Trump Supporters Initiate Initial Offensive Against Arizona Election Case



Allies of former President Donald Trump, who were charged in a significant Arizona election case, are filing a series of challenges by leveraging a new state law crafted to prevent political litigation and prosecutions. The charges against 18 defendants include fraud, forgery, and conspiracy related to efforts to overturn Arizona’s election results in 2020. The new law, expanded in 2022, now covers challenges to criminal prosecutions, allowing defendants 60 days to contest litigation and prosecutions in court if they can prove they are victims of political retaliation.

Trump Allies Begin Filing Challenges in Arizona Election Case

Allies of former President Donald J. Trump, charged in a widespread Arizona election case, commenced filing challenges on Friday. They leverage a new state law designed to limit litigation and prosecutions involving political figures.

The Phoenix lawyer Kory Langhofer, previously affiliated with the Trump campaign, crafted the 2022 law. His goal was to curb politically driven prosecutions across the political spectrum.

This flurry of challenges could delay the Arizona election case for several months. The case was initiated in April by the state Attorney General, Kris Mayes, a Democrat.

Charges Against Trump’s Allies

The 18 defendants each face nine charges, including fraud, forgery, and conspiracy. The indictment details efforts to overturn Arizona’s election results. These efforts ranged from deploying fake electors on Trump’s behalf, despite his loss, to pressuring officials responsible for certifying election results.

Seven Trump advisers are among those charged, including his former personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and the former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

Anti-SLAPP Laws in Arizona

The legislation, supported by the Republican-majority Legislature and signed by the Republican governor Doug Ducey, expands a law that discourages a legal maneuver known as a “strategic lawsuit against public participation” (anti-SLAPP). These laws aim to prevent baseless defamation suits filed by businesses or government officials against public critics.

The 2022 expansion in Arizona permits even broader application of the law, including in cases challenging criminal prosecutions.

Arizona’s Anti-SLAPP Law Used in Court

The anti-SLAPP law has already been deployed in court. For instance, Kari Lake, the unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor, tried to use it as a legal shield after being sued for defamation by a top Maricopa County election official. She was unsuccessful and declined to mount a defense.

Mr. Langhofer, despite angering Mr. Trump by not supporting his unfounded election fraud claims, introduced the legislation due to increasing hostility towards political workers.

First Amendment Rights and Anti-SLAPP Legislation

Langhofer presented his proposal to State Representative Ben Toma, aiming to protect those exercising their First Amendment rights from being sued. The legislation allows a 60-day challenge period for proceedings, given cases of political retaliation.

Arizona is one of five states with criminal prosecutions related to the handling of the 2020 election by Trump’s campaign. Special Counsel Jack Smith has also brought charges against Mr. Trump regarding election interference claims.

Other States and Anti-SLAPP Laws

A judge in Nevada dismissed the state’s case against six Republicans, citing the wrong venue for the case. Despite the existence of anti-SLAPP laws in many states, they typically apply to civil cases.

According to Gregg Leslie, executive director of the First Amendment Clinic at Arizona State University, press freedom groups were not consulted about the law. Arizona Democrats initially supported the measure but later expressed reservations, leading to most voting against it.

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