Trump and 18 allies charged with racketeering in a bid to overturn the 2020 election: live updates
The indictment alleges a sweeping scheme to overturn the state's 2020 election results. Experts say the former president and his co-defendants may try to move the case to federal court to delay a trial and gain a more conservative jury pool.
Here's what we're following:
- Fani Willis: The Fulton County District Attorney said she will propose a trial within six months.
- Trump's codefendants: Former Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, John Eastman and Jenna Ellis, and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows were also charged by the grand jury, along with a number of so-called fake electors.
- RICO charges: Georgia's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute allows prosecutors to pursue criminal enterprises, including organized crime activities like money laundering, bribery, drug trafficking and other serious offenses.
- Read the indictment.
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This will be the last post for today. But there are still plenty of ways to follow the latest news on Donald Trump, his co-defendants and U.S. politics.
3 things that make this indictment different
It may be Donald Trump's fourth criminal indictment in five months, but in a few ways, these charges coming out of Georgia are some of the heftiest he has faced so far.
Here are three reasons they're different than what the former president is already facing (and why you might be hearing a lot about them this election season):
1. The scope is huge
Trump has been charged alongside 18 other defendants — all of them allies who prosecutors say conspired toward the same goal: keeping Trump in office.
This is not a case of one person allegedly trying (and failing) to overturn an election; it's a case of an organized network of false claims and potentially illegal action.
Unlike the previous federal indictments, the use of RICO for charging may send a chilling message to anyone thinking of assisting Trump in spreading future election fraud claims: You could be legally liable.
2. These are state charges
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a former Trump ally who's now one of his GOP primary rivals, changed the narrative pattern he has followed for the previous three indictments.
Instead of using the moment to take a full swipe at Trump, he said he thought the indictment was "unnecessary" because Trump has already been indicted on the federal level for his efforts to overturn the election.
But that narrative may be a tough sell: State charges and federal charges are not the same.
That's true on both a practical level (a president cannot pardon himself from state charges, for example) — and it's also true on a narrative level.
In the U.S., the states administer all elections, including presidential ones. And in Georgia, it was a slate of Republican office holders — from Gov. Brian Kemp to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — who pushed back against his election fraud claims.
You can expect Trump to still claim the state's politicians are biased against him, but it'll be a bit harder for him to pin that on his favorite scapegoat: Democratic President Biden.
3. There's compelling evidence the public can see and hear
So much of the evidence cited in this case was first shared by the media months or even years ago. There is video of hearings where an army of Trump loyalists tried to convince Georgia lawmakers they had the right to choose the state's victor. There are fake documents from Republicans claiming to be presidential electors.
And, of course, there's the phone call in which Trump begs Raffensberger to "find" over 11,000 votes.
If anything will move the needle in the court of public opinion, it's probably this sort of straightforward, accessible evidence. Sound bites are easier to digest than jargon-dense indictments with a page count that often numbers in the triple digits.
Brad Raffensperger offered up a short and simple response to these charges
Donald Trump's infamous phone call with Georgia's secretary of state may be the most high-profile example of what state prosecutors are calling a pressure campaign to reverse Trump's election loss.
In the audio recording of that hourlong call, Trump urged Brad Raffensperger to "find 11,780 votes" again and again while Raffensperger and his team continued to patiently knock back false claims.
Today, Raffensperger published a short and simple take on the news of this indictment:
“The most basic principles of a strong democracy are accountability and respect for the Constitution and rule of law," he said, according to his office. "You either have it, or you don’t."
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene tells people not to go to the courthouse
Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene urged supporters of the former president not to show up at the Fulton County Courthouse to protest, though she didn't specify when such a protest might happen.
"Don’t give them an ounce of your flesh," she wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. "Let them have their empty streets, barricades, and media circus. In Georgia, we will SHOW UP at the polls!!!"
It's one of a series of posts she made on Tuesday morning, in which she also slammed the district attorney for using "Communist tactics to interfere in a presidential election," calling for her removal and arguing that Democrats should face RICO charges for conspiring against Trump.
Greene's calls for people not to show up at the courthouse are particularly notable because she led a rally outside the Manhattan courthouse where Trump was arraigned in April.
She did not stay long, making brief and barely audible remarks to the crowd through a seemingly broken handheld megaphone before being whisked away by security. She walked back to a waiting car, swarmed by protesters, supporters and reporters along the way.
