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Judge quashes some charges against Trump in Georgia election interference case

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

A judge has thrown out six counts in the Georgia election interference case involving former President Donald Trump and his remaining co-defendants. Trump now faces 10 felony charges in Georgia. WABE's Sam Gringlas has been covering the many turns in this case and joins us now from Atlanta. Good morning.

SAM GRINGLAS, BYLINE: Hey, Leila.

FADEL: Hey. So what did the judge order?

GRINGLAS: Judge Scott McAfee quashed six counts in this indictment. They all have to do with allegations that defendants solicited public officials to violate their oaths when the defendants allegedly pressured election officials and lawmakers to help overturn the 2020 election result. Now, importantly, McAfee wrote that these six counts contain, quote, "all essential elements of crimes." But he ruled that the charges weren't specific enough for lawyers to prepare an adequate defense. The charges refer to oaths of office to the Constitutions of the U.S. and Georgia, and McAfee said the defendants could have violated those constitutions in dozens, if not hundreds of distinct ways.

FADEL: Oh, interesting. So the judge is saying it's maybe too broad. I mean, what are some examples that are behind these accusations?

GRINGLAS: So let's just focus on one example. It's probably the allegation that people think of when they talk about this case. And that's Trump's phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Remember, Trump was on a recording asking the secretary to find him 11,780 votes in Georgia.

FADEL: Yeah.

GRINGLAS: This is one of the counts the judge stripped out from the indictment. But the judge also said that doesn't mean that the underlying act, that phone call, can't factor into the prosecution overall.

FADEL: OK. So just a reminder, Trump is still charged with these 10 other felonies. But will the prosecution appeal the decision to throw these six counts out?

GRINGLAS: So the judge made clear that prosecutors can appeal this ruling, but they can also just go back to a grand jury and indict again with more clarity. Now, just to be clear, the many other charges, as you mentioned - they do remain, including the racketeering charges each of the defendants are facing. And I should add that all of the defendants, including Trump, have pleaded not guilty. The remaining defendants, four, have pleaded guilty in the case.

FADEL: Now, this isn't the only hang-up prosecutors are facing right now in getting this case to trial, right?

GRINGLAS: That's right, Leila. Judge McAfee is also weighing a motion from several of the defendants to remove the prosecutor, District Attorney Fani Willis, from the case. The defendants accused Willis of financially benefiting from the prosecution because of a romantic relationship with Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor she hired for the case. McAfee is expected to make a decision on that matter this week. But, Leila, setting aside that question, a trial date has yet to be scheduled for Trump and the others in Georgia. The judge is not only having to juggle 15 defendants, their lawyers, all of their pretrial motions, but as we know, the former president has a very packed legal calendar this summer...

FADEL: True.

GRINGLAS: ...And with the federal election interference case delayed, the chances that Trump goes to trial in Georgia before the election - that seems very slim right now.

FADEL: WABE's Sam Gringlas. Sam, I'm sure you will be back on soon with more twists and turns here. Thanks for this work.

GRINGLAS: Thanks, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Sam Gringlas is a journalist at NPR's All Things Considered. In 2020, he helped cover the presidential election with NPR's Washington Desk and has also reported for NPR's business desk covering the workforce. He's produced and reported with NPR from across the country, as well as China and Mexico, covering topics like politics, trade, the environment, immigration and breaking news. He started as an intern at All Things Considered after graduating with a public policy degree from the University of Michigan, where he was the managing news editor at The Michigan Daily. He's a native Michigander.