Former Trump Aide Urges 11th Circuit to Return State Election Interference Case to Federal Court

Matthew Vadum
By Matthew Vadum
September 19, 2023Courts
Former Trump Aide Urges 11th Circuit to Return State Election Interference Case to Federal Court
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows talks to reporters at the White House on Oct. 21, 2020. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows urged a federal appeals court on Sept. 18 to overturn a federal district judge’s decision to send the election interference prosecution back to a Georgia court.

The new filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit took place after that court canceled expedited oral arguments set for Sept. 15.

Lawyers for Mr. Meadows suggested that the emergency hearing, which was aimed at staying the Sept. 8 ruling of federal Judge Steve C. Jones of the Northern District of Georgia, was no longer necessary after a state court ruling eliminated the possibility of him going to trial on Oct. 23, as Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis had wanted.

Some legal experts had questioned the need for the state-level trial to proceed with such haste and have said putting together a racketeering case, which by its nature can be incredibly complex, on such a compressed timetable would be difficult for both the prosecution and the defense.

Mr. Meadows, former President Donald Trump, and 17 co-defendants were indicted by a state grand jury in Fulton County on Aug. 14 over the former chief executive’s challenge to the election in Georgia.

Mr. Meadows and all the defendants in the case are accused of violating the Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act from Nov. 4, 2020, which is the day after the presidential election, to Sept. 15, 2022, for their allegedly illegal efforts to challenge the presidential election results in Georgia, a state that President Joe Biden ultimately won.

Judge Jones, who was appointed in 2011 by President Barack Obama, ruled on Sept. 8 that he lacked jurisdiction in Mr. Meadows’s earlier motion to remove the state case to federal court.

In the underlying case, Mr. Meadows is arguing his prosecution should proceed in federal court because he is immune to state prosecution because whatever he did to aid President Trump’s efforts to contest the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, it was done in his official capacity as a federal officer, and he had federal defenses available to him.

‘Political Activities’

In rejecting Mr. Meadows’s federal removal motion, Judge Jones found that some of the eight overt acts Mr. Meadows was accused of in the state indictment were within the scope of his duties as a federal officer, but others were not.

Mr. Meadows’s “political activities,” such as “working with or working for the Trump campaign” went beyond “the outer limits of the Office of the White House Chief of Staff.”

The judge also expressed concern that “when questioned about the scope of his authority, Meadows was unable to explain the limits of his authority.”

Mr. Meadows’s lawyers argued in the brief filed with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Sept. 18 that he “is entitled to removal under [the federal officer removal statute] because he has met the threshold for removal, which is low, consistent with the statute’s underlying purpose.”

The brief continued: “Removal does not depend on a line between ‘official’ or ‘unofficial’ conduct. The parties frequently dispute that issue, which can be relevant for immunity. But the Supreme Court has made clear that a dispute over the propriety of an official’s conduct supports, rather than defeats, removal.”

“The official ‘should have the opportunity to present [his] version of the facts to a federal, not a state, court,’ since ‘[t]his is exactly what the removal statute was designed to accomplish,’” the brief states, citing the 1969 Supreme Court precedent of Willingham v. Morgan.

Judge Jones “did not need piles of evidence to discern the requisite connection, but in any event, that is what Meadows provided. His testimony established both the broad scope of his official duties and how each of the acts attributed to him in the indictment were ‘related to or associated with’ those responsibilities.’”

Mr. Meadows’s “unrebutted testimony described the broad responsibilities of his office, including providing the President close, confidential advice; using his discretion to gather information on a wide range of federal interests and potential policies; and acting as a ‘gatekeeper’ to the President and managing the President’s time to advance federal interests.”

The lawyers requested oral argument in the case “unless the Court concludes that it should dispense with oral argument in order to provide a prompt ruling on the merits.”

The case has been watched closely because this is the first time that substantive arguments have been made in court in any of the four criminal cases that have been brought against President Trump and his fellow defendants this year.

Some liken Mr. Meadows’s motion for removal to federal court to a mini-trial for President Trump and his co-defendants and speculate that the treatment that Mr. Meadows receives in federal court will be a bellwether for how the various Trump-related prosecutions will proceed.

The Epoch Times sought comment from Jeff DiSantis, deputy district attorney in the media relations division of Ms. Willis’s office, and Mr. Meadows’s lead attorney in the case, George J. Terwilliger III, who works for the law firm of McGuire Woods in Washington.

From The Epoch Times

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