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Trump-era DOJ official and fake electors can’t move Georgia election charges to federal court, judge rules


By Marshall Cohen

(CNN) — Trump-era Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark cannot move his Georgia election subversion case from state to federal court, a judge ruled Friday.

The ruling from US District Judge Steve Jones is the latest blow to the Georgia defendants who are trying to move their state prosecutions into the federal system, where they could get more favorable trial conditions or increase their chances of getting the criminal charges dropped altogether by invoking immunity protections for US government officials.

Jones already rejected a similar request from Mark Meadows, who was former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff in 2020 and was also charged in the Georgia indictment.

Trump had been expected to make the same request, but on Thursday made a surprise announcement he would not.

All defendants in the Georgia case – including Clark, Trump and Meadows – pleaded not guilty.

After the 2020 election, Trump got in touch with Clark, who wanted to send letters to top officials in states Trump lost, falsely saying the Justice Department uncovered major voting irregularities and pressing them to consider intervening with the results, according to two congressional reports, past CNN reporting, and the state and federal election subversion indictments.

At the time, Clark was the acting assistant attorney general and head of the department’s Civil Division, which doesn’t handle election investigations, and his bosses repeatedly rejected his proposals and told him that the fraud claims were baseless. Still, Trump nearly considered installing him as attorney general so he could send the letters, but backed off after senior Justice Department officials threatened mass resignations.

Clark’s lawyers argued at the court hearing before Jones that Clark never went rogue – and that he was acting in his federal capacity because Trump brought him into election-related matters.

Jones on Friday said Clark didn’t meet the evidentiary bar.

“The Court has no reason to doubt that the President has authority to reconfigure [the assistant attorney general’s] duties, but the evidence does not support that the President did reconfigure Clark’s duties to include election investigation or oversight, or reassign Clark to the Civil Rights or Criminal Divisions, which do interact with state elections,” Jones wrote.

Charges against three fake GOP electors will stay in state court

The Georgia election subversion case against three fake GOP electors will also remain in state court, Jones ruled Friday, rejecting their theory that they were acting as federal officers when they tried to undermine the Electoral College in 2020.

The three fake electors – former Georgia GOP chair David Shafer, sitting Georgia state Sen. Shawn Still, and former Coffee County GOP chair Cathy Latham – have pleaded not guilty.

Lawyers for the three fake electors clashed with Fulton County prosecutors at a recent hearing about where their case should be tried. They accused Fani Willis of bringing an “unconstitutional prosecution,” and one defense attorney claimed the case was motivated by anti-Trump bias, which prosecutors vehemently denied.

Prosecutors say Shafer, Still and Latham broke the law on December 14, 2020, when they met at the Georgia state capital and signed phony certificates falsely proclaiming that Trump won the state and they were the “duly elected and qualified electors,” even though two statewide recounts had confirmed that he fell about 12,000 votes short.

In all, 16 Georgia Republicans signed the certificates, though only three are facing charges. Several struck cooperation deals with prosecutors last year, and Willis said in a recent filing that at least four uncharged fake electors would be witnesses at trial.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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