The Fulton County, Georgia case against former President Donald Trump could be moved to federal court. The decision will be based on whether Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has jurisdiction over what many law experts believe is a federal issue.
A second evidentiary hearing has been ordered by U.S. District Judge Steve Jones who will make the decision. The charges against 19 defendants revolve around Georgia’s Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act in their questioning of the 2020 election results.
Jeffrey Clark, a former Department of Justice (DOJ) official, filed a notice of removal on Aug. 21, requesting that his case be moved from state to federal court, where he’s expecting the charges to be dismissed. A request to expedite the process before the arrest deadline was denied by Judge Steve Jones of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, who will oversee the hearings related to removals.
The hearing will take place on Sept. 18, and the district attorney’s office has until Sept. 5 to file a response.
The indictment accuses Clark of violating the RICO Act, as well as allegedly making a false statement when he issued a DOJ statement alerting Georgia officials to election fraud concerns. He’s arguing that he acted as a federal official and thus “asserts federal jurisdiction” in the case.
“The Court now must determine if it clearly lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Clark’s removal action, which would require summary remand,” Judge Jones wrote, noting that he isn’t commenting on the assertions at this time but expects to hear arguments from both sides at the Sept. 18 hearing.
David Shafer, an alternate elector in the 2020 general election in Georgia and former chair of the Republican Party in Georgia, also filed a notice of removal. He argued that the alternate elector position was legitimized by an act of Congress and that therefore he can claim federal immunity as well. He also argued that, because he was working “at direction” of President Trump and the president’s lawyers,’ he would at minimum qualify for acting under the color of a federal officer if not considered one himself.
There is speculation as to whether President Trump would do the same, given that a president can’t pardon a state conviction but only a federal one.
“The Fulton County District Attorney, they’re going to fight this [removal] tooth and nail, for the simple reason that they want to get as much publicity as possible, and they want to keep this local. But I do believe this is a federal case,” criminal defense attorney David Gelman told NTD. “These RICO charges that are being brought against the president are RICO statutes even though the Fulton County DA did bring them in state court. This really is a federal case.”
DA Willis had previously run a campaign for office on the pledge to indict and imprison Trump for alleged wrongdoing.