Georgia prosecutors argued Wednesday that Mark Meadows cannot move his criminal charges to federal court because he no longer works at the White House.
Meadows, former President Trump’s White House chief of staff, is trying to move his two charges so he can assert immunity. After a federal judge previously rejected his attempt, he is now appealing to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The outcome is poised to impact not only Meadows but also several other defendants in the case, who are similarly attempting to move their charges.
They cite a statute that allows federal officials to move criminal charges out of state court in certain circumstances. Before ruling on Meadows’s appeal, the 11th Circuit asked Meadows and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) to opine on whether the law extends to former officials.
“The answer is ‘yes.’ A former official may remove under § 1442(a)(1), ” Meadows’s attorneys responded in court filings Wednesday.
Willis took the opposite view.
“While it appears that no court has ever squarely addressed this jurisdictional question, well-established principles of statutory construction and the federal interests served by 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1) answer it: Only current federal officers may remove state actions to federal court under the authority granted by Section 1442(a)(1),” prosecutors wrote.
Willis charged Meadows and 18 others last month in a sprawling racketeering indictment, arguing they entered a months-long criminal conspiracy to keep Trump in power. Meadows and the other defendants all pleaded not guilty.
Beyond Meadows, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and three pro-Trump figures who signed documents purporting to be Georgia’s valid presidential electors are also trying to move their charges out of state court.
Trump himself has also signaled he may make such an attempt.
The provision at issue is silent as to whether it applies to former officials, and central to the debate is the impact of a neighboring section, where the distinction is spelled out.
“This Court should recognize that the discrepancy in the language used by Congress in drafting and enacting these two subsections of the same statute was intentional, and Section 1442(a)(1), properly interpreted, cannot authorize removal of a state criminal prosecution against a former federal officer,” Willis’s office argued in court filings.
Meadows’s attorneys, meanwhile, wrote that there “is no reason to think the difference in wording reflects a ‘deliberate choice’ by Congress as opposed to mere ‘inadvertence.’”
Once it resolves the question over whether the statute applies to former officials, the 11th Circuit will have to grapple with whether the allegations in the indictment were within the scope of Meadows’s duties as chief of staff. A federal judge ruled they were not, rejecting Meadows’s effort to move his charges.
Meadows has separately asked the 11th Circuit to put his prosecution on hold until it can resolve his appeal. He had made a similar request to a lower court, but it was denied earlier Wednesday.
The 11th Circuit has not yet ruled on the pause request, which Willis opposes, and scheduled oral arguments on the motion for Friday morning.
The court previously agreed to expedite Meadows’s full appeal, likely paving the way for it to issue a final ruling in a matter of weeks. The losing side could then appeal to the Supreme Court.
Updated: 6:25 p.m.