Judge to hold hearing on ex-DOJ official’s request to move Georgia election case to federal court

by Gabriel Martinez
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Georgia Election Case Federal Court Transfer

A federal judge is scheduled to conduct a hearing regarding the request made by former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark to transfer the Georgia election subversion case to federal court. This move comes after former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows attempted and failed to move his charges to federal court earlier.

The case, brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, accuses Clark, Meadows, former President Donald Trump, and 16 others of participating in a comprehensive scheme to overturn the presidential election victory of Democrat Joe Biden and maintain Trump in power. The indictment consists of 41 counts, including charges under the state’s anti-racketeering law. All 19 defendants have entered pleas of not guilty.

Clark is among five defendants seeking to have their cases moved to federal court. U.S. District Judge Steve Jones, who will oversee the upcoming hearing, previously rejected Meadows’ request for removal, reasoning that the actions described in the indictment were carried out on behalf of the Trump campaign and were not part of his official duties. However, Judge Jones emphasized that he would evaluate each case on an individual basis.

The practical implications of moving the case to federal court include a broader jury pool that extends beyond predominantly Democratic Fulton County and a trial that would not be televised or photographed, as federal courtrooms do not permit cameras. Nevertheless, such a move would not create an opportunity for Trump, if reelected in 2024, or any other president to issue pardons, as any convictions would still be subject to state law.

According to the indictment, Clark authored a letter shortly after the November 2020 election in which he claimed that the Justice Department had “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple States, including the State of Georgia,” and requested high-ranking department officials to sign and send it to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and state legislative leaders. The indictment alleges that Clark was aware at the time that this statement was false.

In their effort to move the charges to federal court, Clark’s legal team argued that the actions outlined in the indictment were directly related to his work at the Justice Department and his interactions with the former President of the United States. Clark served as the assistant attorney general overseeing the environment and natural resources division and acted as the assistant attorney general in charge of the civil division at the time.

Clark’s lawyers contended, “Indeed, the State has no authority whatsoever to criminalize advice given to the President by a senior Justice Department official concerning U.S. Department of Justice law enforcement policy based on a County District Attorney’s disagreement with the substance or development of that advice.”

They also accused Willis, a Democrat, of pursuing a politically motivated prosecution, describing it as a “political ‘hit job'” intended to create a false impression of significance.

Prosecutors countered by asserting that Clark held no authority over elections or criminal investigations in his dual roles. They stated that top department officials informed Clark that the central claim in his letter was false, that he lacked the authority to make such a claim, and that it exceeded the department’s purview. Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue reportedly told him that the letter amounted to the “Department meddling in the outcome of a presidential election.”

The law allowing federal officers to move a case to federal court, prosecutors argued, is meant to safeguard legitimate federal authority from interference by state and local authorities, rather than providing a federal forum for individuals who sought to misuse federal authority to interfere with matters under state jurisdiction.

Notably, Meadows previously appealed Judge Jones’ ruling and testified for nearly four hours last month, discussing his responsibilities as Trump’s last chief of staff and occasionally struggling to recall details from the period following the election.

It remains uncertain whether Clark will choose to testify, as his lawyers have submitted a 10-page sworn statement from him outlining his service at the Justice Department, possibly as an alternative to testifying and facing questioning from prosecutors.

Additionally, Clark was identified as one of six unnamed co-conspirators in a separate indictment filed by special counsel Jack Smith, charging Trump with attempting to unlawfully overturn the 2020 election results and obstruct the peaceful transfer of power to Biden. However, Clark has not been charged in that particular case.

In a separate incident, federal agents conducted a search of Clark’s Virginia residence in the summer of 2022, and video footage emerged showing him handcuffed and wearing no pants while standing in his driveway.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Georgia election subversion trial

What is the Georgia election subversion trial?

The Georgia election subversion trial involves allegations against former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, along with Mark Meadows and others, accused of participating in a scheme to overturn Joe Biden’s presidential election victory.

Who is overseeing the trial?

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones is presiding over the trial and recently rejected Mark Meadows’ attempt to move his charges to federal court.

What are the charges in the indictment?

The indictment includes 41 counts, including charges under the state’s anti-racketeering law. All 19 defendants, including Clark and Meadows, have pleaded not guilty.

Why do some defendants want to move the case to federal court?

Moving the case to federal court could broaden the jury pool beyond Fulton County and prevent the trial from being televised. However, it wouldn’t allow for future presidential pardons.

What is Jeffrey Clark’s role in this case?

Clark authored a letter after the 2020 election, claiming election concerns in multiple states. He is accused of making false statements in the letter.

What are the arguments for moving the case to federal court?

Clark’s lawyers argue that his actions were related to his work at the Justice Department and with the former President, not subject to state prosecution.

Why do prosecutors oppose moving the case to federal court?

Prosecutors contend that Clark had no authority over elections or criminal investigations in his roles. They argue that the law protecting federal officers from state interference doesn’t apply in this case.

Has Mark Meadows testified in the trial?

Yes, Meadows testified for nearly four hours, discussing his role as Trump’s chief of staff during the period following the election.

Will Jeffrey Clark testify?

It’s uncertain if Clark will testify; his lawyers submitted a sworn statement as an alternative.

What is the significance of Clark being named as a co-conspirator in another case?

Clark was identified as an unnamed co-conspirator in a separate indictment, but he hasn’t been charged in that case.

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