Attorneys for Donald Trump say that Trump’s comments “calling into question” the election of 2020 were “the height of political speech,” in arguments seeking the dismissal of the former president’s Georgia election interference case Thursday.

Trump’s lawyers are back in a Fulton County courtroom this morning, where they’re arguing that the election interference charges against Trump should be dismissed because his actions related to the 2020 election were “political speech advocacy that lie at the heart of the First Amendment.”

“I don’t think there’s any question that statements, comment, speech, expressive conduct that deals with campaigning or elections has always been found to be at the zenith of protected speech,” Trump attorney Sadow told Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee, saying that even if Trump’s statements were false, they are protected as a valuable contribution to public discourse.

“The only reason it becomes unprotected in the State’s opinion is because they call it false,” Sadow said.

But prosecutor Donald Wakeford fired back, telling the court that the former president’s speech was part of a conspiracy to commit crimes.

“It’s not just that he lied over and over and over again,” Wakeford said. “It is that each of those was employed as part of criminal activity with criminal intentions. “

Arguing that Trump was part of a “criminal organization,” Wakeford said that his speech was not protected by the First Amendment because he was using his words to commit crimes.

PHOTO: Fani Willis, Fulton County District Attorney, is shown at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, on March 1, 2024.

Fani Willis, Fulton County District Attorney, is shown at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, on March 1, 2024.

Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

“It’s not that the defendant has been hauled into a courtroom because the prosecution doesn’t like what he said,” Wakeford said. “What he is not allowed to do is employ his speech and his expression and his statements as part of a criminal conspiracy, to violate Georgia’s RICO statute, to impersonate public officers to file false documents, and to make false statements to the government.”

Wakeford also argued that Trump’s motion to dismiss was premature and that it failed to form a basis to dismiss the indictment.

“What we have heard here today is an attempt to rewrite the indictment to take out the parts that are inconvenient and only say, ‘Well, it’s all speech … and he was just a guy asking questions,'” Wakeford said. “All of this is an effort to get Your Honor not to look at the basic fact that this speech, this expression, all this activity is employed as part of a pattern of criminal conduct.”

The hearing in Fulton County, Georgia, marks the first time that the parties in the case have returned to court since the failed disqualification effort against Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. Trump and several co-defendants in the case received permission last week to appeal that decision.

Trump himself is not attending the proceedings.

Trump and 18 others pleaded not guilty last August to all charges in a sweeping racketeering indictment for alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state of Georgia. Four defendants subsequently took plea deals in exchange for agreeing to testify against other defendants.

Earlier this month, Judge McAfee dismissed six of the counts against Trump and his co-defendants, for soliciting the oath of a public officer, due to a technical fault in the indictment. McAfee ordered Thursday’s hearing to consider three motions from lawyers for Trump and co-defendant David Shafer related to the dismissal of the indictment.

In their motion, Trump’s lawyers argue that the First Amendment protects the former president’s conduct related to the 2020 election, and makes the indictment “categorically invalid.”

“President Trump enjoys the same robust First Amendment rights as every other American,” Sadow argued in a filing. “The indictment here does not merely criminalize conduct with an incidental impact on protected speech; instead, it directly targets core protected political speech and activity.”

“Every charge and overt act alleged against President Trump rests on core acts of political speech and advocacy that lie at the heart of the First Amendment,” the filing said.

Lawyers for Shafer, the former Georgia Republican Party Chair, are expected to argue two motions related to alleged flaws in the indictment. His lawyers have argued that he was attempting to comply with the advice of counsel when he served as — and assembled — so-called “fake electors” following the 2020 election.

Shafer’s attorneys also asked Judge McAfee to strike several phrases from the indictment, arguing that it is “riddled with conclusory legal assertions” — including phrases like “duly elected and qualified presidential electors,” “lawful electoral votes” and “false Electoral College votes.”

“Mr. Shafer is entitled to an Indictment perfect in form, setting forth all essential elements of the alleged offenses,” Shafer’s lawyers argued. “The prosecution’s Indictment falls woefully short of these standards.”



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