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Judges reject Trump’s attempts to quash cases

The former president cannot use free speech to dodge racketeering charges, a Georgia judge has ruled

Judges in Florida and Georgia have shot down attempts by former US President Donald Trump to have two criminal cases against him thrown out of court. The cases pertain to his alleged mishandling of classified documents and efforts to interfere with the 2020 election.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee ruled on Thursday that the former president cannot use his constitutional right to free speech to dodge election interference charges in Georgia. 

Trump has been charged with state-level racketeering offenses for instructing his campaign staff to find evidence of election fraud by the Democratic Party, and for a taped phone call made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which he asked Raffensperger to “find 1,780 votes,” which would have guaranteed him a razor-thin victory in the state.

McAfee ruled that this statement was made “in furtherance of criminal activity,” and is therefore not protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. 

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Judge dismisses some charges against Trump

Trump’s lawyer,  Steve Sadow, said in a statement that “President Trump and other defendants respectfully disagree with Judge McAfee’s order and will continue to evaluate their options regarding the First Amendment challenges.”

While the ruling is a setback for Trump, McAfee handed Trump a minor victory last month when he dismissed three out of 13 charges against the former president and multiple counts against his senior aides and lawyers. Trump has also appealed a decision by McAfee to allow Fulton County District Attorney Fanni Willis to continue prosecuting the case, after it emerged that she benefited financially from her intimate relationship with a lawyer she hired to lead the prosecution.

Trump is facing three other criminal cases: two federal litigations concerning his alleged mishandling of classified documents and his alleged incitement of the January 6, 2021 riot on Capitol Hill, and a state-level case in New York concerning his ‘hush money’ payments to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Later on Thursday, the Florida judge overseeing the classified documents case declined a request by Trump to dismiss the charges based on his claim that the Presidential Records Act authorized him to take the documents from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago estate.


READ MORE: Republican megadonors rally to save Trump – Reuters

The judge did not rule Trump’s claim true or false, but noted that government prosecutor Jack Smith had made “no reference to the Presidential Records Act” in his indictment of Trump, giving the former president’s lawyers no legal grounds to invoke it.

Trump views all four cases as part of an overarching conspiracy by Democrats and their allies to prevent him from contesting this year’s election. In a post to his Truth Social platform on Easter Sunday, Trump condemned the “crooked and corrupt prosecutors and judges that are doing everything possible to interfere with the presidential election of 2024 and put me in prison,” including “deranged Jack Smith” and “sick Fani Willis.”

 

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