Donald Trump on Monday was indicted on multiple state charges that he allegedly conspired to interfere in the vote tally in Georgia in 2020 and urged his closest allies to take steps that would overturn his loss to President Joe Biden in the battleground state.
The sprawling indictment handed down late at night by a special grand jury in Fulton County marks the fourth criminal case Trump is now facing, adding more legal scrutiny on the former U.S. president as he seeks to reclaim the White House in 2024.
Eighteen alleged co-conspirators — including Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and other high-profile legal advisors and campaign officials — were also indicted for joining what prosecutors said was “a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favour of Trump.”
The charges include a count under the state’s RICO Act, an anti-racketeering law that is typically used to prosecute alleged criminal enterprises. Trump, who is facing 13 charges alone, and others are also accused of election fraud and forgery conspiracies, harassing election workers, conspiring to illegally obtain voting machine data, urging public officials to violate their oath of office, and lying to investigators to obstruct justice. The nearly 100-page indictment includes 41 felony charges in total.
Copies of the indictment were provided by the Fulton County Superior Court Clerk’s office with media outlets, including Global News, before being made public Monday night.
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Many of the allegations against Trump in the Georgia case were included in this month’s federal indictment by special counsel Jack Smith, who oversaw a sweeping investigation into Trump’s multi-state campaign to remain in power. Trump has pleaded not guilty in that case and is expected to do the same in Fulton County.
But the Georgia case goes much deeper than the federal case, the latter of which focused exclusively on Trump and did not name or indict his alleged co-conspirators.
“The legal double-standard set against President Trump must end,” his campaign said in a statement shortly before the latest indictment was unsealed.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat whose district includes Atlanta, pushed back on accusations that the indictment was politically motivated when speaking to reporters late Monday night after the indictment was unsealed.
“I make decisions in this office based on the facts and the law,” she said. “The law is completely non-partisan.”
Willis said she would seek a trial within “the next six months.” She added she intended to try all 19 defendants together.
The defendants were given a deadline of noon on Aug. 25 to voluntarily turn themselves in for arraignment on the charges.
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Willis began investigating in early 2021 whether Trump and his allies broke any laws as they tried to overturn his narrow election defeat in Georgia, which helped tip the presidential race in Biden’s favour.
The probe was sparked in part after Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in January 2021 and suggested the state’s top elections official could help him “find” the votes he said he needed to win.
Audio of the conversation with Raffensberger was quickly made public through media reports.
“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state,” Trump is heard falsely claiming to Raffensberger in the audio, which was first obtained and released by the Washington Post and later confirmed by multiple other U.S. media outlets.
“Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break,” he is heard saying later in the audio.
That call forms the basis of some of the charges, including prosecutors’ allegations that Trump pushed Raffensberger to violate his oath.
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Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has described the call as “perfect.”
He has continuously claimed he won Georgia, citing an array of debunked and false claims of voter fraud and interference by election workers in Fulton County, which includes the city of Atlanta.
Dozens of lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign in the aftermath of the election were dismissed by judges in close swing states across the country, including Georgia, who ruled the campaign failed to prove any fraud occurred that would sway the results.
Other close Trump allies who echoed his false claims of election fraud at the time, including his then-personal lawyer Giuliani, were interviewed by an earlier, separate special grand jury that heard evidence in the Georgia case.
That grand jury was seated in May 2022 in order to compel witnesses to testify and deliver recommendations to Willis on whether to lay criminal charges, but did not have the power to deliver indictments. The jurors were released in January after hearing from about 75 witnesses and submitting a final report.
Earlier this year, the jury’s foreperson disclosed through media interviews — without naming names — that she and her fellow jurors had recommended charging multiple people in the case.
Giuliani, the former New York mayor who legally represented Trump throughout much of his presidency, is accused in the indictment of spreading false allegations of election fraud through both private phone calls with lawmakers and during a public state senate committee hearing in late 2020.
In laying out the RICO charge, the indictment notes efforts by Giuliani, Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis and other defendants and unnamed and unindicted co-conspirators in other states to spread false allegations and pressure lawmakers to sway the election results, which prosecutors repeatedly say were “overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy.”
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Beyond the federal election case, Trump is also facing a federal indictment accusing him of withholding classified documents from the government after he left the White House in 2021 and conspiring to shield the materials from investigators.
A superseding indictment last month added additional charges against Trump and other alleged co-conspirators in the case, including alleged obstruction of evidence.
Earlier this year, he was hit with state charges in Manhattan for allegedly falsifying business records to hide hush money payments to a porn star alleging an extramarital affair during the 2016 campaign. That indictment marked the first time in U.S. history a former or sitting president had been criminally charged.
Trump has pleaded not guilty in those cases and has vowed to stay in the Republican presidential primary, where opinion polls suggest he remains the leading candidate by a wide margin.
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More than half of likely GOP voters are prepared to support Trump as the nominee, according to FiveThirtyEight’s national polling average and other similar aggregate polls, which put him as much as 40 points ahead of his closest competitor, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Republicans — even other presidential candidates who are running against him — have rallied to Trump’s defence, accusing the U.S. Justice Department and state prosecutors of interfering in the 2024 election and anti-conservative bias.
Trump is currently scheduled to stand trial in Manhattan in March 2024, and in Florida in May, though it’s likely those dates could be pushed later. Smith has also proposed Trump’s trial in Washington begin in early January.
If the current schedule stands, the trials would be taking place well into the Republican nominating process but before the nominee is officially declared at the party’s convention in July.
— with files from The Associated Press.