A federal judge denied former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows's request to move his Georgia election interference charges to federal jurisdiction. The order Friday is part of a complicated effort to prosecute 19 people, including former President Trump, alleged to have engaged in a sweeping conspiracy to overturn Georgia's 2020 presidential election results, reports NPR. Meadows argued that he met a three-pronged threshold to move his charges out of Fulton County, Ga., Superior Court because he was an officer of the United States, the felony counts he faces stemmed from actions done under that office and that he raised a "colorable federal defense." Judge Steve Jones disagreed. Jones found that only one of Meadows' alleged actions in connection with a larger scheme to undermine Georgia's already-certified election results was within his official duties and protected under federal law. "The Court finds that the evidence presented does not show that most of the remaining overt acts were related to the scope of Meadows' role as Chief of Staff," he wrote, adding that Meadows "cannot have acted in his role as a federal officer with respect to any efforts to influence, interfere with, disrupt, oversee, or change state elections."
Meadows is charged alongside Trump and 17 others, accused by District Attorney Fani Willis of scheming to subvert the will of Georgia voters in the 2020 election. He took the stand during a hearing, offering extensive testimony about his role as chief of staff and disputing some underlying actions prosecutors allege were overt acts in furtherance of the larger conspiracy to subvert Trump's election defeat. Jones, who acknowledged the unprecedented nature of the case, was unsparing in his assessment of Meadows' defense of his actions. Meadows was unable to explain the limits of his authority, other than his inability to stump for the President or work on behalf of the campaign, Jones wrote. Jones' decision to keep the case at the state level adds a new layer of complication to the logistical challenges brought by attempting to try 19 different defendants with various legal strategies and levels of exposure. The order is likely to be appealed, setting up a potentially months-long delay in resolution while Willis prepares for the potential of multiple trials that will include at least 150 estimated witnesses and each take an estimated least four months, not counting jury selection.