ATLANTA (AP) — Former President Donald Trump will not seek to get his Georgia election interference case transferred to federal court, his attorneys said in a filing Thursday, three weeks after a judge rejected a similar attempt by the former president’s White House chief of staff.
The notice filed in federal court in Atlanta follows a Sept. 8 decision from U.S. District Judge Steve Jones that chief of staff Mark Meadows “has not met even the ‘quite low’ threshold” to move his case to federal court, saying the actions outlined in the indictment were not taken as part of Meadows’ role as a federal official. Meadows is appealing that ruling.
Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges, including an alleged violation of Georgia’s anti-racketeering law, over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. He was indicted last month along with Meadows and 17 others.
The notice, filed in state court in Atlanta by Trump’s defense attorney, expressed confidence in how Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee will handle the trial, but may have also reflected the difficulties that other defendants have had in trying to move their cases to federal court.
“President Trump now notifies the court that he will NOT be seeking to remove his case to federal court,” the notice states. “This decision is based on his well-founded confidence that this honorable court intends to fully and 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.”
If Trump had gotten his case moved to federal court, he could have tried to get the charges dismissed altogether on the grounds that federal officials have immunity from prosecution over actions taken as part of their official job duties.
Trump, though, is still making arguments in the state court case that he can’t be prosecuted because of his federal position. On Thursday, his lawyer filed a motion saying in part that Trump is immune from state prosecution for all the acts he took while president, and that Georgia’s prosecution violates the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says federal law overrides state law.
A venue change also could have broadened the jury pool beyond overwhelmingly Democratic Fulton County and meant that a trial that would not be photographed or televised, as cameras are not allowed inside federal courtrooms. A venue change would not have meant that Trump — if he’s reelected in 2024 — or another president would have been able to issue a pardon because any conviction would still happen under state law.
Several other defendants — three fake electors and former U.S. Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark — are also seeking to move their cases to federal court. Jones has not yet ruled on those cases.
Meadows testified as part of his bid to remove his case, although the others did not. Trump would not have been required to testify at his own hearing, but removal might have been difficult to win if he didn’t take the stand. That would have given prosecutors a chance to question him under cross-examination, and anything he said could have be used in an eventual trial.
Meadows had asked for the charges to be dismissed, saying the Constitution made him immune from prosecution for actions taken in his official duties as White House chief of staff.
The judge ruled that the actions at the heart of prosecutors’ charges against Meadows were taken on behalf of the Trump campaign “with an ultimate goal of affecting state election activities and procedures.”
Trump, who is facing three other criminal cases, has so far been been unsuccessful in seeking to have a state case in New York, alleging falsified business records in connection with a hush money payment to a porn actor, transferred to federal court. He asked a federal appeals court to reverse a judge’s opinion keeping the case in state court.