Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Meadows Loses a Big One

Mark Meadows got too ambitious. He was a congressman from a safe district in North Carolina and could have stayed in Congress forever. But he got a chance to be at the center of power as chief of staff for a president who had little interest in governing. That gave him enormous influence, but it also made him a partner with Donald Trump in multiple (alleged) crimes. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. Meadows has been indicted in Georgia. He has an excellent chance of ending up in prison.

In the Georgia case, Meadows had an idea: Get the case moved to federal court and then claim that the crimes were committed as part of his job. Also, in a trial, a federal case would pull jurors from a more Republican-friendly pool. Alas for him, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones was having no part of it. It took Jones only a week to hear testimony, decide what to do, and write up his ruling. Meadows will be tried in state court, not federal court, and so claiming he was just doing his job won't work. Meadows will appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, so he still has a chance, but a meager one.

Meadows took a real risk by testifying for 4 hours. He didn't do a good job. In particular, he failed to explain how setting up the infamous phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was government work (in which case, it is allowed) as opposed to campaign work (in which case, it is not allowed). That could weigh heavily on the appeals court.

Meadows isn't the only one of the 19 Georgia defendants who would prefer a trial in federal court. The three fake electors indicted also want to move their cases to federal court. The chances of any of these people getting their cases moved to federal court is basically zero. After all, Meadows did actually work for the federal government, so his case made at least a little bit of sense, even if the judge was not impressed. He certainly won't be impressed by the others.

Indictee Jeffrey Clark—the Justice Dept. environmental lawyer Trump wanted to name acting attorney general but was dissuaded from doing when the entire top of the Justice Dept. threatened to resign if he did—also wants to move his case to federal court. It will be tough for Clark to explain how his role in trying to overturn the election was somehow part of his job of saving the spotted owl.

There is one other defendant who also worked for the federal government: Donald Trump. For Trump, moving to federal court would also be more favorable, even though he would still be accused of violating state law, not federal law. That means even if he were convicted in federal court, he wouldn't be able to pardon himself if he becomes president. Again, given the judge's ruling in Meadows' case, the chance of Trump's case being moved to federal court is microscopic. His argument has the same weaknesses that Meadows' does, and on top of that, some of his chicanery took place after Jan. 20, 2021. Hard to argue the post-Jan. 20 stuff was part of Trump's job, since he didn't have the job anymore.

For Trump, there is another issue at play not true of Meadows: The Georgia trial will be televised. If it begins before the 2024 election, there will be a parade of witnesses against Trump telling stories on television that might convince some independents that even though Joe Biden is old, Trump is a menace to democracy. If Trump somehow beats the odds and gets his case to federal court, it will not be televised. Trump hasn't formally requested to move his case yet, but he still has several weeks to do so, and has filed paperwork saying he is considering it.

Jones' ruling, if sustained by the appeals court, is a win for Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis. She will then get to play a home game rather than an away game. Not only does she get a friendlier jury pool (Trump won only 26% of the vote in Fulton County), but she knows all the Fulton County judges and how to approach them. She also knows the state rules and procedures better than she knows the federal ones. (V)

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