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Trump indicted over election interference in Georgia

Along with the former president, 18 other people have been indicted on a total of 41 counts, ranging from racketeering charges, to conspiracy to commit forgery, to perjury

Donald Trump
Former president Donald Trump at an election rally in Des Moines, Iowa, this weekend.EVELYN HOCKSTEIN (REUTERS)

Former president Donald Trump was indicted again on Monday, for the fourth time in four months. This time, the indictment was handed up by a grand jury in Georgia, which gave the green light to bring charges against the Republican and 18 members of his staff on a total of 41 counts related to efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in that state, which the former president lost by less than 12,000 votes. The current presidential candidate has been charged with thirteen counts, including violating Georgia’s anti-racketeering law, as well as conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree.

Among those charged in the 98-page indictment alongside Trump are some of his top aides, including his former chief of staff Mark Meadows and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. Also included is Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department official who was involved in attempts to manipulate the voting results. Attorneys John Eastman and Kenneth Chesebro, authors of a scheme to use fake electors to vote for Trump in the state, have also been indicted, as well as his campaign advisor Mike Roman.

All of them are accused, among other things, of racketeering, in violation of Georgia’s law against organized crime with the “illegal goal of allowing Donald Trump to thief the presidential term of office beginning on January 20, 2021,” according to Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. During a press conference late Monday night, Willis said that her goal is for the trial against the former president to begin within six months. The prosecutor said the defendants have until “no later than noon” on Friday, Aug. 25 to voluntarily surrender.

“Trump and the other defendants charged in this indictment refused to accept that Trump lost, and they knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump,” the indictment document reads. Monday’s indictment adds to a long list of charges stemming from three other criminal cases — all of which will play out during his 2024 presidential campaign.

The charges — the most extensive so far among Trump’s other pending criminal cases — are the result of an investigation led by Willis, a Democrat, that lasted two and a half years. The prosecutor opened the investigation after a recorded phone call between Trump and Georgia’s then-Secretary of State of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, was made public. In the January 2, 2021, call, then-president Trump pressures Raffensperger to “find” him 11,780 votes, one more than those won by Biden in the state.

Willis’ investigation also led her to examine illegal access to the computer systems of electronic voting machines in a rural county, and a scheme to use false voters in favor of the Republican candidate.

The former president was quick to react. Shortly after the grand jury delivered its verdict, but before the content of the charges was made public, he posted on his social network, Truth Social, a statement in which he lashed out against Willis, as he has previously done against those who have brought charges against him in other cases. “Radical Democrat District Attorney Fani Willis is a rabid partisan who is campaigning and fundraising on a platform of prosecuting President Trump through these bogus indictments,” the statement said. “Ripping a page from crooked Joe Biden’s playbook, Willis has strategically stalled her investigation to try and maximally interfere with the 2024 presidential race,” Trump added.

The Georgia indictment follows three others: the first one came in March, when a New York prosecutor accused him of falsifying business records in connection with payments to allegedly buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels over an extramarital affair, which Trump denies. The second came in June, in Miami, where Special Counsel Jack Smith charged him with 37 counts of illegally possessing classified material after leaving the White House. Finally, in August, Smith charged him again, this time in the most serious case of the four: the former president’s alleged efforts to alter the results of the 2020 elections.

Stacks of boxes of classified documents that Trump allegedly stored in a bathroom and shower at Mar-a-Lago after leaving the White House.
Stacks of boxes of classified documents that Trump allegedly stored in a bathroom and shower at Mar-a-Lago after leaving the White House.HANDOUT (AFP)

The Georgia case is linked to special counsel Smith’s federal case, but is limited to efforts to reverse the results of the state on election night. Specifically, in Fulton County. There, the electorate voted for then-Democratic candidate Joe Biden — the winner of the election — albeit only by a slim majority of 11,779 votes. In the January 2, 2021, call, Trump is heard saying: “I just want to find 11,780 votes.”

“The data you have is wrong”

In the recorded conversation, the then-outgoing president — he had 18 days left in the White House — pleads, praises, insists and warns Raffensperger, always under the assertion he has maintained since his electoral defeat: that he was the real winner, and the official data is the result of a huge hoax. The Georgia official did not agree; he knew that Biden’s victory had been legitimate. “The data you have is wrong,” Raffensperger replied to Trump during the phone call.

The now presidential hopeful maintains that he only made “a perfect phone call of protest” when he called Raffensperger, as he stated this Monday on Truth Social. Much like he did with his previous three indictments, Trump has once again claimed that he is the victim of a conspiracy against him put together by the Democratic Party and the media to prevent him from returning to the White House, and painted himself as the champion of ordinary Republicans. “Why wasn’t this fake case brought 2.5 years ago? Election intereference!” he added on social media.

In addition to the phone call to Raffensperger, Willis also investigated an early January 2021 voting system breach in Coffee County, Georgia, as well as a plot to use bogus voters in an attempt to capture votes in that swing state, which at the time was shaping up to determine the national outcome of the election as well as key in defeating Biden.

False conspiracies

While at first glance the case appears more limited than, for example, the one led by special counsel Smith into efforts to overturn the 2020 national election, an indictment in Georgia could lead to additional legal complications for the former president. Trump has hinted that, should he become president again, he would acquit himself to put an end to his criminal cases. Or he could appoint a like-minded person to head the Justice Department who would shelve the federal indictments. But since the Georgia indictment is a state case — not a federal one — he could do neither.

“Not only would he not be able to pardon himself, but the pardon process in Georgia means Gov. (Brian) Kemp would not be able to pardon him either. There’s a pardon board. So it’s a more complicated process,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti told CNN on Saturday. “He also would not be able to shut down the investigation in the same way.”

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