Judges deny Trump’s attempts to dismiss cases

A Georgia judge has ruled that the former president can’t use free speech to avoid racketeering charges.

Judges in Florida and Georgia have rejected former US President Donald Trump’s attempts to have two criminal cases against him thrown out of court. The cases involve his alleged mishandling of classified documents and attempts to interfere with the 2020 election.

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

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

McAfee ruled that this statement was made “in furtherance of criminal activity” and isn’t protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. 

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 gave Trump a small victory last month when he dismissed three of the 13 charges against the former president and several counts against his senior aides and lawyers. Trump has also appealed a decision by McAfee to allow Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to continue prosecuting the case after it was revealed that she benefited financially from her close relationship with a lawyer she hired to lead the prosecution.

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

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

The judge did not rule on whether Trump’s claim was 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 basis to cite it.

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