Trump won’t try to move Georgia criminal case to federal court

Former President Trump won’t try to move his Georgia criminal prosecution to federal court, his lawyer said Thursday.

The surprising turn of events comes weeks after Steve Sadow, Trump’s attorney, notified the state judge that Trump may attempt such a move.

“President Trump now notifies the Court that he will NOT be seeking to remove his case to federal court,” Sadow wrote in court filings Thursday. “This decision is based on his well-founded confidence that this Honorable Court intends to fully completely protect his constitutional right to a fair trial and guarantee him due process of law throughout the prosecution of his case in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia.”

Five of Trump’s 18 co-defendants are actively trying to move their charges, though they face an uphill battle. Some legal experts believe the entire case would still be moved if any one of them is ultimately successful.

Moving courts would have provided Trump a pathway to try to assert immunity from the charges, though it would not have made them subject to a presidential pardon.

It would have also broadened the jury pool to other areas of Georgia that are less heavily Democratic than deep-blue Fulton County and meant a federal judge would oversee the case.

Recording of federal court proceedings are also prohibited, but by remaining in state court, Trump’s trial is poised to be televised.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) charged Trump and the 18 others last month in a racketeering indictment over their efforts to overturn the 2020 election result in Georgia. They have all pleaded not guilty.

Trump’s filing Thursday came just before his deadline on whether to attempt the move to federal court, a process known as removal. 

Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and three individuals who signed documents purporting to be Georgia’s valid presidential electors have all tried to move their charges. Other defendants could still file such a request at the last minute.

Willis has opposed each of the removals, making the disputes one of the early legal battles in the case.

So far, none of the defendants have emerged victorious. A federal judge rejected Meadows’s attempt and could rule on the other four defendants’ requests at any time.

The legal battle is likely to be resolved on appeal, however, with Meadows having already begun the process with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The dispute turns on whether the defendants can show they are federal officials, the allegations against them are within the scope of their office and they can show a plausible federal defense.

If successful, the defendants then plan to try to assert constitutional immunity from the prosecution.

Before Thursday’s update, Sadow, Trump’s attorney, reportedly had attended court hearings at which the other defendants made their case for moving their charges.

Trump faces three other criminal indictments. In federal court, he faces charges over his post-2020 election efforts and his handling of classified documents.

In state court in New York, Trump faces an indictment in connection with 2016 hush money payments. Trump is attempting to move that case to federal court, and he is now appealing after a judge rejected his request.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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