A fourth criminal indictment against Donald Trump so far this year was unsealed Monday. On this occasion, it was drawn up by the Atlanta District Attorney’s Office following a grand jury investigation in connection to the former president’s alleged attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.
The indictment contains 41 separate charges against 19 people, covering not only Trump, but also his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows and much of his legal team, including Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman and Sydney Powell.
The main charge is violation of Georgia’s state RICO (racketeer influenced and corrupt organizations) Act, which accounts for about 60% of the text. The rest of the charges (for forgery, false statements and writings, solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer, etc.) are derived from the first one.
The brief summarizes the defendants’ alleged conspiracy to coerce the Georgia State Legislature, local electoral workers, Justice Department officials and former vice president Mike Pence to reject legitimate election results, as well as the creation of “alternative” documents, attempts to intimidate officials, and the theft of computer data.
Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis exhaustively lists, in 161 separate sections, conduct that, in her opinion, was part of a criminal conspiracy to alter the election results in Georgia. There are no major novelties with regard to information that has been published over the last two years, but it is striking to see all of the maneuvers the former president and his co-conspirators carried out between November 2020 and January 2021 in an attempt to overturn the legitimate count laid out in chronological order.
It was a coordinated action, with multiple ramifications and no respect for the rule of law, which is all the more shocking taking into account that many of the defendants are lawyers.
Which of the four indictments against the former president has the greatest potential to result in a conviction? From what we have seen so far, the federal indictment in New York against Trump for alleged fraud in the management of his business group, in which he has been indicted for falsely accounting a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep an alleged extra-marital affair from coming to light, is probably the weakest and least likely to succeed.
On the other hand, the case surrounding the withholding of classified documents removed from the White House at the end of his presidency and stored at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida is a paradox: from an evidentiary point of view, it is possibly the strongest case against the former president. However, the fact that the federal judge assigned to the case has already shown signs of her sympathy toward Trump, who was responsible for appointing her, when the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago may give Trump some hope that the case will end in a washout.
The indictment before a federal court in Washington in connection with the attempted subversion of the 2020 presidential election process presents the opposite scenario: the evidentiary material is probably less compelling than in the Mar-a-Lago case as it is based more on testimonial than documentary evidence, but in this instance Trump has had the misfortune of being assigned a federal judge who has already tried several of the Capitol rioters who stormed Congress on January 6, 2021, and has imposed tough sentences on them.
The indictment issued in Atlanta presents a very important particularity compared to the three previous cases: it is a state and not a federal proceeding, which would mean that if Trump was convicted and went on to win the presidential elections in November 2024, he would not be able to hypothetically pardon himself as the power of presidential pardon covers only the scope of federal crimes.
At this point, a sensible political party would come to the conclusion that a former president with four indictments hanging over him and trials pending in 2024 is not the ideal candidate to run in the upcoming presidential election. But the Republican Party — concerned by the reaction of its own voters should it try to abandon Trump — has opted to claim against all the evidence that the court proceedings in four different states are the fruit of a government conspiracy against the former president and not, as seems increasingly likely, the result of his notorious disrespect for the law and the Constitution, and his inability to accept the outcome of a democratic election he lost in 2020.
In less than two weeks the Republican primary debates will begin and everything indicates that, aside from exotic exceptions such as Chris Christie or Mike Pence, the remaining candidates will compete for the privilege of being named vice-presidential nominee, paving the way for a Trumpist coronation.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition