By Jack Phillips
Former President Donald Trump on Jan. 8 filed several motions to dismiss his election case in Fulton County, Georgia, where he and more than a dozen others face state charges over their challenge of the 2020 election results.
The former president’s legal team argued in one filing that as president, he was legally entitled to immunity from prosecution. The arguments are similar to ones he made in a separate case in Washington, where he was indicted by special counsel Jack Smith on federal charges relating to his activity after the 2020 election.
His lawyers have argued that he was working in his official capacity as president when he moved to investigate what he described as election fraud following the election.
“The indictment in this case charges President Trump for acts that lie at the heart of his official responsibilities as President,“ President Trump’s lawyers wrote in the Georgia case. ”The indictment is barred by presidential immunity and should be dismissed with prejudice.”
The “historical practice over 234 years” in the United States has reaffirmed that the capacity to charge a current or former president “does not exist,” his legal team, led by attorney Steve Sadow, argued. “Such immunity is particularly appropriate for the President because the Presidency involves especially sensitive duties, requires bold and unhesitating action, and would be crippled by the threat of politically motivated prosecutions,” they wrote.
Any communication between the former president and state officials in connection to the 2020 election fell within his “official duties” as president, they added.
“Making statements to the public on matters of national concern—especially matters involving core federal interests, such as the administration of a federal election—lies in the heartland of the President’s historic role and responsibility,” his attorneys wrote.
His lawyers argued in separate motions that the case brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat, should be dismissed on due process administrative grounds and that it should be scrapped based on the Constitution’s 5th Amendment, which includes a clause that a defendant cannot be charged twice with the same crime.
“President Trump has filed three persuasive, meritorious pretrial motions seeking a complete dismissal of the indictment and thus an end to the Fulton County District Attorney’s politically-based prosecution,” Mr. Sadow told Atlanta News First. “Also still pending is President Trump’s First Amendment as-applied challenge which seeks the same relief.”
The Fulton County district attorney’s office has claimed that President Trump’s post-2020 efforts in Georgia were tantamount to a pressure campaign against various state officials to overturn the election in the state.
A number of other individuals were charged in the case, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. President Trump, Mr. Giuliani, and several others have pleaded not guilty, although several of the co-defendants have since taken plea deals.
January 8 was the deadline for pretrial motions in the Georgia case, which is being overseen by Judge Scott McAfee. Fulton County officials have said they want the trial to start in August, which could be in the middle of President Trump’s 2024 general election campaign if he wins the GOP nomination. Currently, he’s far ahead in national polling.
In November, Ms. Willis said at an event that she believes that “there will be a trial” including the former president that will “take many months.” However, according to her, it likely won’t conclude “until the winter or the very early part of 2025.”
About a month later, the district attorney told The Associated Press in an interview that she doesn’t believe that the election-related case should be paused.
“If the prosecutor finds that they violated the law, they have an ethical duty to bring forth charges and so this is a silly notion to me that because one runs [for] office that your criminal case would stop,” she said.
Another Immunity Claim
The former president has also, in court papers, filed an appeal of his Washington election case. That court will hear arguments in the case on Jan. 9, and President Trump indicated on Jan. 8 that he would attend.
He wrote, “I will be attending … the federal appeals court arguments on presidential immunity in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.” He added that he was “entitled … to immunity” when he was president.
“I wasn’t campaigning, the election was long over. I was looking for voter fraud, and finding it, which is my obligation to do, and otherwise … running our country,” he wrote, referring to his efforts after the 2020 election concluded and while he was still president.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, an Obama appointee who is presiding over his election case, previously rejected President Trump’s immunity argument in December before it was appealed to the higher court. At the same time, the special counsel made a filing to the U.S. Supreme Court to quickly hear and rule on the immunity case, but the high court rejected his petition, sending it back to the lower courts.