Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, one of those accused of racketeering in the 2020 Georgia election investigation, came to the witness stand. for five hours on Monday to try to bolster his bid to move the Fulton County case to federal court.
Former President Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants, including Meadows, were jailed in Fulton County Jail last week as part of efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in rural Georgia.
Testifying before U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones, Meadows described the conduct alleged against him as an integral part of his job as Trump’s chief of staff, which he described as a “24-hour job.” , 7 days on 7 “. Asked by his attorney George Terwilliger if his duties intersect with political issues, Meadows replied that almost everything the president does has a political backlash.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ office has argued in court filings that Meadows crossed a line, including organizing and joining a call in which Trump lobbied the Georgia secretary of state. , Brad Raffensperger, to “find” votes that would alter the outcome of state elections.
“Federal law prohibits employees of the executive branch from engaging in political activity as part of their job,” they noted, pointing to the Hatch Act, a law that Meadows once told Politico that “no one outside the Beltway doesn’t really care”.
The law “prohibits access to a federal employee”[ing] his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the outcome of an election,” prosecutors noted.
Anna Green Cross, an attorney for the district attorney’s office, asked Meadows in cross-examination what federal objective, if any, he was pursuing by participating in meetings and appeals challenging election results. Meadows said he believed the federal goal was to ensure free and fair elections in the United States.
She asked him about the purpose of the Raffensperger appeal, and he replied that it was to achieve a less contentious resolution to the Trump campaign’s then-ongoing lawsuit against the state. Cross asked if settling a private lawsuit served a federal purpose, and Meadows replied that his duties were broad.
When asked what he thinks would cross a line, Meadows said it would if he was asked to speak at a campaign rally. Cross then asked him if merely promoting campaign interests would be outside of his responsibilities.
“I wouldn’t agree with that,” Meadows said.
Raffensperger, who testified for about an hour on Monday, took the witness stand from the prosecutor’s office.
Jennifer Little, a member of Trump’s legal team, and the attorney for former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, a co-defendant in the case, watched the testimony from an overflow room in the courthouse.
In court papers this month, lawyers for Meadows argued the charges all relate to official actions he took while working for the president.
“Mr. Meadows is entitled to suppress this matter. The conduct giving rise to the charges in the indictment all occurred during his tenure and during his service as Chief of Staff” , wrote lawyers for Meadows in a 14-page filing.
They called for ‘swift suppression’, citing a federal law that allows US agents to void civil or criminal lawsuits in state courts for actions allegedly taken ‘under cover’ of their offices in court. of American District. Meadows also intends to file a motion to dismiss the indictment “as soon as possible,” his attorneys wrote.
They also said Meadows’ duties as chief of staff included arranging Oval Office meetings, contacting state officials on Trump’s behalf, visiting a government building in Status and establishment of a phone call.
“Nothing Mr. Meadows is alleged in the indictment is per se criminal,” they wrote. “You would expect a chief of staff to the president of the United States to do that sort of thing.”
Jones did not issue a decision on Monday. He said proceedings in state court could continue and that Meadows would have to be arraigned on September 6 as scheduled if he had not ruled by then.
Meadows was charged with two counts in the sweeping 41-count indictment: one of violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and the other of soliciting violation oath by a public official.
He surrendered to authorities and was released after a Georgia federal judge rejected his attempt to delay his arrest.
“Meadows argues that his status as a federal officer and defense of federal immunity protects him from arrest and trial in state court,” Jones wrote, noting that his case had not been brought. in federal court.
“While the Court understands Meadows’ argument that the defense of federal immunity includes immunity from arrest, the statutory language of ‘applicable law’ is clear that the state legal process continues until that the Court has assumed jurisdiction over the case.”
The indictment drawn up by a Georgia grand jury alleges that Meadows, Trump and other unindicted co-conspirators “unlawfully solicited, demanded and harassed” Raffensperger on January 2, 2021, to help them overturn the results of the presidential election.
Willis last week subpoenaed Raffensperger and his former lead investigator, Frances Watson, to testify at Monday’s hearing about Meadows’ efforts to move his case to federal court. A spokesperson for Raffensperger’s office then declined to comment on the subpoena. Meadows testified in the morning and was expected to return for further cross-examination after lunch.
Meadows, a former congressman from North Carolina who now lives in South Carolina, has previously fought to testify before the special grand jury in Willis’ investigation into his actions in the final weeks of Trump’s presidency. amid his refusal to concede the 2020 election. Meadows, however, was forced to testify after losing his legal challenge.
Meadows also refused to comply with a subpoena to testify before the House committee on Jan. 6. The House voted to criminally refer Meadows to the Justice Department, which declined to prosecute him.