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Appellate court rebuffs Meadows on moving Georgia election case

One judge urges Congress to revisit the law

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had sought to move the case from state to federal court, arguing a federal law protects executive branch officials acting in the course of their duties.
Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had sought to move the case from state to federal court, arguing a federal law protects executive branch officials acting in the course of their duties. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A federal appeals court ruled Monday against former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ effort to move Georgia’s case against him related to the 2020 election to federal court, finding the federal law at issue doesn’t cover former officials.

Meadows, who faces charges of conspiracy and solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer, is one of more than a dozen co-conspirators, including former President Donald Trump, facing charges in Fulton County, Ga. Meadows had sought to move the case from state to federal court, arguing a federal law protects executive branch officials acting in the course of their duties.

However, both a federal district judge and now a unanimous panel of judges at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit have disagreed. The judges heard arguments in the case on Friday.

The opinion by Chief Judge William Pryor Jr., issued Monday said the law didn’t apply to former officials like Meadows. “Even if it did, the events giving rise to this criminal action were not related to Meadows’s official duties,” the opinion said.

“Simply put, whatever the precise contours of Meadows’s official authority, that authority did not extend to an alleged conspiracy to overturn valid election results,” Pryor wrote.

The ruling came just days after Meadows’ attorney faced skepticism from Pryor and the other judges of the court Friday.

Although the decision was unanimous, Judge Robin Rosenbaum wrote separately to urge Congress to amend the law so it covered former officials. Leaving the status quo “comes with a great potential cost to our government and those who serve in it” by leaving federal officials open to state charges for their official duties, she said.

The case stems from Meadows’ appeal of a decision from U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones of the Northern District of Georgia earlier this year. Jones ruled that Meadows wasn’t acting in his role as White House chief of staff when he participated in Trump’s attempt to overturn the election result.

Meadows, a former member of Congress from North Carolina, was Trump’s last chief of staff, taking the post in March 2020.

The Georgia indictment alleged Meadows helped Trump’s effort to overturn the election numerous times through the fall of 2020. That included a White House meeting with a Michigan state House member at which Trump discussed false claims of fraud.

Meadows also helped coordinate communications with state officials trying to overturn the election results and plans to disrupt the Jan. 6, 2021, counting of the electoral college votes on Capitol Hill, according to the indictment.

The indictment said Meadows participated in a Jan. 2, 2021, call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger at which Trump exhorted the election official to “find” enough votes to overturn the result in Georgia.

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