Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Tuesday sought to move criminal charges filed against him in Fulton County to federal court.
The development came less than a day after a Fulton grand jury handed up two charges against Meadows in conjunction with a broader 41-count elections interference case, which also ensnared former President Donald Trump and 17 others. Meadows was charged with racketeering and solicitation of violation of oath of by a public officer in conjunction with Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones scheduled a hearing on the matter for Aug. 28.
In a 14-page filing with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Meadows’ attorneys argued the Republican had the right to change venues because the alleged criminal conduct “all occurred during his tenure and as part of his service as Chief of Staff.”
“Nothing Mr. Meadows is alleged in the indictment to have done is criminal per se: arranging Oval Office meetings, contacting state officials on the President’s behalf, visiting a state government building, and setting up a phone call for the President,” wrote Joseph Englert of Atlanta and three Washington, D.C.-based attorneys. “One would expect a Chief of Staff to the President of the United States to do these sorts of things. And they have far less to do with the interests of state law than, for example, murder charges that have been successfully removed.”
Meadows’ move wasn’t unexpected. Under the so-called removal statute, which was enacted in 1789 to protect federal officials from being harassed and prosecuted by state officials, federal officials charged with crimes are allowed to transfer a state criminal case to federal court if the alleged criminal behavior was carried out as part of a person’s official duties.
Meadows’ case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Steve Jones, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Barack Obama.
If Jones grants Meadows’ request, it would presumably give the former congressman a more conservative jury pool — and the case would be presided over by a U.S. District judge.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who pursued the charges, is expected to fight to keep the case in Fulton Superior Court.
Trump and former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark are expected to make similar moves in the days ahead.
In Tuesday’s filing, Meadows’ attorneys said their client also intends to file a motion to dismiss the indictment against him. They suggested removing the case to federal court would be an interim step until a judge could hold an evidentiary hearing.
The indictment cites several sets of actions Meadows allegedly undertook between Nov. 2020 and Jan. 2021 in relation to vote counts in Georgia and Pennsylvania.
It mentions his unannounced Dec. 2020 visit to the Cobb County Civic Center as a signature match audit was underway, and his successful effort to put Trump in touch with Francis Watson, then the Secretary of State’s chief investigator who was helping carry out the audit.
A few days later, Meadows allegedly texted Watson and asked if there was a way to speed up a signature verification audit in Fulton that Trump was seeking out so it could be completed before the Electoral College vote was finalized on Jan. 6, according to the indictment, which called that act and others “an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.”
Meadows was also charged with solicitation of violation of oath of public officer for his role in the Jan. 2, 2021 phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The indictment alleges that Meadows and Trump were trying to prompt Raffensperger to commit a felony “by unlawfully altering, unlawfully adjusting, and otherwise unlawfully influencing the certified returns for presidential electors for the November 3, 2020, presidential election in Georgia.”