Mark Meadows, John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark and others plead not guilty in Trump’s Georgia RICO case

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in Georgia connected to a sprawling case surrounding Donald Trump’s attempts to subvert the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

John Eastman, a Trump-linked attorney and chief architect of a plot to unlawfully swap presidential electors for Joe Biden with Trump loyalists, and former assistant US Attorney General Jeffrey Clark have also pleaded not guilty and waived their Fulton County court appearance that was scheduled for 6 September.

They join 16 other defendants in the case, including the former president, who have pleaded not guilty to the mountain of charges against them, including an alleged racketeering scheme prosecuted under the state’s RICO statute.

Only Misty Hampton, the former elections director in Georgia’s Coffee County, has yet to enter a plea.

Former Coffee County Republican Party chair Cathy Latham, former Georgia Republican Party chair David Shafer, and current state Senator Shawn Still – all of whom were among the 16 fake electors – also entered not guilty pleas on 5 September and waived their appearances.

The former president and his 18 co-defendants were formally booked earlier this month on a range of charges connected to an alleged criminal enterprise orchestrated by then-President Trump and his allies to overturn election results, one of the largest criminal cases yet against the former president to date for crimes allegedly committed while he was in office.

Last week, Mr Meadows testified in US District Court in Atlanta as part of his effort to move the state case out of Fulton County and into federal court, marking one of the first courtroom battles between the 19 defendants and prosecutors under Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

It also marked some of his first public statements in months, and his first as a criminal defendant.

His surprise testimony in federal court on 28 August comes two weeks after a grand jury indictment presented the largest and most significant case yet facing Mr Trump and others who allegedly “knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election” to ensure he remained in power.

He faces two counts in the sprawling 41-count indictment outlining dozens of acts that encompass the conspiracy: one count of violating Georgia’s RICO statute, and one count of solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer.

Attorneys for Mr Meadows have asked for the “prompt removal” of the case from Fulton County, citing federal law that allows US officials to remove civil or criminal trials from state court over alleged actions performed “under color” of their offices, with Mr Meadows performing such acts during his “tenure” as White House chief of staff, they wrote in court filings.

The Georgia case is separate from the US Department of Justice investigation and federal charges against Mr Trump for his efforts to subvert the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. US District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington DC set a tentative trial date in that case for 4 March, 2024 – one day before Super Tuesday primary election contests.

This is a developing story

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