Georgia judge tosses some charges against Trump and others in election case

Washington — A Fulton County judge on Wednesday tossed out several counts brought against former President Donald Trump and five others in the case involving an alleged attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

The brief order from Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee states that six of the counts in the 41-count indictment returned by a Fulton County grand jury in August must be quashed. Of those six counts, Trump was charged with three of them.

Joining Trump in the challenge to the six counts were former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Ray Stallings Smith and David Cheeley. All had pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against them. 

Steve Sadow, Trump’s lawyer, said the court’s decision to quash the counts is the correct one.

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

McAfee’s ruling

The six counts relate to various alleged attempts to solicit state officials to violate their oaths of office, both to the Georgia Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. The judge wrote that the state failed to specify what those violations were, saying the allegations were “so generic as to compel this Court” to quash the six charges.

“The court’s concern is less that the state has failed to allege sufficient conduct of the defendants — in fact it has alleged an abundance. However, the lack of detail concerning an essential legal element is, in the undersigned’s opinion, fatal,” McAfee wrote.

He said that though the six counts as written contain “all the essential elements of the crimes,” they “fail to allege sufficient detail regarding the nature of their commission, i.e. the underlying felony solicited.” Additionally, they don’t give the defendants enough information to prepare their defenses “intelligently,” McAfee wrote, as they could have violated the Georgia and U.S. Constitutions “and thus the statute in dozens, if not hundreds, of distinct ways.”

Judge Scott McAfee at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024.
Judge Scott McAfee at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024.

Brynn Anderson/AP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

McAfee made clear that his finding does not mean the entire indictment against Trump and the 14 other co-defendants is dismissed. Instead, he said that Georgia prosecutors can seek a new indictment supplementing the six counts.

Trump was charged with 13 counts in the sprawling racketeering case brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis in August. He has pleaded not guilty. Eighteen others were charged alongside the former president for their roles in an alleged scheme to reverse the results of Georgia’s election, but four have since accepted plea deals.

McAfee’s order comes while he is weighing a separate request from Trump and eight of his co-defendants to disqualify Willis and her office from prosecuting the case because of an alleged improper relationship between Willis and Nathan Wade, one of the special prosecutors working with the district attorney’s office.

Wade was hired to work on the case involving Trump in November 2021. Michael Roman, a longtime GOP operative, alleged in a bombshell filing in January that the relationship with Willis began before Wade’s appointment. Roman claimed that the district attorney financially benefited from the relationship, saying Wade paid for numerous getaways using income he received for his work with the district attorney’s office.

Willis and Wade acknowledged in a court filing last month that they were in a romantic relationship, but said it began in early 2022 — months after Wade’s hiring — and ended last summer. 

Still, the bid to disqualify Willis and the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office from the case set off a series of fiery proceedings before McAfee last month. Willis and Wade separately took the stand to answer questions about their personal lives and financial dealings.

The two said they split expenses related to their trips and refuted claims of wrongdoing. McAfee is set to rule this week on whether to remove Willis and her office from the case.

Trump’s prosecution in Fulton County is one of four he is facing in federal and state courts. A trial is set to begin this month in New York City stemming from allegations he falsified business records in connection with a “hush money” payment to suppress damaging information about him before the 2016 presidential election.

He has also been charged in a pair of federal cases brought by special counsel Jack Smith in Wasington, D.C., and South Florida. The D.C. case involves alleged efforts to subvert the transfer of presidential power after the 2020 election, and the Florida case involves his alleged mishandling of sensitive government documents after leaving the White House.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and is seeking to delay any trials in the cases until after the November presidential election. He is set to face off against President Biden in a 2020 rematch.

Jared Eggleston contributed to this report.

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