Mark Meadows says he has immunity from state prosecution in Georgia RICO case because of Trump


Donald Trump speaks as White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows (R) listens from the South Lawn of the White House July 29, 2020. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.)

Donald Trump speaks as White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows (R) listens from the South Lawn of the White House July 29, 2020 (Alex Wong/Getty Images).

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows wants a Georgia judge to dismiss the lone remaining charge he faces in the racketeering (RICO) case against Donald Trump and others.

In a Monday filing uploaded to the public docket on Tuesday morning, the defendant insists he has “immunity from state prosecution” under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The 9-page brief asks Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee to hold an evidentiary hearing in order to dispense with arguments from the state and Meadows on the immunity defense. In the event McAfee decides to do so, Meadows would likely be compelled to testify under oath in proceedings that would be live-streamed by the court.

The defense filing offers legal arguments in support of so-called Supremacy Clause immunity and responds to those previously made against such immunity by the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office.

“The State primarily argues that the federal courts have already foreclosed Mr. Meadows’s immunity defense,” the brief by attorney James D. Durham reads. “That contention is flatly wrong.”

Integral to the constitutional immunity arguments are several earlier failed attempts by Meadows to have his case moved to federal court.

In September 2023, U.S. District Judge Steve CarMichael Jones denied Meadows’ request. Days later, Meadows moved to stay his Fulton County case pending an appeal of the removal decision against him. In mid-December 2023, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit heard oral arguments. Days after that, the appellate court unanimously denied Meadows’ removal request as well. Undeterred, the 45th president’s onetime right-hand man then asked the full appellate court to rehear his case — an effort that was tersely rejected in a two-sentence order in late February.

Prosecutors say the prior federal court proceedings — particularly the “evidentiary record” developed at the district court level — mean Meadows has already lost on Supremacy Clause immunity.

“Having failed to persuade either the District Court or the Eleventh Circuit that he is being prosecuted for actions relating to his official duties as former Chief of Staff to the President, the Defendant now asks this Court to dismiss the case against him on that very basis,” Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis argued in a 361-page motion earlier this month. “In order to grant the relief the Defendant requests, this Court would therefore be required to ignore the factual findings and the legal reasoning of two federal courts.”

The defense says that position misstates the law.

“The federal removal decisions have no precedential impact or preclusive effect on Mr. Meadows’ motion to dismiss,” the defendant’s filing reads. “The State is dead wrong as to the authority of those opinions and invites error by this Court. The federal courts have resolved only a threshold jurisdictional question under a federal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442(a), the Federal Officer Removal Statute. Neither the district court nor the Eleventh Circuit ever ruled on the merits of Mr. Meadows’s Supremacy Clause immunity defense. The Eleventh Circuit decision has no binding preclusive effect here, and in any event, it never purported to resolve the immunity issue anyway.”

In other words, the defense claims the failed efforts to move the case to federal court were only about jurisdiction while the state insists the courts that rejected those efforts necessarily had to address the merits of the claimed defense in order to rule on the jurisdictional issue.

Meadows presses the merits of his immunity claim by arguing that he is charged over actions that had “some nexus with furthering federal policy,” and that he “was acting well within his federal role” when he took several steps to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

While prosecutors recently suffered a substantial setback due to McAfee dismissing all but one of Meadows’ charges, the state claims he committed eight predicate acts that undergird the remaining RICO charge. At least one of those acts, prosecutors say, “was arguably related to the Defendant’s color of office as Chief of Staff.”

Meadows disclaims any state authority to interrogate what he did while working under Trump’s orders.

“[A]s a matter of law, the contours of that role cannot be defined by any state authority, whether local prosecutor or state judge; instead, they are defined entirely by federal law, without reference to state law,” the defense brief argues. “[T]he notion adopted by the Eleventh Circuit panel that a former White House Chief of Staff is not entitled to a federal forum to defend himself against criminal charges related to his work for the President of the United States is at odds with everything the federal-officer removal statute has long been understood to accomplish.”

So, the decision will be in McAfee’s hands — at least for now.

“The time for Mr. Meadows to file a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States has not yet expired,” the defense brief notes, teasing the possibility of one final removal appeal.

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