“He’s in big trouble”: Experts say Mark Meadows’ “goose is cooked” after new Fani Willis filing

Meadows' attorneys made a "catastrophic blunder" in bid to move case to federal court, law professor says

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published September 1, 2023 8:56AM (EDT)

Mark Meadows (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
Mark Meadows (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis fired back at former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Thursday after a judge questioned whether his case should be moved to federal court.

Meadows, who was charged alongside former President Donald Trump and 17 others in Willis' sprawling racketeering indictment, is seeking to remove his state charges to federal court, arguing that his charged conduct fell under his official federal duties as chief of staff and seeking to dismiss the charges. U.S. District Judge Steve Jones, an Obama appointee overseeing Meadows' request, asked both parties to submit arguments on whether a single overt act out of dozens cited in the indictment is enough to require removal of the charges to federal court.

Willis' team in a filing on Thursday argued that Meadows' alleged actions were part of a greater sweeping scheme to aid Trump's post-election crusade and that even one official should not be enough to boot his case to federal court.

"The circumstances of this case are easily distinguishable," prosecutors wrote. "The defendant conspired not for any purpose related to his duties as chief of staff, but to transform Mr. Trump from a losing political candidate into a winning one, no matter what the outcome of the election had actually been."

"Here's the crux of the argument from the Fulton County DA opposing Meadow's motion to remove to federal court," explained Georgia State University Law Prof. Anthony Michael Kreis. "Even if some of Meadows' acts fell within his duties, he's not being charged for them. He's being charged for joining in an unlawful enterprise to overturn the election."

Meadows' attorneys in a response argued that Willis' argument was not enough to prevent the state from being transferred to federal court.

"Removal is also required, even if the State has charged some acts beyond Mr. Meadows's official duties, because what controls is Mr. Meadows's articulation of his federal defense, not the State's articulation of its state charges," Meadows' attorneys wrote.

We need your help to stay independent

Jones has not said when he plans to rule but has said that the case could set a precedent. At least four other defendants — former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, former Georgia GOP Chair David Shafer, state Sen. Shawn Still, and former Coffee County GOP chair Cathy Latham — are also seeking to remove their charges to federal court, where they could potentially draw a more favorable jury pool and perhaps a judge appointed by Trump.

Kreis tweeted that he had been unsure on whether Meadows' move would work but after Thursday's filings said he is "confident Willis has the strongest legal argument. Anything is possible but I would be shocked if any pending motion for removal is granted."

"Mark Meadows' goose is cooked on federal removal— and so is every other defendant. If you're Jeff Clark, Shawn Still, Kathy Latham, or David Shafer you're in trouble. Testifying opens you to cross with little hope. But not taking the stand gets you absolutely nowhere," he wrote.

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

"Meadows is in big trouble," agreed Lee Kovarsky, a law professor and expert on the removal statute at the University of Texas, arguing that Willis' argument is "MUCH stronger."

To get removal, a federal officer must show that the indicted conduct is both under the auspices of his official duties and "a colorable federal defense," meaning it can defeat the charge. But Meadows "made no arguments" on the second point, he explained, calling it a "catastrophic blunder."

Though Meadows argues that the Constitution's Supremacy Clause gives him immunity from state charges, the Supremacy Clause "can't be a complete defense to a RICO charge here even if it knocked out *all* overt acts — let alone something less than all of them."

"A defense is not 'colorable' unless it is capable of defeating the count. And on this argument, it's not just that Willis 'gets the better of it.' Meadows lawyers didn't even get to it," he concluded. "He's in big trouble."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

MORE FROM Igor Derysh

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Donald Trump Fani Willis Mark Meadows Politics