presumably as well as Trump himself eventually, have sought to have the racketeering conspiracy charges against them from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis moved to federal court under the argument that the activities for which they are charged were conducted in their capacity as federal employees.

Legal analysts had observed that Meadows likely had the best chance of all to succeed in having his case removed to federal court, which means that his seeming defeat on the matter, at least for now, doesn't bode particularly well for the chances of Trump and others seeking removal.

Judge denies Meadows attempt to remove Georgia case to federal court

The Associated Press reported on Friday that U.S. District Judge Steve Jones denied Meadows' motion for removal as he determined that the former federal official "has not met even the 'quite low' threshold" to have his state charges in Georgia moved to federal court.

"The evidence adduced at the hearing establishes that 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," Jones wrote in a 49-page ruling. "Meadows himself testified that working for the Trump campaign would be outside the scope of a White House Chief of Staff."

Meadows had argued that at least some of his post-2020 election activities in Georgia for which he was charged by DA Willis fell under his federal duties as the White House chief of staff at that time, but the judge disagreed and asserted that the evidence presented thus far "overwhelmingly suggests" that his charged activities fell outside of "his scope of executive branch duties."

"Even if Meadows took on tasks that mirror the duties that he carried out when acting in his official role as White House Chief of Staff (such as attending meetings, scheduling phone calls, and managing the President’s time) 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," Jones added in his Friday decision.

Implications of ruling for Meadows, Trump, and others

In Litman's LA Times column, the former federal prosecutor noted that Judge Jones' ruling was a double whammy of sorts for Meadows in that, first and foremost, it relegated him to face trial in state court instead of federal court, but also in that it likely killed any remaining chance Meadows had to cooperate with DA Willis or even federal Special Counsel Jack Smith.

But the impact of the ruling is likely even broader than that, as it seemingly substantial dims the likelihood that former President Trump or other co-defendants in the Georgia case will be successful in their own individual efforts to have their cases removed to federal court, as Meadows was widely viewed as having the best chance to succeed in that regard.

Litman wrote, "Under the analysis in Jones’ opinion, Trump’s argument for removal to federal court is dead on arrival. The conduct he was charged for is light-years away from any reasonable formulation of a president’s duties. Indeed, other courts have already held that Trump’s actions fell outside the outer perimeter of those duties."

Accused of unlawfully interfering in Georgia's election process

USA Today reported that Meadows immediately appealed Judge Jones' "egregiously" wrong decision to the 11th Circuit Court and also asked for a suspension of his case in Georgia while the appeals process plays out -- a request that could be addressed in just a matter of days this week.

Of course, DA Willis is fighting Meadows' appeal every step of the way, and wrote in a filing with the 11th Circuit, "The defendant seeks to invoke a jurisdictional benefit designed to protect federal authority from state interference even though the evidence demonstrates that the exact opposite has taken place: a former federal official strayed outside his authority to attempt to affect the outcome of a state s presidential election."

Per the outlet, Meadows has been criminally indicted as part of an alleged racketeering conspiracy to overturn Georgia's 2020 election results, with his charged activities including things like making phone calls to state officials and meeting or arranging discussions with state lawmakers to discuss options and plans.

According to The Hill, Meadows suffered a second setback on Wednesday at the hands of Judge Jones in that the federal judge rejected a request from Meadows to impose a stay to block his own Friday ruling while his appeals are pending, meaning state prosecutors can continue to move forward with their case against him for the time being.

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