Mark Meadows’ attempt to derail Georgia racketeering case is rejected by appeals court.

The 3-0 decision was authored by the court’s conservative chief judge, William Pryor. Had they agreed with Meadows and transferred the charges to federal court, it could have upended the case against Trump and all of the defendants, causing significant delays and even a potential ruling that the matter could be dismissed altogether because of its relationship to Trump’s authority as president.

Instead, the panel ruled that a law permitting federal officials to transfer state-level charges into federal court applies only to current government officials, not former ones like Meadows. And the panel of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit concluded that, even if Meadows were still in office, his argument would still fail because the state’s charges against Meadows are about an alleged criminal agreement to join a conspiracy, not about any actions Meadows took as Trump’s chief of staff.

Throughout his 36-page opinion, Pryor expressed bewilderment at Meadows’ unlimited conception of his duties as Trump’s chief of staff. Meadows’ lawyers argued that nearly every action he took was part of his official White House responsibilities — even when they involved making campaign decisions to aid Trump’s reelection.

“We cannot rubberstamp Meadows’ legal opinion that the president’s chief of staff has unfettered authority,” Pryor wrote.

The panel found that Meadows’ efforts to contact Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger about possibly altering the outcome of the 2020 election fell squarely outside his official duties. His decision to join a call with Trump and Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021 — a now-infamous call that is at the heart of the state prosecution — “reflected a clear attempt to further Trump’s ‘private litigation interests,’” rather than any government function.

The panel characterized Meadows’ December 2020 visit to Georgia as an attempt to “infiltrate” an ongoing recount — an act, Pryor said, that was far outside his official duties.

“Meadows cannot point to any authority for influencing state officials with allegations of election fraud,” Pryor wrote. “At bottom, whatever the chief of staff’s role with respect to state election administration, that role does not include altering valid election results in favor of a particular candidate.”

Pryor, an appointee of President George W. Bush, dismissed much of Meadows’ legal position. The judge said Meadows was trying to simultaneously argue that his official duties encompassed some partisan political matters while also acknowledging he was not permitted while acting in his official job to get involved in election-related advocacy for any candidate.

“Meadows cannot have it both ways,” Pryor wrote. “He cannot shelter behind testimony about the breadth of his official responsibilities, while disclaiming his admissions that he understood electioneering activity to be out of bounds. That he repeatedly denied having any role in, or speaking on behalf of, the Trump campaign, reflects his recognition that such activities were forbidden to him as chief of staff.”

Though the ruling was unanimous, the two other judges — Obama appointee Robin Rosenbaum and Biden appointee Nancy Abudu — issued a stark warning that the court’s interpretation could produce a “nightmare scenario” and “cripple the federal government” by allowing state prosecutors to intimidate and interfere with federal officials by subjecting them to the threat of criminal action in state court.

The Democrat-appointed judges explicitly urged Congress to change the law, known as a “removal” statute, to make clear that former officials prosecuted over their official duties can move their cases to federal court even after those officials have left their posts.

“These types of actions can cripple government operations, discourage federal officers from faithfully performing their duties and dissuade talented people from entering public service,” Rosenbaum wrote, in a concurring opinion Abudu joined.

An attorney for Meadows, George Terwilliger III, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision and to indicate whether Meadows plans to appeal to the full bench of the 11th Circuit or to the Supreme Court.

In a 3-0 decision, the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ attempt to have the charges against him transferred to federal court. The court ruled that a law allowing federal officials to move state-level charges to federal court only applies to current government officials, not former ones like Meadows. The court also concluded that even if Meadows were still in office, his argument would fail because the charges against him are about an alleged criminal agreement to join a conspiracy, not about any actions he took as Chief of Staff. The court expressed bewilderment at Meadows’ broad interpretation of his duties and rejected his claim that nearly every action he took was part of his official responsibilities. The court found that Meadows’ efforts to contact Georgia’s Secretary of State to possibly alter the outcome of the 2020 election were outside his official duties and reflected a clear attempt to further Trump’s private litigation interests. The court characterized Meadows’ visit to Georgia as an attempt to “infiltrate” an ongoing recount and stated that his role as Chief of Staff does not include altering valid election results. The ruling was unanimous, but two of the judges warned that the court’s interpretation could have negative consequences and urged Congress to change the law to clarify that former officials prosecuted over their official duties can move their cases to federal court. It is unclear whether Meadows plans to appeal the decision.

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