On Thursday, Georgia Judge Scott McAfee upheld the criminal indictment against Donald Trump in Fulton County, denying the claim that the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election were protected under the First Amendment.

“The defense has not presented, nor is the Court able to find, any authority that the speech and conduct alleged is protected political speech,” the superior court judge wrote in his order.

“After interpreting the indictment’s language liberally in favor of the State as required at this pretrial stage, the Court finds that the Defendant’s expressions and speech are alleged to have made in furtherance of criminal activity and constitute false statements knowingly and willfully made in matters within a government agency’s jurisdiction which threaten to deceive and harm the government,” McAfee continued.

McAfee has not set a trial date for Trump or his 14 co-defendants, though Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has said she would be ready to go to trial as early as August.

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McAfee recently rejected similar First Amendment challenges from other defendants in the Georgia case.

In a statement, Trump lawyer Steve Sadow said Trump and the other defendants “respectfully disagree” with Thursday’s ruling and will pursue other options.

“It is significant that the court’s ruling made clear that defendants were not foreclosed from again raising their ‘as-applied challenges at the appropriate time after the establishment of a factual record,'” he said.

Fulton County prosecutor Donald Wakeford said the First Amendment arguments should be heard by a jury instead of in pre-trial motions.

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