Judge rejects Trump’s free speech argument in Georgia election case

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WATCH: Trump posts US$175M bond in civil fraud case, halting $454M asset seizure – Apr 2, 2024

A Georgia judge on Thursday rejected Donald Trump’s bid to dismiss criminal charges in the state’s 2020 election interference case against him, which the Republican former U.S. president argued violate his free speech rights.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee found that the indictment alleges statements by Trump and 14 others charged in the case were made “in furtherance of criminal activity” and are not protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Trump and the other defendants have been charged with racketeering and other offenses over their effort to overturn Trump’s defeat in Georgia to Democratic President Joe Biden. They have pleaded not guilty.

The case is one of four criminal prosecutions Trump faces as the Nov. 5 election nears. His first trial, related to hush money payments to a porn star, is due to get underway in New York later this month.

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

A spokesperson for the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, declined to comment.

Click to play video: 'Donald Trump pleads not guilty in Georgia election case'
Donald Trump pleads not guilty in Georgia election case

The Georgia charges focus on attempts to assemble an alternate slate of presidential electors pledged to vote for Trump despite Biden’s win in the state, and Trump’s January 2021 phone call urging the state’s top election official to “find” enough votes to overturn his narrow defeat.

McAfee’s ruling is a signal he will continue moving the case toward trial even as Trump and eight co-defendants continue their efforts to disqualify Fani Willis, the prosecutor overseeing the case. A Georgia appeals court is set to decide whether to take up that issue in the coming weeks.

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McAfee said it will be up to a jury to determine if Trump and other defendants, which include his former personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, acted with criminal intent.

He said the defendants may be able to revive their challenge as additional evidence is revealed.

Trump has other pending challenges to the case, including a claim that he is immune from charges tied to official actions he took as president.

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