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Trump Will Not Seek to Move Georgia Racketeering Case to Federal Court


Former President Donald J. Trump will not seek to move the criminal racketeering case against him in Atlanta to federal court, according to a legal filing from his lawyer on Thursday.

Mr. Trump was indicted by a grand jury in August, along with 18 of his advisers and allies, after a two-and-a-half year investigation into election interference by the Fulton County district attorney, Fani T. Willis. Keeping the case in state court means that any trial for Mr. Trump would be televised, unlike in federal court.

“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,” Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Steven H. Sadow, wrote in the filing, referring to Fulton County Superior Court, “and guarantee him due process of law throughout the prosecution of his case.”

The move comes a few weeks after a federal judge rejected an effort by Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s former White House chief of staff, to move his own case to federal court. That decision has been appealed, but it dimmed the chances for successful removal efforts by other defendants, including Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official, and three Georgia Republicans who submitted bogus Electoral College votes for the former president in December 2020.

Removal is a longstanding practice meant to protect federal officials from state-level prosecution that could impede them from conducting federal business. It is rooted in the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which makes federal law “supreme” over contrary state laws.

But Judge Steve C. Jones of the Northern District of Georgia decided this month that the actions ascribed to Mr. Meadows in the indictment were not within the scope of his federal duties as White House chief of staff. The evidence, he ruled, “establishes that the actions at the heart of the state’s charges against Meadows were taken on behalf of the Trump campaign with an ultimate goal of affecting state election activities and procedures.”

Removal to federal court would have provided some advantages for Mr. Trump, including a jury pool somewhat more favorable to him. But he would have faced the same state felony charges.

In the Georgia case, all 19 defendants are facing a racketeering charge for their role in what prosecutors have described as a “criminal organization” that sought to overturn Mr. Trump’s 2020 election loss in the state. Each defendant also faces at least one other charge; Mr. Trump and his former personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, face the most — 13 each.

If Mr. Trump ends up going to trial in Fulton County Superior Court, as now seems increasingly likely, the presiding judge will be Scott McAfee, who was recently appointed to the bench.

While attending law school at the University of Georgia, Mr. McAfee was a vice president of the school’s chapter of the conservative Federalist Society. He later worked for the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, where his supervisor was Ms. Willis.

Thus far, Judge McAfee has been moving the court proceedings along briskly, but he has not had the opportunity to make many substantive rulings.

When Mr. Trump will actually face trial remains uncertain. Two of the lawyers who worked to keep him in power, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, are set to go to trial on Oct. 23. The two defendants had requested an early trial date, which is their right under Georgia law, though both have been filing a flurry of motions over the last few weeks to dismiss the case, or parts of it.

Another lawyer who faces charges, John Eastman, said in a filing on Thursday that he might still invoke his right to a speedy trial. Those not seeking the option may not face trial until the second half of next year, or even later.



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