A judge denied former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark’s attempt to move his Georgia charges to federal court Friday, dealing another significant blow to the early defense strategy being pursued by several charged individuals in former President Trump’s Georgia case.
Like the others, Clark argued he was acting in his capacity as a federal official, an assertion that, if accepted, could provide a pathway for him to assert immunity.
But U.S. District Judge Steve Jones, an Obama appointee, in a 31-page ruling rejected Clark’s argument Friday, the second such time Jones has done so for a defendant.
“The Court concludes that Clark has not submitted evidence to meet his burden to show that his actions were causally related to his federal office,” Jones wrote in his decision.
He previously rejected an attempt mounted by Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, though Meadows is appealing. Jones has not yet ruled on the requests to move courts filed by the three “fake electors” charged in the indictment.
Trump’s lawyer said Thursday he will not try to move his prosecution to federal court.
“This decision is based on his well-founded confidence that this Honorable Court intends to fully completely protect his constitutional right to a fair trial and guarantee him due process of law throughout the prosecution of his case in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia,” Trump attorney Steve Sadow wrote in court filings.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) has opposed each attempt, seeking to keep the defendants all in state court.
The dispute over moving the charges, a process known as removal, has become one of the major legal battles in the case since Willis indicted Trump and 18 others last month, accusing them of entering a months-long conspiracy to unlawfully keep Trump in power.
If successful in removing their charges, the defendants have signaled they intend to follow-up by asserting constitutional immunity to get their charges dropped before trial.
Even if they were to go on to face a jury, removing the charges would broaden the jury pool to areas of northern Georgia beyond heavily-Democratic Fulton County. It would also prevent the proceedings from being televised.
Some legal experts believe that if any one defendant is successful in getting their charges moved, the other 18 co-defendants would automatically move with them.
Clark is charged over his desire to send a letter to Georgia officials raising concerns of mass election fraud. Prosecutors allege Clark knew the letter included a false statement, also claiming that Clark’s superiors at the Justice Department told him it was a lie and that neither he nor the department had authority to make the fraud claims.
Prosecutors have pushed back on Clark’s assertion that his efforts to try to send the letter were within the scope of his Justice Department job. Clark at the time oversaw the Justice Department’s environmental division and, in an acting capacity, the civil division.
Clark argued Trump changed his job responsibilities to include election-related matters. Trump had at one point following the 2020 election wanted to have Clark lead the Justice Department (DOJ) as he latched onto baseless claims of fraud.
Jones, the judge, ruled that Clark submitted “no evidence” the letter in question was written within the scope of his DOJ role.
“To the contrary, the evidence before the Court indicates the opposite: Clark’s role in the Civil Division did not include any role in the investigation or oversight of State elections,” Jones said.