Former DOJ Official Seeks Removal of Georgia Election Interference Case to Federal Court

Former Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark is making a bid to have his Georgia election interference case removed from state court to federal court. Clark is one of five defendants in the Fulton County District Attorney’s case who have filed for removal based on a federal law that allows for the transfer of criminal proceedings from state court to the federal court system when someone is charged for actions they allegedly took as a federal official acting “under color” of their office.

During a hearing on Monday, Clark’s attorney, Harry MacDougald, argued that Clark’s drafting of a letter to Georgia officials claiming evidence of voter fraud would have been impossible if he wasn’t acting under the color of his office. MacDougald stated, “Not even one iota of that is even remotely possible unless you are acting under the color of the office.” He further explained that Clark drafted the letter using Department of Justice (DOJ) software in his DOJ office and sent it with his DOJ email, all after then-President Donald Trump had requested to speak with him. Trump’s attorneys were present in the audience, although Clark himself was not.

MacDougald also downplayed the significance of Clark’s intended memo, stating that it was never sent and that no one in Georgia was aware of its existence. He argued, “Lawyers can disagree without being put in prison.” However, Jody Hunt, a former DOJ official from the civil division, testified for the prosecution, emphasizing the limited authority of the division in which Clark worked, particularly regarding election fraud matters. Hunt, who served as the assistant attorney general of the civil division until mid-2020, stated, “In my experience, it is not the role of the civil division to engage” in matters related to election fraud.

Clark’s attorney countered in his closing arguments, reiterating that Clark was authorized because Trump had asked him to be involved. He claimed, “The president ratified his conduct.” Prosecutors, on the other hand, argued in their closing statement that Clark’s team failed to provide any evidence to support the removal of the case. Prosecutor Donald Wakeford stated, “We have gotten nothing today to satisfy the burden” for removal, highlighting the absence of Clark’s appearance or testimony.

Judge Steve Jones did not provide a timeline for his ruling on the removal request. Clark, along with 18 others, including former President Donald Trump, has pleaded not guilty to all charges in a sweeping racketeering indictment related to alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Clark specifically faces charges of racketeering and an attempt to commit false statements and writings for his involvement in the letter he sought to send to Georgia state officials, claiming concerns about the election outcome. The indictment states that other senior officials prevented Clark from sending the letter due to their disagreement with his views.

Clark is following in the footsteps of former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who also attempted to have his case removed to federal court. Clark’s hearing is before the same judge who previously rejected Meadows’ motion for removal.

Fulton County prosecutors have urged the judge to deny Clark’s removal request, emphasizing that Clark had no authority over elections or criminal investigations in his role in the civil division of the DOJ. They argued that Clark exceeded the scope of his authority and that his claims, including those central to his letter, are baseless.