Trump’s Actions Not Fraudulent Just Because State Says It’s ‘False,’ Says Attorney

Lawyers for former President Donald Trump were in an Atlanta court on March 28 arguing his charges in the Georgia 2020 election RICO case should be dismissed on First Amendment grounds. Follow here for the live updates:

State Says ‘Fake Elector’ Not in Indictment

Mr. Wakeford said they were talking about “removing something that is not there,” because the phrase is not used in the indictment.

He added that an indictment itself is a legal conclusion and it could not be argued that conclusions should not be allowed in the indictment.

“I think what the defense’s strategy is here, and I know it’s their strategy because they asked for it in a motion, they say ‘Judge, you should strike this language from these counts because we don’t like it, it’s pejorative, whatever reason, and now that you’ve stricken it the counts don’t charge a crime anymore so you should dismiss it,”’ he said. “That’s nonsensical.”

The judge adjourned the hearing and will have to consider whether these motions are fit for ruling in the pre-trial stage.

Attorney Says ‘Fake Electors’ Should be Stricken From Indictment

Mr. Gillen said that in the indictment the state has “bombarded the defendants with the phrase ‘fake electors.'”

“That is … a conclusion, a pejorative description,” Mr. Gillen said. “It’s not only a legal conclusion, it’s something that should be stricken because it’s a pejorative saying.”

He argued that was something prosecutors would be allowed to argue in closing arguments after presenting their body of evidence, but could not be used in an indictment.

“What they want to do is have ingrained in the minds of the community, and jurors, the concept that if you are a not a Democratic elector on December the 14th … then you are a fake elector,” he said.

State Says Defendant Arguing He Is Officer in Federal Court Can’t Argue He Isn’t One in State Court

Mr. Wakeford also asked to address “the elephant in the room.”

“Mr. Shafer is in the 11th Circuit right now demanding to be recognized as a federal officer. What are we? Are we saying this position of elector is an officer or not? I think they need to make up their mind there,” he said.

Mr. Shafer had tried to remove his case to federal court on the basis that he is a federal officer and cannot be tried by the state. A federal judge had rejected his request, and Mr. Shafer is now appealing in federal court.

Mr. Wakeford argued that state courts have applied a “very liberal” definition of a public officer and that “anyone that purports to be acting by authority of the government is a public officer, and that’s certainly what presidential officers do.”

State Says They’ll Question Officers at Trial

Mr. Wakeford argued that these were disputes of fact, and they planned to question officers in these positions at trial, asking about their duties and jurisdiction.

“This is premature,” he said.

Attorney Argues to Drop Charge for Alternate Elector

“These electors cannot be, under Georgia law, public officers,” Mr. Gillen said, pointing to definitions found in Georgia Supreme Court cases.

He noted that by law, on Dec. 14, 2020, there were no duly elected presidential electors in Georgia, whether Republican or Democrat, and the state could not only indict the Republican electors for impersonating public officers.

Attorney Argues State Didn’t Define ‘Public Officer’

Craig Gillen, attorney for defendant David Shafer, argued on remaining special demurrers filed with the court. The judge had already struck six charges from the indictment after ruling on several of the defendants’ demurrers.

Mr. Shafer was the chair of the Georgia GOP and one of the alternate electors.

He was charged with “impersonating a public officer,” and Mr. Gillen argued the cases the state cites have people impersonating agents, and they do not define public officer in the indictment.

The demurrer was originally filed by counsel for Shawn Still, and joined by Mr. Shafer.

Unconstitutional to Force Trial on Speech, Says Attorney

Mr. Sadow argued that it was ripe to argue this pre-trial.

“If it’s not ripe now and we get into intent, when does the court determine that? Do you determine that after you have a trial?” Mr. Sadow said. “Do we go through the whole trial? God forbid there should be a conviction and then we go back to trying to determine as-applied?”

Judge McAfee said it would be the directed verdict stage.

“I’m suggesting it’s ripe now and the reason we don’t even get to a trial is because it’s unconstitutional to force an accused, be it the former President of the United States or anyone else, to stand trial on protected speech,” Mr. Sadow said.

Trump Being Prosecuted for True Speech: Attorney

Mr. Sadow said the situation changes when “all” of the overt acts contain no illegal conduct, then there is an “insufficient basis” to indict President Trump.

“The statement that even if it were true it could still be an overt act suggests that he could be prosecuted for true speech,” Mr. Sadow argued.

He also rebutted Mr. Wakeford’s argument that President Trump is being “prosecuted for lying to the government.”

“That’s the exact reason why, in several of the Supreme Court cases, it’s been found to be protected speech, because it deals with the government and falsity in the sense of communication with or to the government is best dealt with through true speech, not prosecutions,” he said. “Prosecutions chill speech.”

He read from Supreme Court decisions that found the First Amendment must protect some false speech because free debate cannot be free from error.

RICO Expert Jumps In

John Floyd, representing the state, asked to follow up and the judge joked that Mr. Sadow was being “doubled up” even before trial.

Mr. Floyd is one of the nation’s leading RICO experts, having authored a textbook on RICO statutes state by state, and was hired as special counsel by the district attorney to work on this case.

“Defendant Trump fundamentally misunderstands the role of an overt act in a conspiracy case,” he said. “We heard Mr. Sadow discuss various overt acts … ‘well this is just a tweet, this is just a phone call’ … the unspoken, incorrect underlying theory, then, is that every overt act must be a crime. As we’ve discussed a number of times … that’s not true.”

“The purpose of an overt act is to show that the conspiracy is an operation,” Mr. Floyd said and therefore doesn’t have to satisfy the elements of a crime.

He said even if all of the actions alleged in Count 1, the RICO charge, were legal, “so what?”

Mr. Floyd argued that the court shouldn’t lose sight of the nature and purpose of listing the overt acts in a RICO indictment.

State Says Trump Prosecuted for Lying to Government

Mr. Wakeford pushed back on the falsity arguments.

“He’s not being prosecuted for lying, he’s being prosecuted for lying to the government,” argued Mr. Wakeford. “An act that is illegal because of harm to the government. That’s why it’s illegal, that’s why it’s different.”

“Same with a filing a false document: it’s not just you’ve made a false statement, it’s that you swore to it in a court document and submitted it to the court. That does harm to the judicial system,” he said. “These statements are part of criminal conduct.”

State Refers to Trump Federal Case

Mr. Wakeford pointed to opinions written by U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over a federal case that similarly charges President Trump for his actions to challenge the 2020 election results.

“Judge Chutkan in D.C. has evaluated all of these arguments under Supreme Court precedent already,” he said. “I’m hardly going to improve upon the findings of a federal judge.”

First Amendment Challenge May Not Apply to RICO Charge

Mr. Sadow acknowledged that when it came to the RICO charge, the First Amendment as-applied challenge was “harder” to argue and legally might not apply as much.

All Trump Actions in Indictment Protected Speech: Attorney

Mr. Sadow said each and every allegation in the indictment as it relates to President Trump “involved expressive conduct or speech.”

President Trump was originally charged on 13 counts, but the judge had struck six counts from the indictment earlier this month, leaving President Trump with 10 charges.

“Take out the political speech—no charges,” Mr. Sadow said.

Which Words in the Indictment Are ‘Fact’?

In order for defendants to bring a First Amendment as-applied challenge before the trial, they must only rely on facts presented in the indictment.

Judge McAfee pointed out that the indictment attaches “unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly false” to President Trump’s speech.

“Those words are not words of fact,” Mr. Sadow argued. “Those are words of legal commentation.”

The judge pushed back saying “we make legal conclusions in indictments all the time, I think that’s going to be part of Mr. Shafer’s argument in just a minute.”

“You take the overt acts … and conspiracy offenses in the rest of the body of the indictment,” Mr. Sadow said. “Words like ‘unlawful’ don’t change that.”

“You must look at the speech itself, the expressive conduct itself in connection with those specific statutes. That’s what the ‘as-applied’ is,” he argued.

“The only thing that makes it fraudulent is the state saying it’s false … the only reason it becomes unprotected in the state’s opinion is because they call it false,” Mr. Sadow said, arguing this is what a precedential case did not allow.

For example, Count 39 charges President Trump with the offense of “false statements and writings” when he “knowingly, willfully, and unlawfully” put his name on a letter intended to be sent to the Georgia Secretary of State that read “As stated to you previously, the number of false and/or irregular votes is far greater than needed to change the Georgia election result.”

Trump’s Speech ‘Zenith’ of Protected Speech

Mr. Sadow argued the actions alleged of President Trump in the indictment constitute “core political speech, political discourse, political speech at its zenith.”

“I don’t think there’s any question that statements, comments, expressive conduct that deals with campaigning or elections is always found to be at the zenith of protected speech,” he argued. “What do we have here? Election speech.”

The distinction matters, he argued, because “the more core speech, the more it is protected, the less the government should be involved in restricting it.”

Court Begins With First Amendment Challenge

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee held a hearing on March 28 on motions still awaiting rulings, beginning the morning session with a First Amendment as-applied challenge from former President Donald Trump.

Defense attorney Steve Sadow began by asking the judge to state whether he believed such a challenge was ripe, noting that would be a waste of time to argue only for the court to determine such a challenge premature.

Both Mr. Sadow and Donald Wakeford, arguing for the state, pointed to cases where courts found a First Amendment defense could be made pretrial, but doing so means the only facts that can be brought in are the ones in the indictment.

The state argued this means such a challenge must fail, as the indictment alleges criminal conduct, meaning the speech would not be protected under the First Amendment.

The charges in this case are not about “punishing falsity for falsity’s own sake,” he said, but rather “none of the charges in this case are about that, they are about falsities employed as part of criminal conduct.”

“Some crimes can be achieved solely through speech, though,” Judge McAfee said, pointing to solicitation, which is in alleged the indictment.

Mr. Sadow argued President Trump engaged in political speech.

From The Epoch Times

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