It’s likely that Donald Trump will attempt to have the charges against him in Georgia transferred to federal court, a strategic move that could prolong the legal process and potentially result in a more sympathetic jury if successful.
Mark Meadows, who is Trump’s former Chief of Staff, is a co-defendant in a case being led by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. According to reports, Meadows has initiated efforts to transfer the charges to federal court. Similar sources suggest that Trump will follow suit, triggering a complex legal battle over jurisdiction. This could result in the trial being held in Atlanta’s federal courthouse instead of the Fulton County Courthouse, where it was originally scheduled.
Meadows filed a “notice of removal,” asking for the case to be moved to federal court, assigned to U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones in Atlanta. The court has set a hearing for August 28th to address this matter. Meadows argues, and Trump is expected to do the same, that their actions were within their professional responsibilities during the events mentioned in the indictment. This supports their argument that the case ought to be tried in a federal court.
Meadows’s legal team asserted, “The conduct giving rise to the charges in this indictment all occurred during his tenure and as part of his service as Chief of Staff” in their filing.
However, Willis is anticipated to resist the move to federal court. She will likely argue that Trump and his associates exceeded their federal authority when attempting to influence state officials and lawmakers regarding the election outcome.
Legal experts suggest that Trump might successfully transfer the case due to favorable regulations allowing federal officials to request federal court trials. Lee Kovarsky, a law professor at the University of Texas, stated Trump has a chance, albeit small, to move the case to federal court, especially given the favorable officer removal laws in the 11th Circuit.
If the case does transfer, Willis’s office would still prosecute the portions of the case in federal court but under state law rather than federal law. This means that even if Trump were to be re-elected and convicted, he likely couldn’t pardon himself. However, any jurisdictional dispute could introduce delays, according to defense attorney Andrew Fleischman.
Fleischman noted that such disputes are prone to appeals, potentially leading to involvement from the U.S. Supreme Court.
A defendant is required to request removal within 30 days of being indicted. Any decision can be immediately appealed, potentially halting the proceedings until a resolution is reached.
With Trump’s legal battles spanning multiple states and the District of Columbia, his legal team strives for advantageous circumstances, including more favorable jury pools or judges. Shifting the trial to a federal court in Georgia could lead to a jury pool with a slightly more pro-Trump record. The Fulton County jury pool primarily consists of voters from Atlanta, which is heavily Democratic. In contrast, a federal jury pool would encompass voters from the broader metro Atlanta area, where Biden’s lead is smaller.
Historically, federal officials could request federal court hearings due to potential harassment or interference by state officials. This provision aimed to safeguard federal interests from state encroachment. In a separate case in Washington, D.C., Trump’s lawyer, John Lauro, suggests keeping the trial in federal court but relocating it from the Democratic-leaning city to West Virginia.
Notably, Trump unsuccessfully sought to have his New York state trial on charges of falsifying business records handled by a federal court. U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein stated during a hearing in June that “the act for which the president has been indicted does not relate to anything under color of his office.”