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An Appeals Court Will Hear Arguments Over Whether Meadows’ Georgia Charges Can Move to Federal Court

A federal appeals court will hear arguments Friday over whether the election interference charges filed against Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows should be moved from a state court to federal court.

Meadows, who is charged alongside former President Donald Trump and 17 others, is accused of scheming to keep the Republican in power after Democrat Joe Biden won Georgia in 2020. Meadows testified at a hearing in August that the actions detailed in the sweeping indictment were taken as part of his job.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ruled in September that Meadows did not meet the threshold to move his case to federal court. The evidence presented showed the actions were taken “on behalf of the Trump campaign with an ultimate goal of affecting state election activities and procedures,” he wrote.

Meadows appealed Jones’ ruling to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which set oral arguments in the case for Friday. It is to be heard by a three-judge panel made up of Chief Circuit Judge William Pryor, Circuit Judge Robin Rosenbaum and Circuit Judge Nancy Abudu. Pryor was appointed by President George W. Bush, Rosenbaum was appointed by President Barack Obama and Abudu was appointed by Biden.

Lawyers for Meadows argued in a court filing with the 11th Circuit that Jones “unnecessarily complicated a straightforward federal officer removal case.” The Federal Officer Removal Statute allows federal officials to move legal cases against them to federal court when they are related to their official duties “so they may assert a federal defense in a federal forum,” specifically Supremacy Clause immunity, his lawyers wrote.

The bar to qualify for removal is low, his lawyers wrote, and Meadows’ testimony “about the breadth of the Chief of Staff role, and about the connection between that role and the conduct charged in the Indictment, were more than enough to clear it.”

Jones was wrong to require that Meadows prove that “a heavy majority” of the actions for which he is charged related to his role as chief of staff and in finding that “political activity” was outside the scope of his duties, Meadows’ lawyers argued.

Prosecutors argued that the removal statute is meant to protect federal authority but that there “is no federal authority to protect” in this case. Instead, they wrote in a filing, Meadows and the others charged “engaged in activities designed to accomplish federal meddling in matters of state authority.”

Meadows failed to show any connection between the charges and his official duties, prosecutors wrote. In fact, they argued, the evidence “overwhelmingly indicated” that the bulk of the activities for which he was charged “fell outside the scope of his official duties” because there is no federal authority over Georgia’s post-election activities and because he was acting for the benefit of the Trump campaign.

The three-judge panel has asked the lawyers to explain what effect, if any, an October ruling by the 11th Circuit could have on Meadows’ effort to move his case to federal court.

In that case, a man had filed a lien against property owned by people he believed had wronged him, including a former IRS commissioner and a former U.S. treasury secretary. He was convicted under a law that criminalizes the filing of retaliatory liens against the property of “any officer or employee of the United States.” The 11th Circuit found that, for the purposes of that statute, a former civil servant does not count as an “officer or employee of the United States” and vacated his convictions on those counts.

Pryor, Rosenbaum and Abudu all joined the majority opinion in that case.

Meadows’ attorneys argued in a court filing that that decision “has no material impact on this case.” The 11th Circuit judges found that what mattered was not the federal officers’ status at the time of the indictment, but instead their status when the liens were filed.

Prosecutors countered that the 11th Circuit’s reasoning in that case reinforces their earlier arguments that only current federal officers may move cases to federal court under the removal law.

Four people have already pleaded guilty in the Georgia election case after reaching deals with prosecutors. The remaining 15, including Trump, Meadows and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have pleaded not guilty.

Source: Fox5atlanta