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September 8, 2023 Judge rejects Mark Meadows' bid to move 2020 election case

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Over live coverage has ended for the day. Follow the latest political news here, or scroll below for Friday's updates on the Fulton County investigation.
9:55 p.m. ET, September 8, 2023

Meadows appeals ruling in bid to move Georgia election subversion case to federal court

Former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has filed his notice of appeal to the US 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in his bid to move his Georgia criminal case to federal court.


A judge earlier Friday rejected his effort to move the case to federal court.

9:46 p.m. ET, September 8, 2023

Fulton County sheriff hints at legal action over Trump's use of mug shot for fundraising

Fulton County Sheriff Patrick "Pat" Labat on Friday discussed the arrest and processing of President Donald Trump last month and hinted at legal action over the former president fundraising off the mug shot.

CNN previously reported that Trump's campaign said it had raised $7.1 million since the former president was processed at the Atlanta jail in the Georgia election subversion case.

Asked by CNN's Erin Burnett whether he had any regrets about the mug shot, Labat responded:

"Well, if there were any regrets, the copyrighting, I'll leave that up to the lawyers. There is still an opportunity for us to, hopefully, partake in some of the capitalization of that and then put it back in the sheriff's office. We don't know."

He said the "capitalization" of the mug shot photo may have been Trump's plan all along.

Labat described Trump's demeanor as "very stoic" during his processing on August 24. "We took his mug shot, took his fingerprints as we would anybody else," he said.

As for any conversations with the former president, the sheriff said he was "pretty silent."

He added: "We spoke. Our team gave very clear instructions. He took the mugshot and like anybody else took his fingerprints, and, again, he was in and out pretty quickly."

Trump’s surrender in Georgia marked the fourth time this year the former president has turned himself in to local or federal officials after criminal charges were brought against him.

8:04 p.m. ET, September 8, 2023

Judge used Mark Meadows’ own testimony against him in rejecting bid for a move to federal court

US District Court Judge Steve Jones concluded that some of Mark Meadows’ high-stakes testimony on the witness stand last month was lacking – and even used some of the former Trump chief of staff's testimony against him. 

“When questioned about the scope of his authority, Meadows was unable to explain the limits of his authority, other than his inability to stump for the President or work on behalf of the campaign,” Jones wrote, saying he would give Meadows’ testimony on that topic “less weight” than the other evidence.

Jones also cited Meadows’ acknowledgment that the lawyers he included in an infamous 2021 phone call with Georgia’s secretary of state were working for Trump or his campaign — not the government.
Remember: The distinction between government and political work is key because the effort to move Meadows' case to federal court was motivated by seeking a type of immunity sometimes extended to people who are prosecuted for conduct tied to their US government roles.
More from the ruling: In his 49-page ruling, Jones also highlighted Meadows’ testimony about a December 2020 meeting with state lawmakers from Michigan. Meadows said most of the meeting “had to do with allegations of potential (election) fraud” and Trump “had a personal interest in the election in Michigan,” Jones noted.

“Accordingly, the meeting … was outside the scope of his federal executive branch office as they related to State election procedures following the presidential election,” Jones concluded.

The judge said in a footnote that his findings shouldn’t be interpreted as an opinion on “Meadows’s propensity to be truthful as a general matter.”

8:04 p.m. ET, September 8, 2023

Georgia lieutenant governor calls Fulton County investigation a “political circus”

Georgia Lt. Gov. Burt Jones called the Fulton County investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election a “political circus” done in pursuit of District Attorney Fani Willis’ “personal gain.”

The final report from the Fulton County special grand jury was released on Friday and recommended Jones for charges.

"This document further demonstrates that this entire political circus has been done in pursuit of Fani Willis’ personal gain. Meanwhile, she has ignored crime in the streets and the obvious crisis in Fulton County’s jail. Fani is obviously focused on what’s best for her political career, I’m focused on what’s best for Georgia,” Jones said in a statement. 

