Trump seeks to dismiss Georgia election interference charges News
© WikiMedia (The White House)
Trump seeks to dismiss Georgia election interference charges

Former US President Donald Trump asked a Georgia court on Monday to dismiss the 13 criminal charges against him in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s 2020 presidential election interference case. Trump claimed that, because all of the charges stem from political speech or advocacy, the US Constitution’s First Amendment shields him from criminal responsibility. Trump previously pleaded not guilty to all 13 charges on August 31.

In his petition to the Superior Court of Fulton County, Trump claimed, “Every single alleged overt act listed and count charged against President Trump seeks to criminalize content-based, core political speech and expressive conduct.” US courts have previously held that political speech is entitled to broad protections under the First Amendment’s right to free speech. Trump asserted that the conduct underlying the 13 charges against him all stem from political speech.

Trump identified five underlying actions for the 13 criminal charges:

  1. The certification of various states’ electors for the Electoral College;
  2. Trump’s request that Georgia Speaker of the House call a special session on the alleged election interference;
  3. The verification attached to a lawsuit challenging the results of the 2020 US presidential election;
  4. A January 2, 2021 phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger; and
  5. A September 17, 2021 letter to Raffensperger.

Trump asserted that all of these actions amounted to political speech and advocacy regarding the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Because of that, “[t]he indictment here does not merely criminalize conduct with an incidental impact on protected speech; instead, it directly targets core protected political speech and activity.”

Trump also attempted to front a likely rebuttal from Willis by stating that the “speech integral to criminal conduct” exception to the First Amendment does not apply to this case. The US Supreme Court previously found in Giboney v. Empire Storage & Ice Co. that the First Amendment does not protect “speech or writing used as an integral part of conduct in violation of a valid criminal statute.” Trump claimed the exception is not applicable here because the alleged criminal conduct is itself protected speech. He asserted that Georgia prosecutors have failed to identify “any non-speech or non-advocacy conduct in the allegations.” Trump continued:

Likewise, all the factual allegations in the indictment pivot on the indictment’s core, faulty, theory—that President Trump supposedly engaged in “fraud,” “false statement,” and “obstruction” by repeatedly contending, in public and to government officials, that the 2020 presidential election was deeply tainted by fraud.

Despite the fact that elections officials have repeatedly found that there was no fraud in the conduct or outcome of the 2020 presidential election, Trump maintains that it is his right to question or voice disapproval with the election. Because Trump views Willis’s indictment as a way of criminalizing that behavior—his “political speech”—Trump asked that the court dismiss the charges against him.

A Georgia grand jury indicted Trump, along with 18 other co-defendants, on August 14. Since then, four co-defendants have entered into plea deals with Willis, including three of Trump’s former attorneys. All 19 defendants are accused of conspiring to undermine and interfere in the certification of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia and other battleground states. Prosecutors have requested an August 5, 2024, trial date for the remaining 15 defendants, but the judge overseeing the case expressed concern over proceeding to trial with all 15 defendants at once.