Fulton County judge questions DA’s plan for Trump election subversion case

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The first hearing in the Fulton County, Georgia, trial against former President Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants was held on Wednesday, September 6, 2023. The hearing was broadcast live and revealed some details about the sprawling anti-racketeering case that accuses Trump and his allies of interfering in Georgia’s 2020 election results.

Judge skeptical of a quick and joint trial

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is presiding over the case, expressed skepticism about Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ desire to hold a joint trial for all 19 defendants in October. McAfee said it seemed “a bit unrealistic” to handle all 19 defendants in 40-something days, as Willis had proposed.

Prosecutor Nathan Wade said the district attorney’s office expected its case against the 19 defendants to take about four months and to call more than 150 witnesses. Wade also said that the case would be the same whether it was against one defendant or all 19, as he argued against severing defendants into separate trials.

McAfee, however, thought the timeline was very optimistic, saying “it could easily be twice that,” given the multiple defendants in the case. He said he hoped to decide key questions on the trial schedule and breaking up the 19-defendant case by early next week.

Judge denies bids to sever Powell from Chesebro

McAfee ruled from the bench on Wednesday denying motions from pro-Trump lawyers Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell to sever their cases from each other. McAfee ruled that Powell and Chesebro will go to trial together on October 23, as they had invoked their right to a speedy trial under Georgia law.

Fulton County judge questions DA’s plan

Chesebro’s legal team had filed a separate motion asking the judge not to force him to go to trial alongside Powell, claiming he never had any direct contact or communication with her and wasn’t accused of participating in the same schemes as her. Powell’s legal team had also filed a motion to sever her case from Chesebro and the other defendants, arguing that she was only exercising her First Amendment rights and that her statements were not criminal.

McAfee rejected both motions, saying that there was enough evidence to show that Powell and Chesebro were part of a common plan or scheme to undermine Georgia’s election results and that their cases were sufficiently similar to warrant a joint trial.

Trump and other defendants oppose speedy trial

Trump and many of his co-defendants oppose Willis’ plan to hold a speedy trial for all 19 defendants in October. They have filed motions to be separated from the case and to delay the start of their trials beyond October. They have also challenged the legality and constitutionality of the indictment, which charges them with violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

The indictment alleges that Trump and his co-defendants engaged in a coordinated effort to pressure Georgia officials, including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, to overturn Biden’s victory in the state. The indictment cites several phone calls, emails, text messages, social media posts, lawsuits, rallies, and meetings that allegedly show a pattern of racketeering activity.

Trump’s legal team has called the indictment “politically motivated” and “unprecedented.” They have argued that Trump was acting within his rights as a candidate to challenge the election results and that he did not commit any criminal acts. They have also claimed that Willis has a conflict of interest because she is under investigation by the Georgia State Election Board for her role in the 2018 election.

The other co-defendants include Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former US Senator Lindsey Graham, former Georgia state Senator Burt Jones, former Georgia state Representative Vernon Jones, former Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer, conservative activist Joseph Oltmann, pro-Trump attorney Lin Wood, and several others.

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