ATLANTA (AP) — Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has pleaded not guilty to charges accusing him of participating in an illegal scheme to try to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia and will not appear in court in Atlanta this week.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee had scheduled arraignment hearings for Wednesday for Meadows, former President Donald Trump and the other 17 people charged last month in a sprawling indictment. By midday Tuesday, all of the defendants had filed paperwork pleading not guilty in filings with the court and waived their rights to an arraignment hearing.
During an arraignment hearing, defendants have the right to have the charges against them read and to enter a formal plea. Trump pleaded not guilty in a court filing Thursday and Giuliani entered his plea Friday, with the rest of the pleas trickling in over several days.
Meadows and four others are seeking to move the charges against them to federal court. But during a hearing last week on Meadows' request, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones made clear that if he had not ruled by the arraignment date or if the case was not moved to federal court, Meadows would not be excused from arraignment.
Lawyers Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell have each filed demands for a speedy trial, meaning their trials would have to start by early November, and have each asked to be tried alone. The judge scheduled a hearing on Wednesday on their motions to sever themselves from the others.
After Chesebro filed his speedy trial demand, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis asked McAfee to set an Oct. 23 trial date for all defendants. The judge set a trial to begin that date for Chesebro alone. Trump's lawyer has filed a motion asking that he be tried separately from any defendant who asks for a speedy trial, and at least two others have also filed motions to sever their cases.
During Wednesday's hearing, McAfee wrote, he intends to ask prosecutors how long they expect to take to present their case against all 19 defendants together or for any groupings of defendants, including the number of witnesses they plan to call and the number and size of exhibits they will likely introduce.
Also Tuesday, Chesebro filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him. He's accused of working on the coordination and execution of a plan to have 16 Georgia Republicans sign a certificate declaring falsely that Trump won and declaring themselves the state’s “duly elected and qualified” electors. He argues that his actions fall under federal authority and that the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution means he can't be prosecuted under state law for those actions.