Analysts are left in the dark about Judge McAfee’s behavior during the Trump hearing

Judge Scott McAfee remained tight-lipped on Thursday as he revisited the case of former President Donald Trump’s alleged interference in the Georgia election.

During the first hearing in the case, McAfee’s behavior left legal analysts unsure of how he would rule on Trump’s attempt to have the case dismissed on First Amendment grounds. This uncertainty arose after McAfee declined the motion to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

According to Anthony Michael Kreis, an attorney and professor at Georgia State University College of Law, McAfee did not provide much clarity on how he would rule. As a result, even experts are left guessing about whether the arguments presented would be sufficient to undermine what is widely considered to be the most robust of the four criminal cases against Trump.

According to Kreis, during the entire hearing, despite not revealing his position, he actively engaged with the state and the defendants by asking insightful questions.

McAfee has agreed to review the pretrial motions filed by Trump and former Georgia GOP chair David Shafer, thus shifting the attention back to the extensive RICO case. This development comes as the former president and his associates attempt to appeal McAfee’s decision regarding the disqualification of Willis. Following several weeks of court proceedings, McAfee ruled that Willis could continue as part of the prosecution team if Special Prosecutor Nathan Wade stepped down. Hours after the ruling, Wade resigned from his position.

During the hearing on Thursday, Trump’s attorneys made the argument that the indictment against him should be dismissed. They claimed that his political speech is protected by the First Amendment. However, Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing Trump’s federal election interference case, has already rejected this argument. It remains unclear whether McAfee agrees with Chutkan’s analysis.

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Tamar Hallerman, a journalist from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who covers Fulton County, shared on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the legal arguments surrounding the dismissal of individual counts in the indictment lasted for 90 minutes. There is no information yet on Judge McAfee’s ruling, the timing of the trial, or any comments from McAfee himself.

In October, McAfee rejected similar First Amendment challenges brought by two of Trump’s co-defendants, indicating that there’s no way to predict how he will rule on Trump’s pretrial motions. He deemed the argument made by former Trump lawyers Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell as “premature,” stating that the factual record was “incomplete and vigorously disputed.”

According to Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor, McAfee’s evasive behavior should come as no surprise considering his track record in handling the case up until now.

The judge has opted to issue written rulings rather than ruling from the bench on dispositive motions. In a surprising move, he did not provide a straightforward yes or no ruling on the disqualification matter. Instead, he allowed Willis to remain on the prosecution team as long as certain conditions, such as Wade’s resignation, were fulfilled.

According to Rahmani, Judge McAfee is known for being cautious and not revealing much about his strategies. This approach is understandable considering the magnitude of this trial, which is one of the most significant in American history. Since Trump and the co-defendants are likely to appeal any unfavorable decisions, it is wise for McAfee to be cautious. By adopting this approach, McAfee has managed to avoid having his rulings overturned on appeal, unlike Judge Cannon in the case involving classified documents.

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