Mark Meadows, the embattled former Chief of Staff to former President Donald Trump, will be the first co-defendant in a Georgia election interference case to see whether his trial will be moved out of the hands of the local prosecutor and into federal courts.
The fate of Meadows, who was indicted alongside President Trump and 17 other alleged co-conspirators, is petitioning U.S. District Judge Steve Jones to move his case to the federal court system where he has indicated he will plan to seek dismissal based on immunity granted by Trump before he left office. The decision by Jones would have massive implications for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis who has staked her career and political future on prosecuting Trump and his allies for allegedly attempting to overturn the results of Georgia’s 2020 election.
Judge Jones held a hearing last Monday and later asked both sides to submit written arguments to the question whether alleged crimes committed by Meadows under Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) law could be dismissed by a U.S. president.
Legal experts told The Hill that Jones’s request for additional arguments is a sign that he thinks Meadows may have the stronger defense for moving his case out of Willis’s reach.
“A judge doesn’t ask for additional briefing unless the judge is thinking that that briefing will be helpful to resolving the motion that is in front of them. So it seems obvious that the judge is at least considering finding that some of the acts fall within the scope of removal,” said Alex Reinert, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law.
With little precedent to rely on, Judge Jones must now determine whether Meadows’ case should switch courts even though some alleged lawbreaking qualifies for federal oversight and others do not. The case hinges on three prongs: Meadows must show he was a federal officer, that the allegations relate to an act taken “under color of such office” and that he has a plausible federal defense.
Court watchers say a decision by Jones is expected soon, which represents a speedy review of defendants who just two weeks ago turned themselves into Fulton County prosecutors for mugshots and other booking proceedings. The mugshots of President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and others have gained worldwide notoriety as Americans increasingly view the four criminal indictments against President Trump as politically motivated witch hunts by Democratic politicians and the Biden Justice Department. President Trump and his attorneys have pleaded not guilty to all counts in the Georgia case.