In a significant legal development, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows' request to transfer his Georgia election case to federal court. This decision reaffirms a September ruling asserting that Meadows' alleged actions in a racketeering case are unrelated to his official government duties.
The case stems from August indictments, where an Atlanta grand jury charged Meadows, former President Donald Trump, and 17 others with felony racketeering related to Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia.
Meadows sought federal court intervention after Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis denied his request to delay arrest, arguing his status as a former federal official rendered him immune from local prosecution. Meadows' legal team contended that the charges were linked to his tenure in a federal role, necessitating protection from arrest under federal law.
However, a three-judge appellate panel, comprising Chief Judge William Pryor and Judges Robin Rosenbaum and Nancy Abudu, expressed skepticism towards Meadows' claims during oral arguments, as reported by the Washington Post.
The court ruled that the federal removal statute Meadows invoked does not extend to former federal officers. More importantly, the actions were not part of Meadows' official duties.
Pryor's Ruling Undermines Defense
Chief Judge Pryor's nearly 50-page opinion emphasized that Meadows' alleged involvement in a conspiracy to overturn a presidential election was not an official duty.
Former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal highlighted the significance of Pryor, a highly conservative judge, authoring the opinion. Speaking to MSNBC, Katyal described the ruling as a comprehensive rejection of Meadows' arguments, effectively stating that orchestrating a coup is not part of the White House Chief of Staff's job description.
The ruling raises serious doubts about Meadows' next steps, with Katyal suggesting that an appeal to the Supreme Court is unlikely to succeed. The decision also overshadows Trump's repeated immunity claims in various legal battles.
Implications Beyond Meadows
Meadows' testimony in September, where he claimed no involvement in the coordination of 'fake electors', was undermined during cross-examination, leading to suggestions of perjury and weakening his case for federal court transfer.
This decision also has broader implications for other defendants in Willis' indictment who have sought to move their cases out of Georgia. Legal experts see Meadows' failure as a precursor for Trump's defense strategies. Harry Litman, a former U.S.
Attorney, and Ryan Goodman, a law professor and former special counsel for the Department of Defense, have noted the parallels between the court's analysis of official duties and the arguments for immunity. A former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig commented on CNN that the meticulous and comprehensive nature of the ruling, systematically addressing Meadows' arguments, could set a precedent impacting Trump's defense.
Honig suggested that the court's logic could be applied to Trump, indicating a potential judicial approach unfavorable to the former president's immunity claims.