Former Trump Chief of Staff and current RICO co-defendant Mark Meadows argued in a federal court today that all he did after Trump lost the 2020 election was assist the then-president in his official duties. It did not go well.
The prosecution focused on Meadows' role in setting up Trump’s infamous call with Brad Raffensperger, in which the 2020 loser demanded the Georgia Secretary of State find 11,780 votes needed to win the state's Electoral College votes. As ABC News reports,
Anna Green Cross, a lawyer for the district attorney's office, asked Meadows on cross-examination what, if any, federal goal he was furthering in his participation in meetings and calls challenging the election results. Meadows said he believed the federal purpose was to ensure that there were free and fair elections in the United States.
She asked him about the purpose of the Raffensperger call, and he said it was to come to a less litigious resolution of the Trump campaign's then-pending lawsuit against the state. Cross asked if settling a private lawsuit served any federal purpose, and Meadows replied that his duties were broad.
Meadows has to establish that his push to overturn the result was part of his job description so he can move his racketeer-influenced, election-fixing case from a Georgia state court to a federal court. Presumably, he believes a federal jury would have more conservative whites on it. And it is probably to his benefit that federal regulations ban the media from televising this do-nothing vacillator’s trial.
Meadows has several problems. One, Trump filed a private, not federal lawsuit. As a result, Meadows's attempt to find a “less litigious resolution” was furthering a private legal dispute, not a governmental concern. Especially as Trump made it clear he was making the call to change the result in his personal favor, not to further a federal interest in fair elections. This declaration of aims brings us to Meadows’ next hurdle.
The President has no constitutional role in elections — even federal ones. The same anti-federalist philosophy that led to the Rube Goldberg Electoral College also left election management to the states. Further, before Meadows set up the call, Bill Barr, Trump’s Attorney General, the executive officer responsible for election integrity, had already told Trump there was no evidence of systemic election fraud. (Note: Two and a half years later, there is still none — because there was none.)
I suppose if there were some doubt as to whether Biden was 35, was born in the US, or had lived in the US for 14 years, Trump could legitimately ask the DoJ to investigate the winner’s constitutional eligibility. But no one has pursued a birther challenge to Biden’s citizenship. He has clearly lived in the US forever. And the drumbeat of ageist attacks on the incumbent proves that his age was not a disqualifier.
Another is that the Hatch Act prohibits federal executive employees (particularly senior administration officials) from politicking. One no-no is: “Using official authority to influence or interfere with the results of an election,” — which Meadows openly argued he was doing.
While admitting to a crime might seem a strange defense, Meadows is pursuing a ‘lesser of two evils strategy’. If the federal judge accepts that he was acting — even illegally — as a government official, Meadows hopes he will have better odds of beating the racketeering charge. Note: A conviction in federal court on state charges would still deny Meadows the possibility of a presidential pardon.
It is probably worth the gamble. Penalties for Hatch Act violations carry no time, a maximum fine of $1,000, and a prohibition from working for the federal government for up to five years - a position I doubt Meadows is aiming for.
Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony to the January 6th Committee showed Meadows to be a feckless, disengaged actor who lacked the spine to do the right thing during an insurrection. Now, this Trump bum-snogger is arguing that the sanctity of the American electoral system required him to promote the aims of a proven loser over the rights of the 81 million Americans who voted for Biden — or specifically, in this case, the rights of the 2,473,633 Georgians who did so.
I suppose you have nothing, then nothing is what you offer the court.