Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows testified for nearly four hours on Monday as he seeks to get his Fulton County charges moved to federal court.
Meadows in what experts called a “high-risk gamble” took the stand himself during an evidentiary hearing before U.S. District Judge Scott Jones, arguing that his post-election efforts on behalf of Trump were part of his official duties. Meadows is seeking to move the case to federal court, where he may draw a more favorable judge and jury pool and can argue that he is immune from state-level charges if his actions fell under his official duties. District Attorney Fani Willis has argued that Meadows’ actions violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits political activity by federal employees, which undercuts his defense.
Meadows testified that being chief of staff was a 24/7 job, arguing that his election-related activities were related to his job advising Trump, according to CNN.
New York University Law Prof. Ryan Goodman detailed key parts of Meadows’ testimony, warning that he made some incriminating admissions on the stand.
Meadows testified that he recommended Trump reach out to Georgia Secretary of State Chief Investigator Frances Watson, on which Trump falsely claimed that he won the state by “hundreds of thousands of votes.”
“In his own words, that is an incriminating admission that he recommended Trump make the call to Watson that is part of the alleged conspiracy,” Goodman wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
Meadows also acknowledged that he had “no reason to doubt” then-Attorney General Bill Barr’s conclusion that the fraud claims were meritless.
“Meadows adds that he believed at the time ‘further investigation’ was still warranted. That’s not enough to help him,” Goodman wrote, arguing that he believes “Meadows in some respects has even more criminal exposure than Trump.”
Meadows later testified that he set up Trump’s infamous call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find a “less-litigious way of resolving” the fraud concerns but claimed he could not remember details for arranging for attorney Cleta Mitchell and two other Trump campaign lawyers to be on the call.
“I think he is toast,” Goodman predicted.
Marc Short, who served as a top adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence, rejected Meadows’ claim on Monday that he was acting in his official capacity.
“If that was true, then why was he circumventing all the White House counsel’s advice? Why wasn’t Pat Cipollone involved? … Why wasn’t DOJ involved?” he questioned. “Instead, Mark recruited outside lawyers [to] whom he wanted to listen. And so I think that undercuts the notion that ‘this was all part of my federal responsibility,'” he added.
“Meadows’ position boils down to a claim that if Trump robbed a bank while president and Meadows helped him, that would be part of his official duties as chief of staff because his job was to help Trump with whatever he was doing,” wrote Randall Eliason, a professor at the George Washington University Law School. “I don’t think that’s gonna fly.”
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Legal experts argued Meadows’ risk may not have paid off as he hoped.
“I do think this was a rough day for Mark Meadows,” CNN legal analyst Elie Honig said Monday, according to Mediaite. “I think it’s one thing to assert generally, ‘Well, as chief of staff I had broad duties.’ But it’s another thing to be cross-examined as he was today about very specific actions and phone calls and to sort of justify that within the scope of the chief of staff’s job.”
Georgia State Law Prof. Anthony Michael Kreis told the network that Meadows “had a very hard time today in trying to make a case.”
Though Meadows tried to offer a sweeping job description for his duties, he “didn’t really have a very good answer” when prosecutors questioned why he offered Trump campaign cash to speed up an election audit, why he coordinated the Raffensperger call and other meetings between campaign officials and fake electors, and why he did not bring in the DOJ to investigate, Kreis explained.
“He had a really tough time today. I think Brad Raffensperger made it even tougher when he came in to court and basically said that… there was no lawful outcome to change the election,” he added. “So it was a pretty tough day. That said, it’s a low threshold for Mark Meadows to show in order to have this removed to federal court.”
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