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GOP Bill Aims to Protect Trump From Future State-Based Criminal Court Cases

The bill is unlikely to pass, as some Republicans are balking at changing the judicial process.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (center) listens as former President Donald Trump sits next to his lawyers as he arrives for his trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 14, 2024, in New York City.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) and other leaders of the GOP conference in the House of Representatives are attempting to shore up votes for a bill that would help former President Donald Trump move a Georgia-based court case to federal court jurisdiction instead.

Trump and a number of his allies are charged with numerous racketeering counts relating to his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia. That case is presently stalled until at least October and could be delayed until the spring due to an appeals court agreeing to hear challenges on whether Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis should be allowed to remain on the case.

The bill Johnson is aiming to pass is called the “No More Political Prosecutions Act.” The title of the legislation refers to Trump and his loyalists’ false claims that charges against him in multiple cases are based solely on politics. The bill would allow presidents, vice presidents, former presidents and former vice presidents charged with state-level crimes to move criminal cases against them to federal courts.

The proposed bill is a direct response to Trump’s conviction late last month in a New York-based court. Even if passed into law, the bill couldn’t upend that ruling. However, it could allow Trump to move the Georgia case into federal courts, which would be advantageous for him for many reasons.

The bill has little chance of becoming law, however — in addition to the House, it would have to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, after which President Joe Biden would have to sign it into law. Such an outcome is extremely unlikely, given Democrats’ and Biden’s statements celebrating Trump’s New York conviction as a victory for the rule of law.

The bill may not even make it out of the House, as moderate Republicans have said that they are wary of passing legislation that takes power out of the hands of state-level courts. Moderate Republicans speaking to Axios about the bill seemed divided on whether or not to back it — one told the publication, “I’m debating it,” while another said he would “support the speaker on this legislation.”

Despite its longshot odds, the bill showcases how Johnson and other Republican leaders in the House are dedicating themselves to protecting Trump in the wake of his criminal conviction and in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election. Notably, Johnson is an ardent Trump loyalist who gathered over 100 signatures in support of an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2021, urging the justices to allow delays in certifying Biden’s win over Trump in the 2020 presidential race to help the GOP candidate stay in office in violation of the Constitution.

According to reporting from Axios, if Trump becomes president again after this year’s election, and if the legislation were to become law, he could, in theory, attempt to pardon himself after removing the Georgia case from that jurisdiction into a federal one. He could also feasibly ask his attorney general to dismiss charges against him.

Other analyses of what would happen if Trump’s state-based cases moved to federal courts dispute the idea that he’d be able to have them dismissed if he becomes president again.

Still, there are other reasons why moving the cases to federal courts would be beneficial for Trump. Moving the Fulton County case to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, for example, would create a wider jury pool, resulting in a more moderate or conservative set of jurors from areas that voted for Trump. The former president could also introduce “presidential immunity” arguments more easily in a federal setting — even if those claims are without merit, such a strategy falls in line with the delay tactics that have been working well for him so far.

Switching jurisdictions could also prove to be helpful due to the many judges Trump and other Republican presidents have appointed to the federal court system. While only five of the 11 judges in the Northern District of Georgia were appointed by Republicans, six out of 12 in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals were put in place by Trump himself, with one more picked by former President George W. Bush. (The remaining five were picked by Democratic administrations.) And if appeals go even further, the case will proceed to the right-wing Supreme Court, where Trump appointed three of the nine justices.

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