On August 14, 2023, a grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia indicted Donald Trump and 18 allies on charges of violating 16 state laws in their conspiracy to sabotage the results of the 2020 presidential election. “The indictment alleges that rather than abide by Georgia’s legal process for election challenges, the defendants engaged in a criminal racketeering enterprise to overturn Georgia’s presidential election result,” said Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis in announcing a total of 41 counts against the defendants, including 13 against Trump himself.
This fourth Trump indictment in 2023 complements the Department of Justice’s own federal election fraud case against him. In contrast to the narrow focus and single defendant named in the DOJ indictment, the Georgia indictment is much broader and deeper, charging a wide range of co-conspirators who were closely aligned with Trump but not necessarily in his inner circle. These include high-profile players such as the ex-president’s final chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani; infamous lawyers and loyalists like Ken Chesebro, Jeffrey Clark, John Eastman, Jenna Ellis, and Sidney Powell; and a number of otherwise unknown supporters such as the fake electors and local campaign allies who helped advance the plot.
At 98 pages, the indictment is more than twice the size of the federal one and offers uniquely compelling evidence of election interference that violates a number of state criminal statutes. If Trump and/or any of his co-defendants are found guilty of these state charges, a potential presidential pardon wouldn’t be effective if the GOP were to win the White House in 2024. “The state’s role in this process is essential to the functioning of our democracy,” Willis said in underscoring this point.
Based on four central schemes to subvert the election results, the Georgia indictment relies on the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act to charge Trump and each of the 18 other defendants of functioning like a criminal gang.
The first scheme the indictment addresses was the effort to pressure government officials to help shift electoral votes to Trump, despite his loss in the state. In addition to his infamous demand of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to just “find 11,780 votes”—which led to a charge of felony solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer for Trump and six others—Willis points to efforts such as Giuliani’s pressuring of state legislators, Clark’s preparation of an allegedly fraudulent draft letter from the DOJ targeting the state, the pressure Meadows placed on election officials, and the co-conspirators’ lies and intimidation targeting poll workers and ballot counters Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss.
The second alleged scheme was Trump’s attempt to mobilize fake electors willing to proclaim him the winner in Georgia. Willis points to the then-president’s and Eastman’s call to the Republican National Committee to organize fake slates of electors in multiple swing states, along with other illegal activity in Georgia and beyond.
The third scheme—led by Powell, campaign allies and computer consultants—was the illegal breach of voting machines in Coffee County to prove supposed theft of votes, a brazen move not mentioned in the DOJ indictment but one that was apparently discussed (at least in general terms) in the Oval Office.
The fourth part of the conspiracy Willis highlights is obstruction and cover-up. Trump and his co-conspirators are alleged to have filed false documents, made false statements to government investigators, and committed perjury during Fulton County judicial proceedings.
On August 24, Trump voluntarily surrendered at the Fulton County jail but pleaded not guilty to all charges and was immediately released on bond. As with every case against him, the ex-president claims that this prosecution is merely a politically motivated “witch hunt” and that the charges are “bogus.” Among his many derisive public comments on the matter, he has called District Attorney Willis “out of control and very corrupt.”
In September, Trump filed motions to dismiss most of the charges, arguing, for example, that he was exercising his First Amendment political speech rights and that prosecutors failed to sufficiently allege the existence of a racketeering enterprise. Although five of the five defendants who attempted to move their cases to federal versus state court have not had any luck yet, the former president is considering a similar motion.
On September 29, the first of the 19 co-defendants in the case to strike a plea deal—Atlanta area bail bondsman Scott Hall—pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. In October, three others did the same: lawyers Chesebro, Ellis, and Powell, all of whom agreed to testify against Trump if called on to do so once the case goes to trial.
Willis has proposed a start date of Aug. 4, 2024, with the trial expected to run through and beyond the presidential election in November. “This proposed trial date balances potential delays from Defendant Trump’s other criminal trials in sister sovereigns and the other Defendants’ constitutional speedy trial rights,” Willis wrote in a court filing on Nov. 17, 2023. The former president is already facing six other civil and criminal trials due to begin or continue in 2024.
In January 2024, one of Trump’s co-defendants—his former campaign official Michael Roman—filed a motion alleging that Willis had hired her “boyfriend” as a special prosecutor in the case and she should therefore be disqualified from bringing the case to trial. In early February, the AG finally responded to the accusations but maintained that her romantic relationship with a co-worker does not change the facts in the election interference case against Trump. A hearing in Fulton County Superior Court to resolve the issue is slated for mid-February.