Meadows, other Trump allies plead not guilty in Georgia election case

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges in the Georgia election subversion case, joining two other allies of former President Donald Trump.

Meadows and lawyers John Eastman and Jeffrey Clark all waived formal arraignment, which had been scheduled for Wednesday in Fulton County Superior Court.

The three were charged last month along with the Republican former president and 15 co-defendants with trying to overturn Trump's 2020 election defeat to Democrat Joe Biden. Trump is the front-runner for his party's 2024 presidential nomination.

Meadows went from being one of Trump's top Republican allies in the U.S. House of Representatives to becoming his White House chief of staff. Meadows attended White House meetings related to attempts to undo Trump's election defeat.

The indictment alleges he helped to fuel the conspiracy by making false statements about the election and conspired with Trump to develop a plan to disrupt and delay the congressional certification of the electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021.

It also alleges that he tried to pressure a chief investigator in the Georgia secretary of state's office, Frances Watson, to speed up the Fulton County signature verification and that he took part in a phone call in which Trump pushed Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to reverse his narrow loss in the state. Raffensperger declined to do so.

Eastman represented Trump in a long-shot lawsuit to overturn voting results in four states Trump lost in 2020. He has been under scrutiny by both U.S. Special Counsel Jack Smith's office and state prosecutors in Georgia for writing a series of legal memos that claimed then-Vice President Mike Pence could reject electors from certain states to deny Biden a majority of Electoral College votes.

The indictment in Georgia's Fulton County alleges Eastman was part of a plot to appoint fake electors. Eastman's legal representative has called the indictment an effort to criminalize lawful political speech.

Clark was a high-ranking U.S. Justice Department official who, in the waning days of the Trump administration, sought to persuade Trump to oust Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen so that he could take over the department and help pursue Trump's false claims by opening an investigation into voter fraud in Georgia and other states.

The federal indictment brought by Smith against Trump also appears to refer to Clark as a co-conspirator. The indictment cites Clark's efforts to persuade Rosen to submit a letter to Georgia falsely claiming the Justice Department had detected voting irregularities there.

Trump and his former personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, pleaded not guilty last week and waived a formal arraignment. The Georgia charges marked Trump's fourth indictment since he launched his re-election campaign for president in November last year.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu)