ATLANTA — Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows took the witness stand at a hearing Monday to deny two of the allegations made against him in a Georgia indictment accusing him of participating in an illegal scheme to overturn the 2020 election.
Meadows, who was charged this month along with former President Donald Trump and 17 other people, is seeking to fight the charges in federal court rather than in state court. As part of that effort, he testified that he never asked White House personnel officer John McEntee to draft a memo to Vice President Mike Pence on how to delay certification of the election.
“When this came out in the indictment, it was the biggest surprise for me,” Meadows said Monday. He later said, “Me asking Johnny McEntee for this kind of a memo just didn’t happen.”
He also said he did not text the Georgia secretary of state’s office chief investigator, Frances Watson, as the indictment alleged. Rather, he said he believes that text was sent to Jordan Fuchs, the secretary of state’s chief of staff.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who used Georgia’s racketeering law to bring the case, alleges that Trump, Meadows and the others participated in a wide-ranging conspiracy to try to keep the Republican president in power illegally even after his election loss to Democrat Joe Biden. Willis argues that Meadows’ actions were political in nature and not performed as part of his official duties.
U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ended Monday’s hearing without making an immediate ruling on Meadows’ request to move the trial.
The extraordinary testimony from Trump’s former chief of staff came as two of the former president’s attorneys listened attentively in the courtroom. Monday’s hearing in Georgia involved just one of four criminal cases that Trump is currently facing. In Washington, a judge overseeing a federal case over charges that Trump sought to illegally subvert the results of the 2020 election set a trial date for March 4, 2024, right in the heart of the presidential primary calendar.
Lawyers for Meadows argue that his actions that gave rise to the charges in the indictment “all occurred during his tenure and as part of his service as Chief of Staff.” They argue that he did nothing criminal and that the charges against him should be dismissed, and they want Jones to move the case to federal court to halt any proceedings against him at the state level.
During Monday’s hearing, Meadows attorney George J. Terwilliger III quickly called his client to the stand and asked him about his duties as Trump’s chief of staff. The lawyer then walked him through the acts alleged in the indictment to ask if he had done those as part of his job. For most of the acts listed, Meadows said he had performed them as part of his official duty.
In the cross-examination, prosecutor Anna Cross ticked through the same acts to ask Meadows what federal policy was being advanced in each of them. He frequently answered that the federal interest was in ensuring accurate and fair elections, but she accused him several times of not answering her question.
Willis’ team argues that the actions in question were meant solely to keep Trump in office. These actions were explicitly political in nature and are illegal under the Hatch Act, which restricts partisan political activity by federal employees, they wrote in a response to Meadows’ notice of removal to federal court. They believe the case should remain in Fulton County Superior Court.