Sep 11, 2023 - Politics & Policy

What Meadows' loss on moving Georgia case out of state means for Trump

Former President Trump after he was booked at the Fulton County jail on Aug. 24. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Mark Meadows' rejected bid to move his Georgia racketeering case to federal court could throw a wrench in potential plans to do so for the case's 18 other defendants, including former President Trump.

Why it matters: The former White House chief of staff had the strongest of the bids to transfer his case so far, but doing so would would require meeting a narrow provision that the case has a federal connection.

  • "I haven't seen anything that makes it anything more than crimes committed in the state of Georgia violating Georgia law," Bennett Gershman, a law professor at Pace University, said. "Has nothing really to do with federal jurisdiction."
  • Meadows on Monday filed an emergency request, asking U.S. District Judge Steve Jones to stay his order in the case days after Jones rejected his bid to move it.
  • Trump told Judge Scott McAfee of the Superior Court of Fulton last week that he "may" ask to move his prosecution to federal court.
  • All 19 defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Driving the news: In arguing to transfer his case, Meadows claimed that he was acting in his capacity as chief of staff which Jones rebuked.

  • "Even if a criminal defendant can characterize individual instances of behavior as part of his official duties within the broader charged conduct, this is not enough to convey subject matter jurisdiction on this Court," Jones' decision said.

Of note: Meadow's and Trump's cases are distinct from each other, which could mean the courts approach removal to federal court differently, said Aziz Huq, a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago.

  • "The law in this case leans against removal, but it's possible to imagine the court carving out an exception for presidents that doesn't exist in present law," he said.

Here's how the case would differ in state versus federal court:

A trial in Georgia is more public

If held in Georgia state court, all court proceedings will be televised and viewable by the public, McAfee ruled in August.

  • Given that the trial is expected to play out during Trump's campaign for president, closing the proceedings off to the public would decrease transparency during the election.
  • "Megatrials are very difficult to manage, no question about it," Gershman said. "Just consider how many lawyers and defendants have been sitting in the well of the courtroom. It's going to be a spectacle, no question about it."

Fulton County could produce a more liberal jury pool than federal court

The jury pool would be from the Atlanta area, which is Democratic leaning.

  • For a federal case, the jury pool would be more ideologically diverse and could be more partial to Trump.

Potential jury would be selected by lawyers, rather than the judge

In Georgia state court, lawyers would question the prospective jurors to help determine the jury.

  • "The lawyers question the jurors, and they may put a certain spin on the way they ask the questions," Gershman said. "The judge is not going to do that."

In federal court, the judge oversees jury selection.

Go deeper: Cameras and codefendants: Why Trump's Georgia arraignment will be most dramatic

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