Trump Loses Bid to Toss Georgia Case on Free Speech Grounds

(Bloomberg) -- A Georgia judge declined to dismiss the racketeering indictment against Donald Trump and several co-defendants, ruling that their efforts to overturn the 2020 election weren’t protected by the First Amendment.

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Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee on Thursday rejected Trump’s argument that the Constitution allowed his political speech and activity, his freedom of association and his right to petition Congress. District Attorney Fani Willis alleges Trump’s efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s victory aren’t shielded from criminal charges.

“Even core political speech addressing matters of public concern is not impenetrable from prosecution if allegedly used to further criminal activity,” McAfee ruled in Atlanta.

Prosecutors have alleged Trump led a racketeering conspiracy involving efforts to certify fake electors, give false testimony to the Georgia Senate, and solicit false statements about an election worker. Willis claims their speech and conduct was carried out with criminal intent, “something only a jury can resolve.”

McAfee has not set a trial date for Trump and 14 co-defendants in the Atlanta case, one of four indictments the former president faces as he is the presumed Republican nominee to challenge Biden. The first case is set to go before a jury on April 15 in New York, where Trump is accused of falsifying business records to hide a payment to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

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

Sadow noted that the judge said the defendants could raise their objections later after developing a factual record at trial.

A spokesman for Willis declined to comment.

The judge is continuing to handle pre-trial matters after he ruled last month that Willis can remain on the case despite her romance with a top prosecutor, Nathan Wade. Since then, Wade has resigned and Trump and other defendants have asked the Georgia Court of Appeals to review McAfee’s ruling.

(Updates with details of ruling.)

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