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Ex-Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark can’t move Georgia case to federal court, a judge says

US District Judge Steve Jones had earlier rejected a similar request from Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and is weighing the same question from three Georgia Republicans

Jeff Clark, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division
Jeffrey Clark, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, on Sept. 14, 2020.POOL (Reuters)

A judge on Friday rejected a request by former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark to move the Georgia election subversion charges against him from state court to federal court.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones said he was making no ruling on the merits of the charges against Clark, but he concluded that the federal court has no jurisdiction over the case. He said “the outcome of the case will be for a Fulton County judge and trier of fact to ultimately decide.”

Jones had earlier rejected a similar request from Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. He is weighing the same question from three Georgia Republicans who falsely certified that then-President Donald Trump won in 2020. They are among 19 people, including the former president himself, who have pleaded not guilty to participating in a wide-ranging scheme to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential victory and keep the Republican Trump in power.

The practical effects of moving to federal court would have been a jury pool that includes a broader area and is potentially more conservative than Fulton County alone and a trial that would not be photographed or televised, as cameras are not allowed inside federal courtrooms. But it would not have opened the door for Trump, if he’s reelected in 2024, or another president to issue pardons because any conviction would still happen under state law.

The indictment says Clark wrote a letter after the election that said the Justice Department had “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple States, including the State of Georgia” and asked top department officials to sign it and send it to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and state legislative leaders. Clark knew at the time that that statement was false, the indictment alleges.

Clark’s attorneys had argued that the actions described in the indictment related directly to his work as a federal official at the Justice Department. Clark at the time was the assistant attorney general overseeing the environment and natural resources division and was the acting assistant attorney general over the civil division.

But the judge said Clark provided no evidence to show that he was acting within the scope of his role in the Justice Department when he wrote a letter in December 2020 claiming the DOJ was investigating voter irregularities. “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 wrote.

Clark’s attorney contended at a Sept. 18 hearing that Clark’s actions had been authorized by Trump. But the judge said in Friday’s ruling that there was no evidence in the record that “definitively shows” that Trump directed Clark to write that letter.

“Instead, the evidence before this Court does not show the President’s involvement in this letter specifically until the January 3 meeting where the President decided not to send it to the Georgia officials,” the judge wrote.

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