Trump drops bid to move Georgia election case to federal court; remaining 4 bids are denied

A judge on Friday denied all the remaining defendants who had sought removal.

September 29, 2023, 6:51 PM

Attorneys for Donald Trump notified a Fulton County court Thursday that the former president will not seek to have his Georgia election interference case removed to federal court.

A day later, a federal judge on Friday rejected the efforts of all the remaining defendants who had sought removal.

Judge Steve Jones ruled that former Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark and so-called "alternate electors" David Shafer, Cathy Latham and Shawn Still did not meet the requirements to have their cases moved from Georgia state court into federal court.

Each of them had sought to have their cases moved to federal court on the grounds that their election-related actions were performed "under color" of their office as federal officials.

"The Court first determines that presidential electors are not federal officers," Judge Jones wrote in one of his rulings on the alternate electors, who had sought to prevent Joe Biden from receiving 270 electoral votes during the certification of the 2020 presidential election. "Even though electors are engaging in functions when they meet and cast their ballots, that is insufficient to make someone a federal officer."

The three alternate electors had also argued that they qualified for removal because they were acting under the direction of a federal officer. But Jones found that Trump's "private litigation is 'unofficial conduct,'" and that "any directives from the attorneys in this private litigation to engage in activities that would benefit the litigation are not related to any federal officer duties of the President."

Clark had also sought to have his case moved to federal court on the basis that the election-related actions he took -- drafting a letter to send to Georgia officials claiming there was evidence of voter fraud that could have affected the outcome of the election in Georgia -- were done in his capacity as a federal officer.

PHOTO: Former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a 2024 presidential campaign rally in Dubuque, Iowa, Sept. 20, 2023.
Former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a 2024 presidential campaign rally in Dubuque, Iowa, Sept. 20, 2023.
Scott Morgan/Reuters, FILE

However in his ruling Friday, Judge Jones said he found "no evidence" that Clark's efforts were "within the scope of his role as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division," as required by the federal removal statute.

The move comes three weeks after a judge denied a similar bid by co-defendant Mark Meadows, Trump's former chief of staff, to have his case moved. That ruling is under appeal.

Trump and 18 others have pleaded not guilty to all charges in a sweeping racketeering indictment for alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state of Georgia. The former president says his actions were not illegal and that the investigation is politically motivated.

Trump's filing on Thursday said his decision is based on his "well-founded confidence that this Honorable Court intends to fully and completely protect his constitutional right to a fair trial and guarantee him due process of law throughout the prosecution of his case in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia."

Trump last month notified the court that he may file to remove, which the new filing says was done "in an abundance of caution."

"President Trump now notifies the Court that he will NOT be seeking to remove his case to federal court," Thursday's filing stated.

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