Jones was one of the 30 unnamed co-conspirators who were included but not charged in the final indictment. 

The special grand jury recommended charges against fake electors and now-Lt. Gov. Jones by a 10-8 vote, with three abstentions. 

A judge barred Wills from pursuing a case against Jones after she hosted a fundraiser for his political opponent last year. Pete Skandalakis, the Executive Director of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia, said last month a special prosecutor would investigate Jones' role. 

6:54 p.m. ET, September 8, 2023

Rudy Giuliani files new legal challenge against Georgia election interference charges

Former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani filed a new legal challenge Friday against the criminal charges he’s facing in Georgia over his attempts to subvert the 2020 presidential election.

He is asking the judge to quash the indictment, or at least to set a hearing on the matter.

Giuliani argued in the filing that there were “deficiencies” in the indictment that rendered it invalid and that prosecutors were violating his rights against “double jeopardy” by how they structured the racketeering conspiracy allegations. 

The indictment is “a conspiratorial bouillabaisse consisting of purported criminal acts, daily activities, and constitutionally protected speech,” the filing argues. 

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis charged Giuliani last month with 13 crimes, including violating the state’s racketeering law known as RICO, soliciting public officials to violate their oath of office, conspiring to commit forgery, and making false statements. 

State prosecutors argue that Giuliani participated in a “criminal enterprise” by peddling false claims about voter fraud to state legislators, and orchestrating the fake electors scheme. He pleaded not guilty, as have the other 18 defendants in the sweeping case.

In the weeks since his indictment, Giuliani has railed against Willis, saying in a recent podcast that she is “so damn stupid” and “doesn’t even know what the RICO statute is.” 

The former New York City mayor held a fundraiser Thursday to help with his growing legal bills. CNN previously reported that he owes millions of dollars in legal expenses.  
Giuliani also is an unindicted co-conspirator in Trump’s federal election subversion case. A judge ruled in a separate case that he defamed two Georgia election workers, and a jury will decide what he owes damages. And he faces defamation suits from Dominion and Smartmatic, voting technology companies that he falsely said rigged the 2020 election.  
6:48 p.m. ET, September 8, 2023

Meadows ruling doesn’t affect co-defendants who also want cases moved to federal court, judge says

When US District Court Judge Steve Jones ruled that he does not have federal jurisdiction over Mark Meadows’ criminal case and sent it back to the state court in Fulton County, Georgia, he noted that the ruling does not necessarily preclude other co-defendants in the sprawling election interference probe from getting their own cases moved.

The judge stated that his ruling regarding Meadows, the one-time chief of staff for former President Donald Trump, “does not, at this time, have any effect on” the other defendants.

Those motions are still pending before Jones, and evidentiary hearings are scheduled for later this month.

“The Court will assess these Defendants’ arguments and evidence following the forthcoming hearings ... independent of its conclusion” in the Meadows case, Jones wrote.

The judge explicitly stated in his ruling that he is not offering any opinion about Fulton County’s underlying criminal case against Meadows, who has pleaded not guilty.

Why it matters: Meadows was the first of five defendants who already filed motions to move the case to federal court – and Trump is expected to do so, too. 
Trump’s lawyers told the judge overseeing the state case on Thursday that he may seek to move the case to federal court, but they haven’t filed the legal motions yet.

Meadows' lawyers wanted the case in federal court so they could try to get it dismissed altogether, invoking federal immunity extended to certain individuals who are prosecuted or sued for conduct tied to their US government roles.

The defendants still trying to move their cases could hope to invoke the same federal immunity protections.

Other advantages of the move include the fact that, unlike the Fulton County courtroom, cameras are not allowed in federal courts — something that could be advantageous for Trump, who is running for president again.

CNN's Devan Cole contributed reporting to this post.
6:32 p.m. ET, September 8, 2023

Meadows' actions in Georgia election case were largely "related to political activities," judge says

The federal judge who rejected efforts by Mark Meadows to move his criminal case to federal court said in his ruling Friday that the then White House chief of staff's actions related to the 2020 election were largely political. 

