By Jack Queen
(Reuters) -Charges against Donald Trump’s onetime chief of staff Mark Meadows over efforts to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election will not be heard in federal court, a sign that similar bids by the former U.S. president and his co-defendants to move the criminal case to a more favorable venue will fail.
Friday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Steve Jones denying Meadows’ request to move his case from state to federal court is an early win for Fulton County, Georgia, prosecutors, who in August charged Trump and 18 others with conspiring to overturn Trump’s 2020 loss to Democratic President Joe Biden.
Trump, the frontrunnner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.
Meadows is accused of arranging calls and meetings in which prosecutors say Trump pressured election officials to change the vote count in his favor, including a call where he urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to deliver him the state. He has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors had argued that those acts were not “necessary and proper” duties for a U.S. president and his chief of staff, but Meadows said they were part of his portfolio as Trump’s top White House aide. The law allows a defendant to have their case heard in federal court if the charges against them stem from their official duties.
A lawyer for Meadows did not immediately return a request for comment. He could appeal the ruling.
Meadows could have faced a friendlier jury pool in federal court, which draws from a larger and more politically diverse area than Fulton County, Georgia, the Democratic stronghold where the case was filed.
Moving to federal court would have also allowed Meadows to argue that he is immune from state prosecution because he was carrying out his duties as a federal official.
Meadows, Trump and 17 others were charged in a sprawling indictment in August. Prosecutors allege they pressured state officials to change Georgia’s election result in Trump’s favor and conspired to undermine the Electoral College, a largely ceremonial body that formally elects the president.
Trump has said the criminal case and three others he faces are part of a political plot aimed at preventing him from retaking the White House in the November 2024 election.
He is also under indictment in Florida for his handling of classified documents upon leaving office, in Washington D.C. for his efforts to overturn the election and in New York over a hush money payment he paid to a porn star.
Trump has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty in all three cases.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh and Jack Queen;Editing by Dan Wallis and Noeleen Walder)