Judge to consider whether Trump can dismiss Georgia election tampering suit on First Amendment grounds
Judge to consider whether Trump can dismiss Georgia election tampering suit on First Amendment grounds


For the first time since a judge ruled that Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Willis can continue to oversee Georgia’s 2020 election meddling case against former President Donald Trump, the focus will return to the details of the growing case.

At a hearing Thursday, Trump’s top attorney in Georgia is expected to argue that the indictment should be dismissed because the former president’s political speech is protected by the First Amendment.

In a complaint filed in late 2023, before the defendants’ failed attempts to disqualify Willis from the case, Trump attorney Steve Sadow argued that the proliferation of conspiracy theories and allegations of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election were were at the heart of their political speech, and therefore Trump should never have been impeached.

“The underlying political speech and expressive conduct alleged in this indictment against President Trump is protected from state regulation and thus from state prosecution,” Sadow wrote.

“Criminalizing President Trump’s speech and advocacy challenging the outcome of the election — while speech supporting the outcome of the election is seen as blameless — is therefore blatant viewpoint discrimination,” he added.

Willis recently told CNN she was ready to get the case back on track after more than two months of disqualification hearings over her romantic relationship with her attorney general, Nathan Wade. Judge Scott McAfee ruled that Willis should not be disqualified from prosecuting the case if Wade recused himself, which he did.

A trial date has not been set, but the district attorney still hopes to begin a trial before the November election. Willis previously asked for the trial to begin in August and said he may repeat that request.

“I’m also realistic that one of the defendants has multiple cases and some of them have trial dates that are ahead of ours. So I will always respect sister jurisdictions,” she said.

Trump is not expected to attend the hearing.

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Can the Fulton DA avoid further mistakes?

Previous First Amendment challenges by Trump’s former co-defendants Kenneth Chesebrough and Sidney Powell were unsuccessful.

Chesebro and Powell were two of the former president’s lawyers who later pleaded guilty in exchange for their testimony and cooperation. They attempted to dismiss the indictment under the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution, but failed.

In his denial at the time, McAfee ruled that various case law points to facts and evidence that must be established in a courtroom before a First Amendment challenge can even be considered.

McAfee will also hear arguments from one of Trump’s co-defendants in the case, David Schafer, the former chairman of the Georgia Republican Party.

In the indictment, prosecutors allege that Shaffer acted as the ringleader for the voter fraud scheme, coordinating with co-conspirators and securing a venue to illegitimately certify Trump as the winner of the 2020 Georgia election.

In their filing, Shaffer’s attorneys argued that in almost all of the conduct Shaffer is accused of, he was merely “attempting to comply with the advice of counsel” and was not part of a larger conspiracy.

“Neither the emails or text messages, nor Mr. Shaffer’s reservation of a room at the State Capitol constituted ‘racketeering activity’ for RICO purposes,” Shaffer’s lawyers wrote.

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