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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.

The 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.

In September 2023, 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. 

In January 2024, one of Trump’s co-defendants—former campaign advisor Mike Roman—filed a motion to disqualify Willis from bringing the case to trial because she had hired her “boyfriend” as a special prosecutor. In March 2024, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee ruled that Trump and the other defendants had “failed to meet their burden” of proving that the district attorney’s romantic relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade was enough of a “conflict of interest” to disqualify her from the case.. But in June, the Georgia Court of Appeals ordered a halt to all proceedings in the election interference case against Trump and eight other defendants pending the outcome of their appeal seeking to disqualify Willis. Oral arguments in the appeal are now scheduled for Oct. 4, 2024, with a three-judge appeals panel given until early March 2025 to issue a ruling.

The eight other defendants who are seeking to disqualify Willis and her staff are Meadows, Giuliani, Clark, Roman, former Trump campaign lawyer Robert Cheeley, two fake electors from 2020 (David Shafer and Cathy Latham), and Harrison Floyd, a former leader of Black Voices for Trump. As of June 2024, it was unclear whether or not the case against the six remaining co-defendants who didn’t sign the appeal could continue.

The Case

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 Trump were to be reelected 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.” 

The case is one of Trump’s six other civil and criminal trials that had been slated for 2024 but that his lawyers have successfully managed to delay until after the November election.