A federal judge on Friday rejected a request from former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to move his election interference case to U.S. District Court in Atlanta.
In a 49-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones said Meadows did not meet the burden for demonstrating the case should be removed. He remanded the case back to Fulton Superior Court.
“The Court declines to assume jurisdiction over the State’s criminal prosecution of Meadows,” Jones wrote.
Meadows has been charged with violating the state’s anti-racketeering law and one other felony — soliciting Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to violate his oath of office during the infamous Jan. 2, 2021, phone call in which former President Donald Trump asked the secretary to “find” him 11,780 votes, one more than was needed to overturn Georgia’s results..
Jones ruled that, while Meadows was clearly a federal officer as White House chief of staff, he was not acting in his federal capacity in aiding Trump the candidate.
”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,” the judge wrote.
“Meadows himself testified that working for the Trump campaign would be outside the scope of a White House chief of staff.”
To have state cases transferred to federal court, defendants must show they were federal officers performing federal duties. They also must raise a plausible federal defense.
Meadows’ legal team is expected to appeal the decision to the federal appeals court in Atlanta and, if necessary, the U.S. Supreme Court. But Jones’ initial ruling is a major victory for Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis who argued to keep the case in her home county.
A Willis spokesman declined to comment. Meadows’ lead attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Meadows is one of five defendants charged in the Fulton County racketeering case who has pushed to remove his case to federal court and his case was the first to receive a hearing.
Of the five, many legal experts believed that Meadows had the best argument for moving the proceedings to federal court.
The others are Jeffrey Clark, a former top Justice Department official, as well as former state Republican Party Chairman David Shafer, state Sen. Shawn Still and former Coffee County GOP chairwoman Cathy Latham. Shafer, Still and Latham were among the 16 Republican electors who met in December 2020 to cast their votes for Donald Trump, even though Democrat Joe Biden narrowly won the presidential race in Georgia
A lawyer for Trump also filed a notice this week that the former president may seek a removal to federal court as well.
-This is a developing story. Please return to ajc.com for updates.