Former Trump administration official Jeffrey Clark asked a federal judge to take control of the Fulton County, Georgia, case against him on Monday.
Clark is one of the 19 defendants, including former President Donald Trump, charged with violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) statute and several other crimes by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.
Clark served as Assistant Attorney General in the environment and natural resources division under Trump’s administration. Clark is being charged with a violation of the RICO statute and attempting to commit false statements and writings. The false statements charge stems from a letter Clark wrote that claimed the U.S. Department of Justice had “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple States, including the State of Georgia.”
Willis’s office argued Clark’s claims that he wrote the letter acting “under color of office” are “baseless.”
Clark’s attorneys argued the removal motion before U.S. District Judge Steve Jones during a Monday hearing. Clark’s attorney, Harry MacDougald, told the judge the letter was merely “a proposal” and argued his client is “entitled to have his own opinions about the law.”
“Not even one iota of that is even remotely possible unless you are acting under the color of the office,” MacDougald argued. Under federal law, a state case may be removed to federal court if the prosecution is “for or relating to any act under color of such office.”
MacDougald said the issue in the letter was under his client’s jurisdiction because former President Trump “put it in his lane.”
Judge Jones is the same judge who denied former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’s bid to remove his trial to federal court. However, Jones said his decision on Meadows’s motion “does not, at this time, have any effect on the outcome of the other co-Defendants who have filed notices.”
Clark’s argument was bolstered by an affidavit from former United States Attorney General Edwin Meese, who wrote a 19-page filing supporting Clark’s removal motion.
As the Federalist reported:
Meese’s affidavit eviscerated these arguments, citing the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion that concluded assistant attorneys general are “not limited to any one Division of the Department of Justice or any specific set of duties,” but instead can “be moved from heading most Divisions to instead heading most other Divisions at the discretion of the Attorney General.”
“And, of course,” Meese continued, “the Attorney General reports to the President, which means the President has discretion to assign duties to the AAGs as the President sees fit.”
Thus, as Meese concluded, Clark’s status as an acting assistant attorney general in the Civil Division did not prevent the president from assigning him other duties, including those related to election issues. In fact, “Clark directly supervised 2020 election-related controversies in his capacity as Acting AAG of the Civil Division,” Meese noted.
“In short, taking positions on legal issues relating to the conduct of the 2020 election and consideration of whether to pursue the policy option inherent in the alleged draft letter were not strictly off limits or out of bounds for Mr. Clark,” Meese added.
Judge Jones gave no timeline for a decision on his hearing after Monday’s three-hour-long hearing concluded.
The case is Georgia v. Clark, No 1:23-cv-3721, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.