Trump Official Jeffrey Clark Loses Bid to Move Georgia Trial to Federal Court – On Friday, a federal judge, Steven Jones, rejected Jeffrey Clark plea to move his criminal case for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia from state to federal court. The judge determined that Clark had not demonstrated that his actions fell within the purview of his official duties.
This decision, which follows Donald Trump’s choice not to pursue a similar request, means that Clark will face trial in Fulton County Superior Court, which has a predominantly Democratic jury pool. Unless the 11th Circuit Appeals Court overturns this ruling, this will be the venue for Clark’s trial. In the extensive Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act case initiated by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis last month, Jeffrey Clark faced charges along with Donald Trump and other key associates.
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These charges stem from Clark’s drafting of a letter in December 2020, falsely asserting that the Department of Justice was probing alleged election fraud in Georgia. The letter was not dispatched to Georgia officials, and Clark contended that he was operating under the umbrella of his official responsibilities as the acting US assistant attorney general for the civil division when he composed the memo. He believed this made him exempt from state prosecution under a specific federal law.
However, the judge dismissed his claims in a 15-page ruling, stating that the evidence at hand did not support his position. Furthermore, the judge found his attempts to demonstrate that he met a three-part eligibility test to transfer his case to federal court to be unsuccessful. “The letter pertained to election fraud and election interference concerns that were outside the gamut of his federal office. Consequently, Clark has not shown the required nexus for federal officer removal,” Jones wrote.
At an evidentiary hearing last week, Clark presented two distinct arguments. The first was his claim that, in his role as the head of the civil division, he was allowed to draft legal memos. The second argument centered on his belief that, as an assistant attorney general, he had the authority to work for any of the justice department’s sub-sections. However, the judge ultimately rejected Clark’s first argument, reasoning that election-related matters were never within the scope of the civil division’s responsibilities.
The civil division’s primary role is to defend against lawsuits targeting the United States or federal executive branch officers. The sole witness who spoke during the hearing, Jody Hunt, Clark’s predecessor as the leader of the civil division, contradicted Clark’s assertion and confirmed that matters related to election irregularities would fall under the jurisdiction of either the civil rights division or the criminal division.
The judge wrote that deposition transcripts showed that even Clark’s own assistant who helped him draft the letter, Kenneth Klukowski, had recounted to prosecutors he had been “shocked” at the assignment because “election-related matters are not part of the civil’s portfolio”. During the hearing, Clark’s attorney argued that in 2020, Clark held a unique position because he defended Vice President Mike Pence in an election-related lawsuit.
However, the judge rejected this argument, stating that Clark defended the suit because Pence was sued as an actual federal officer. Additionally, the judge completely dismissed Clark’s second argument, which claimed he acted within the scope of his Justice Department role because Trump could have delegated him the authority to draft the December 2020 letter. Clark failed to provide any evidence to support this claim.
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Clark’s lawyer, Harry MacDougal, contended during the hearing that Trump had “ratified” Clark’s involvement in investigating election fraud allegations due to his participation in an Oval Office meeting on 3 January 2020.
However, the judge noted it was unclear whether Trump had expressly given Clark authority to write the letter. “Other than his counsel’s own vague and uncertain assertions, the Court has no evidence that the President directed Clark to work on election-related matters,” Jones wrote.