CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Major developments Tuesday in the Fulton County election subversion case

Aug 23, 2023, 8:30 AM

A view of the Fulton County Jail where former President Donald Trump and 18 of his allies are requi...

A view of the Fulton County Jail where former President Donald Trump and 18 of his allies are required to surrender and be booked. Photo credit: Cheney Orr/Reuters

(CNN) — The first two of former President Donald Trump’s co-defendants surrendered at the Fulton County jail on Tuesday, while a pair of defendants sought to move their cases to federal court – signs of how the sprawling case will progress in multiple directions this week.

And two former President Trump administration officials – including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows – asked a federal court to intervene to block their pending arrests in Georgia.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has charged President Trump and 18 others of participating in schemes to meddle with Georgia’s election results. All 19 co-defendants are expected to surrender ahead of a Friday deadline set by Willis when she unveiled last week’s sweeping indictment over attempts to overturn President Trump’s 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden.

Former President Trump, who agreed to a $200,000 bond on Monday, said he plans to turn himself in on Thursday.

Here are the major developments Tuesday:

Republican state chairman blames Trump

Former Georgia GOP chairman David Shafer, who led the state’s delegation of fake electors, said in a court filing that he and the other fake electors “acted at the direction of the incumbent President and other federal officials.”

Shafer, a longtime member of the Georgia state Senate, played a key role in organizing the former President Trump campaign’s slate of fake electors in the state. He convened the 16 fake electors in the Georgia state capital in December 2020, where they signed a certificate falsely proclaiming that Trump won the state.

Unlike President Trump or some other defendants, however, Shafer has not been part of the federal government. His attorneys say what matters is he was given orders from the top.

“Attorneys for the President and Mr. Shafer specifically instructed Mr. Shafer, verbally and in writing, that the Republican electors’ meeting and casting their ballots on December 14, 2020 was consistent with counsels’ advice and was necessary to preserve the presidential election contest,” the filing states.

Shafer falsely claimed “thousands of people” voted illegally in the state while casting his vote as a fake elector on Dec., 14, 2020, according to a transcript of the secretive closed-door meeting Shafer made public.

The transcript indicates that at least two President Trump officials were in the room: President Trump campaign attorney Ray Smith – who was charged alongside President Trump and Shafer in the Georgia indictment – and Robert Sinners, an unindicted co-conspirator who was President Trump’s Election Day operations lead in the state.

Meadows, former DOJ official seek to avoid arrest

Both Meadows and Jeffrey Clark, the former Justice Department official indicted after trying to use his federal law enforcement powers to overturn the 2020 election, have asked a federal judge to block them from being arrested by local authorities.

Meadows asked a federal court to issue an order that would prevent Willis from seeking his arrest after the passage of the Friday self-surrender deadline that she has set out for the defendants in the election subversion case.

Meadows, in a new court filing Tuesday, pointed to the court’s plans to hold a hearing Monday on his request that the state court prosecution against him be moved to federal court, where he is seeking the dismissal of the charges against him.

Clark, in a separate filing, argued that his notice of removal as well as the notice of removal filed by Meadows last week has the effect of moving the entire state court case – for all 19 co-defendants – to federal court.

Clark says his status as a federal officer when he engaged in the alleged conduct that led to the charges requires the dismissal of the charges against him. He also says the process for removal of civil proceedings applies in the Fulton County case, because of Willis’ use of a special purpose grand jury.

Clark also asked the federal court put an emergency hold on the state court proceedings, “including any attempted issuance or execution of arrest warrants.”

“If the Court grants a stay or TRO that quickly, Mr. Clark would not need to be put the choice of making rushed travel arrangements to fly into Atlanta or instead risking being labeled a fugitive,” he wrote.

A federal judge has given Willis until mid-afternoon Wednesday to respond.

Prosecutors issue subpoenas

The Fulton County district attorney’s office, meanwhile, issued subpoenas Tuesday to two people who had listened in on President Trump’s January 2021 call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as prosecutors plan to counter Meadows’ bid to get the case tossed.

According to court filings, the subpoenas issued to two lawyers – Kurt Hilbert and Alex Kaufman – requested that they appear to testify in federal court on Monday at a hearing on Meadows’ request.

The subpoenas do not spell out why they are being called to testify at the hearing. However, the Raffensperger call is key to the case that Willis has brought against Meadows.

The grand jury indictment alleges that Meadows, along with President Trump, unlawfully solicited the violation of oath by a public officer with the call. The call also was listed as an overt act in the racketeering conspiracy charge that has been brought against Meadows, President Trump and the other 17 defendants in the case.

Hilbert spoke on the call about data he claimed showed that thousands of votes in Georgia were cast illegally, while asking for the secretary of state’s office to provide its internal data that could speak to the claims. Kaufman appeared to be referred to as “Alex” by Trump on the call, and confirmed to the Atlanta Jewish Times that he was listening to the call – but didn’t speak – in his capacity as general counsel for the Fulton County Republican Party.

US District Judge Steve Jones, who is presiding over Meadows’ request to move the prosecution against him to federal court, has said Monday’s hearing on the request will be an evidentiary one.

First defendants surrender

John Eastman, a right-wing lawyer who advised President Trump on plots to disrupt Congress’ certification of the 2020 election results, turned himself in Tuesday morning, shortly after Scott Hall, a bail bondsman in Atlanta.

Both Eastman and Hall, who reached bond agreements on Monday, were processed at the Fulton County jail in roughly an hour and released on Tuesday.

Eastman devised and promoted a six-step plan for Pence to overturn President Biden’s election victory while presiding over the Electoral College certification on January 6. He also urged Georgia state lawmakers to appoint fake GOP electors to replace the legitimate slate of Democratic electors. A bipartisan array of legal scholars have said Eastman’s schemes were unconstitutional.

Eastman was also referenced, though not explicitly by name, as an unindicted co-conspirator in special counsel Jack Smith’s federal election subversion case against former President Trump.

“I am here today to surrender to an indictment that should never have been brought,” Eastman said in a statement Tuesday. “It represents a crossing of the Rubicon for our country, implicating the fundamental First Amendment right to petition the government for redress of grievances.”

Bond agreements continue to be discussed

Willis was seen inside the Fulton County courthouse complex Tuesday morning as more co-defendants in the case reached bond agreements with her office, allowing them to be released pending trial.

Shafer’s bond agreement was disclosed on Tuesday even as he sought to move his case to federal court. As part of the deal, Shafer agreed to a $75,000 bond. The bond allows Shafer to be released from jail after turning himself in.

He also agreed to follow rules similar to those of his co-defendants who have also struck bond agreement deals, including being barred from discussing the case with witnesses.

Additional bond agreements reached Tuesday included: a $50,000 bond for President Trump campaign official Mike Roman; a $75,000 bond for Cathy Latham, who acted as one of the “fake electors” in Georgia; a $100,000 bond for attorney Jenna Ellis; a $50,000 bond for Georgia-based trial attorney Robert Cheeley; a $75,000 bond for Stephen Lee, an Illinois-based pastor accused of intimidating a Georgia election worker after the 2020 election; and a $10,000 bond for Shawn Still, who served as a fake elector.

Rudy Giuliani is set to meet with the district attorney’s office Wednesday to discuss a bond agreement, according to multiple sources.

He is expected to travel to Georgia with former New York police commissioner Bernie Kerik who has been working with the former mayor to help him find a Georgia lawyer to represent him in this case, according to one of those sources.

Giuliani is expected to have a lawyer with a Georgia license to represent him during the bond negotiations, according to a second source. It is unclear if that attorney would represent him throughout the case.

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Major developments Tuesday in the Fulton County election subversion case