Advertisement

Trump Judge in Georgia Case Tosses Some Counts Against Him

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump scored a partial victory in battling his Georgia prosecution for attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election when a judge dismissed several criminal counts against him and other defendants, though the bulk of the sprawling indictment remains in place.

Most Read from Bloomberg

Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee in Atlanta on Wednesday dismissed six counts of violation of oath by a public officer, including three against the former president, saying those counts didn’t spell out clearly how actions violated the law. The former president still faces 10 counts, including racketeering, related to his efforts to overturn his loss to Joe Biden in the swing state.

The indictment was flawed because the counts alleged state and federal constitutional violations without giving defendants “enough information to prepare their defenses intelligently,” McAfee ruled. One count involved Trump’s call on Jan. 2, 2021, to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, urging him to “find” just enough votes to reverse his loss to Biden.

Trump faces four criminal indictments as the presumed Republican nominee for a Biden rematch. Trump hopes for more good news from McAfee, who is weighing whether to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and her lead prosecutor on the election case, Nathan Wade. Several defendants claim their romantic relationship created a conflict of interest.

Attorney Steve Sadow, who represents Trump in Atlanta, said the ruling is “a correct application of the law, as the prosecution failed to make specific allegations of any alleged wrongdoing on those counts. The entire prosecution of President Trump is political, constitutes election interference, and should be dismissed.”

A spokesman for Willis declined to comment.

McAfee has not set a trial date in the case against Trump and 14 remaining co-defendants. Four others pleaded guilty. Willis accuses Trump of directing a conspiracy to spread false claims about voter fraud, pressure state officials to overturn Biden’s win, and promote a corrupt plan to win the state’s 16 Electoral College votes by appointing a slate of fake electors.

Keeping Up With Trump and His Trials: A Timeline of Court Dates

The indictment originally included 41 counts. The 35 remaining counts include racketeering, false statements and writings, impersonating a public officer, conspiracy to commit computer theft, perjury and forgery.

McAfee also dropped counts against other defendants, including Trump’s former attorney Rudy Giuliani and his one-time White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Trump’s other prosecutions include a federal indictment over the 2020 election and a state case in New York. Prosecutors allege he tried to influence the 2016 election by hiding payments he made to a porn star who claimed they had an affair a decade earlier. The trial starts on March 25.

McAfee wrote that he was concerned “less that the state has failed to allege sufficient conduct of the defendants – in fact it has alleged an abundance.” However, he wrote, “the lack of detail concerning an essential legal element” is “fatal” to the counts.

The judge dismissed counts alleging Trump solicited public officials to violate their oaths, including Raffensperger and the speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives. Prosecutors allege defendants sought to unlawfully appoint presidential electors and influence certified election returns.

Georgia State University law professor Anthony Kreis said McAfee’s decision was “imminently reasonable,” and left open the possibility that Willis could refile the charges with a sounder legal rationale.

“All the state really needs to do is to form a coherent constitutional theory of why what Donald Trump was asking state officials to do was impermissible, in violation of their oath,” Kreis said.

Kreis said evidence such as the Raffensperger call could still be used at trial.

One of the counts involved a letter that Trump sent to Raffensperger on Sept. 17, 2021 — more than 10 months after the election — urging him to start the process of “decertifying the election, or whatever the correct legal remedy is, and announce the true winner.”

(Updates with law professor’s comments)

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.