By Jack Queen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Donald Trump may seek to move the Georgia criminal case in which he is accused of conspiring to overturn his 2020 U.S. election loss from state to federal court – a potentially more favorable venue for the former president, his lawyer said in a court filing on Thursday.
Several of Trump’s 18 co-defendants, including his former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, have filed petitions to move their cases to federal court since being charged last month following an investigation led by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.
Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination to face Democratic President Joe Biden in the 2024 election, has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty, as have the rest of the defendants.
Trump and the other defendants were indicted on charges that they unlawfully pressured Georgia election officials to overturn Biden’s election victory in the state.
Steven Sadow, a lawyer for Trump, wrote in a one-page court filing, “President Trump hereby notifies the court that he may seek removal of his prosecution to federal court.”
Federal court could be more favorable for Trump because he would face a more politically diverse jury pool than in Fulton County, a Democratic stronghold. A federal trial would also allow him to argue that he is immune from prosecution for actions he took as part of his official duties as president. Such a move, however, would still involve a trial prosecuted by Willis under Georgia state law.
U.S. District Judge Steve Jones is expected to rule on the petitions to move the matter into federal court in the coming weeks.
A bid by Trump to move his case could compound legal complications that already threaten the prosecution’s lofty goal of trying all 19 defendants as soon as next month. Judge Scott McAfee on Wednesday granted a request by former Trump lawyers Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell to be tried on Oct. 23, though he has yet to decide whether the other defendants will join them.
Petitions by Meadows and others to have their cases moved could also shake up the case if a judge rules that all 19 defendants should be tried together in federal court.
Trump’s wider legal troubles could create further scheduling headaches as he faces potential trials next year in three other criminal cases.
He is under indictment in Florida for his handling of classified documents upon leaving office, in Washington for his efforts to overturn the election results and in New York over hush money paid to a porn star before the 2016 election. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied wrongdoing in all three cases.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington and Jack Queen in New York; Editing by Will Dunham, Susan Heavey and Cynthia Osterman)