Trump, Meadows offer quid pro quo on speedy trial to sever Georgia election case from co-defendants

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport after surrendering at the Fulton County jail on August 24, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Donald Trump on Wednesday offered to “exchange” his right to a speedy trial in his Georgia election-conspiracy case for an Atlanta judge ruling that would have the former president tried separately from 18 other defendants.

Trump’s co-defendant Mark Meadows, who served as his White House chief of staff, shortly afterward filed an identical offer waiving a speedy trial in exchange for his own case being tried separately.

Four other defendants — Shawn Still, Harrison Floyd, Jenna Ellis and David Shafer — quickly followed with their own contingent waiver offers.

The filings came a day after the Fulton County District Attorney’s office again argued that all 19 defendants in the case should be on trial together.

But prosecutors in that same filing also urged Judge Scott McAfee to prevent a “logistical quagmire” by requiring defendants who want to be tried separately to waive their right to a speedy trial.

McAfee has yet to rule on the severance requests that Trump, Meadows and 10 other defendants have filed. It is by no means clear the judge will now grant any of them severances based on waivers of speedy trial.

Trump and the other defendants have the absolute right to a speedy trial in the case.

Two co-defendants — the attorneys Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell — asked for quick trials and were granted them for late October.

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Trump in late August asked McAfee to sever his trial from the other defendants, who with him are accused of conspiring in an illegal effort, which failed, to overturn his loss to President Joe Biden in Georgia’s 2020 election.

In his filing Wednesday, Trump’s lawyer Steven Sadow wrote, “President Trump hereby affirmatively waives his procedural right to file a demand for a speedy trial under O.C.G.A. § 17-7-170 in exchange for the severance he previously requested in his motion to sever filed on August 31, 2023.”

A day earlier, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ office said, “The State maintains that all the defendants shall be tried together.”

That filing warned that if McAfee severs the case, a potential “cascade of additional speedy trial demands emanating from the severed defendants” before a Nov. 5 deadline could force the court to hold three or more trials in coming weeks.

Prosecutors said “holding three or more simultaneous, high-profile trials would create a host of security issues” and would burden witnesses and victims who would be “forced to testify three or more times on the same set of facts in the same case.”

That filing also said that having McAfee require “such a waiver as a condition to sever any defendant who has moved for severance on the basis that he or she cannot be ready for trial by late October would prevent the logistical quagmire described above, the inevitable harm to victims and witnesses, and the risk of gamesmanship.”

“Defendants wishing to be severed should make this showing prior to the Court severing them from trial, and severing these defendants prior to the defendants making this showing would be premature,” prosecutors wrote.

“Further, any defendant seeking a severance on the basis of not being ready for trial by October 23, 2023, should inform this Court on the record of when they expect to be ready for trial.”

The filings Wednesday by Trump and Meadows do not say when they expect to be ready for trial.

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