“The evidence before the Court overwhelmingly suggests that Meadows was not acting in his scope of executive branch duties during most of the Overt Acts alleged,” US District Judge Steve Jones wrote. 

The indictment in Fulton County, Georgia, identifies eight overt acts Meadows allegedly took in furtherance of the scheme to overturn the 2020 presidential results. Meadows argued that these actions were part of his federal duties as chief of staff — and thus, the case should be moved to federal court — but Jones disagreed. 

“The Court finds insufficient evidence to establish that the gravamen, or a heavy majority of overt acts alleged against Meadows relate to his role as White House Chief of Staff,” Jones wrote, adding that “Meadows failed to provide sufficient evidence that these actions related to any legitimate purpose of the executive branch.” 

One of Meadows’ most critical actions was his participation in President Donald Trump’s phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in early January 2021, when Trump infamously prodded Raffensperger to “find” enough votes for him to overcome Joe Biden’s margin of victory. 

Jones ruled that this phone call “was made regarding private litigation brought by President and his campaign” and was “therefore outside Meadows’s federal role as an executive branch officer.”

Meadows' other actions in late 2020, including contacts with state lawmakers that Trump hoped would help him undermine the election results, also weren’t tied to his government role, Jones concluded.  

“The Court finds that the underlying substance of those meetings and calls were related to political activities and not to the scope of Meadows’s federal office,” Jones wrote.

6:22 p.m. ET, September 8, 2023

Meadows did not meet "quite low" threshold to remove election subversion case to federal court, order says

In the order denying Mark Meadows’ request to move his Georgia election interference case to federal court, US District Judge Steve Jones said he had not met the "quite low" threshold for removal because his activities for the Trump campaign were outside the scope of his federal role as White House chief of staff.

“The Court finds that the color of the Office of the White House Chief of Staff did not include working with or working for the Trump campaign, except for simply coordinating the President’s schedule, traveling with the President to his campaign events, and redirecting communications to the campaign. Thus, consistent with his testimony and the federal statutes and regulations, engaging in political activities is exceeds the outer limits of the Office of the White House Chief of Staff," the order said.

The order also said, “The Hatch Act is helpful in defining the outer limits of the scope the White House Chief of Staff’s authority. The State argues, and Meadows agrees, that he is bound by the Hatch Act, a law that prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity."

"These prohibitions on executive branch employees (including the White House Chief of Staff) reinforce the Court’s conclusion that Meadows has not shown how his actions relate to the scope of his federal executive branch office. Federal officer removal is thereby inapposite," the order said.

The Hatch Act is supposed to stop the federal government from affecting elections or going about its activities in a partisan manner.

The Office of Special Counsel, a unique government body charged with enforcing a handful of rules, including the Hatch Act, said the law applies to federal employees as well as state and local employees who work with federally funded programs.

6:24 p.m. ET, September 8, 2023

Judge rejects Mark Meadows’ bid to move Georgia election interference case to federal court

A federal judge on Friday rejected former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ bid to move his Georgia criminal case to federal court, a significant setback for both Meadows and a troubling sign for former President Donald Trump.

The ruling against Meadows has significant implications for the former president and the other 18 co-defendants in the Fulton County district attorney’s sprawling racketeering case. Meadows was the first of five defendants who already filed motions to move the case to federal court — and Trump is expected to do so, too.

Meadows unsuccessfully argued that his case, now playing out in Georgia state court, should be moved because the allegations in the indictment were connected to his official duties as White House chief of staff. 

His lawyers wanted the case in federal court so they could try to get it dismissed altogether, invoking federal immunity extended to certain individuals who are prosecuted or sued for conduct tied to their US government roles. 

The judge’s decision could now set the tone for the other defendants also trying to move their cases, hoping to invoke the same federal immunity protections.