By Jack Queen
(Reuters) – Charges against Donald Trump’s former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows involving efforts to reverse the 2020 U.S. election results will not be tried in federal court, a sign that similar bids by the Republican former president and his co-defendants to move the criminal case to a more favorable venue will fail.
Friday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Steve Jones denying a bid by Meadows to move his case from Georgia state court to federal court gave an early win to Fulton County prosecutors, who in August charged Trump and 18 others with conspiring to undo Trump’s election loss to Democratic President Joe Biden.
Trump also may seek to move his trial from state to federal court, his lawyer said in a court filing on Thursday.
Meadows filed a notice of appeal later on Friday.
A lawyer for Meadows did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination to challenge Biden in the 2024 election, has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty. Meadows also has pleaded not guilty.
Meadows is accused of arranging calls and meetings in which prosecutors have said Trump pressured election officials to change the vote count in his favor, including a call in which the then-president urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to deliver him the state, which Biden won.
Prosecutors have argued that those acts were not “necessary and proper” duties for a U.S. president and his chief of staff. Meadows has said they were part of his portfolio as Trump’s top White House aide. The law allows defendants to have their cases heard in federal court if the charges against them stem from their official duties.
Meadows could have faced a friendlier jury pool in federal court, which draws from a larger and more politically diverse area than Fulton County, Georgia, the Democratic stronghold where the case was filed.
Moving to federal court also would have let Meadows argue that he is immune from state prosecution because he was carrying out his duties as a federal official.
Meadows, Trump and 17 others were charged in a sprawling indictment in August. Trump has said the criminal case and three others he faces are part of a political plot aimed at preventing him from retaking the White House in next year’s election.
Trump faces criminal charges in four cases. He is also under indictment in Florida for his handling of classified documents after leaving office, in Washington for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and in New York over hush money paid to a porn star before the 2016 election. Trump has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty in those cases as well.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh and Jack Queen; additional reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Dan Wallis, Will Dunham and Noeleen Walder)