The scene outside the Fulton County Courthouse appeared relatively calm on Tuesday morning, after the indictment's late-night unsealing.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Tamar Hallerman tweeted that there was plenty of law enforcement and a small but sizable media presence on the scene.
The indictment comes from Fulton County, but a whole section references Coffee County
The Georgia indictment comes from Fulton County, but includes a number of charges related to incidents in Coffee County.
There, in the southeastern corner of the state, allies of Donald Trump gained access to a voting machine as they searched in vain for evidence of widespread voter fraud after the 2020 election.
Among those charged for the Coffee County breach is campaign lawyer Sidney Powell, who allegedly helped coordinate a plan to access voting machines in battleground states, including Georgia.
Court documents filed last year as part of a lawsuit over Georgia’s voting machines show that Trump associates, with the help of county officials and an Atlanta IT firm, appear to have obtained data from an election server, ballot scanners, memory cards and voter check-in computers.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation opened a criminal investigation, which remains ongoing.
A lawyer for the IT firm, Sullivan-Striker, told WABE last year they had no reason to believe they were hired to do anything improper or illegal.
Mike Hassinger, a spokesman for the secretary of state's office, has said that any wrongdoers will be prosecuted and voters should have confidence that election security is the top priority of election officials.
The indictment out of Fulton County also charges Misty Hampton, a former Coffee County election supervisor; Cathy Latham, a former Republican Party official in Coffee County; and Scott Hall, who took part in the plan.
The election management server and local workstation in Coffee County have been replaced and several elections have been held since without issues.
“The state is in a good position to mitigate the worst risks of whatever the hell you want to call what Powell and company did,” Dan Wallach, a Rice University professor who studies election technology, told WABE.
Ye's former publicist is charged in the plot to intimidate an election worker
One of the 19 defendants charged in the indictment is Trevian Kutti, a Chicago-based publicist who previously worked for scandal-plagued rappers R. Kelly and Ye (formerly known as Kanye West).
Prosecutors say Kutti was one of a trio of participants in a plot to pressure Fulton County election worker Ruby Freeman to falsely admit to committing election fraud.
Kutti is being charged with one count each of Georgia's RICO act, influencing witnesses and conspiracy to commit solicitation of false statements and writings.
Weeks after the election, as Freeman became the target of racist harassment and even death threats, Kutti traveled to Freeman's suburban home, knocked on the door, and — describing herself as a "crisis manager" — offered to help.
"She said she was sent by a 'high-profile individual,' whom she didn’t identify, to give Freeman an urgent message: confess to Trump’s voter-fraud allegations, or people would come to her home in 48 hours, and she’d go to jail," Reuters reported in 2021.
A representative for West later told the outlet that Kutti was not associated with him when she met Freeman.
Freeman asked police to send an officer to keep watch while she stepped outside to talk to Kutti, and the two agreed to meet at the police station.
"You are a loose end for a party that needs to tidy up,” Kutti said, according to body-camera footage worn by an officer present and obtained by Reuters. She also said that “federal people” were involved.
Freeman said Kutti put someone she described as a man with "authoritative powers to get you protection" on speakerphone, and that he spent the next hour offering legal assistance if she would admit to committing voter fraud on Election Day.
Freeman told Reuters she ended the conversation after growing suspicious, and after getting home she Googled Kutti's name and discovered she was a Trump supporter.
West, a friend and supporter of Trump's, also ran for president that year and conceded the morning after Election Day.
People did indeed turn up at Freeman's house later: Freeman wrote in her defamation lawsuit that a crowd of strangers surrounded her house on Jan. 6, some with bullhorns. She had temporarily left her home at the advice of the FBI and wasn't able to return for two months.
Who is Scott McAfee? The judge assigned to this case is new to the bench
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee was sworn in to his judgeship in February after a long career as a prosecutor and state inspector general.
His biography for that last role says he was “responsible for investigating allegations of fraud, waste, and abuse in the Executive Branch of state government." Now, he'll be overseeing the case against the former head of the federal executive branch, Donald Trump, plus 18 codefendants.
Despite his short tenure, McAfee has already issued one ruling on public statements Trump made about the Georgia presidential election results. In June, he fined attorney Lin Wood for being in contempt of court, ruling that Wood violated an order against insulting his former legal associates, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
McAfee is a lifelong Georgian who studied law at the University of Georgia after receiving an undergraduate degree in music (he played cello in Emory University's orchestra).
Before becoming inspector general, he worked as the assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Georgia and a senior assistant district attorney in the Fulton County Judicial Circuit.
He also is a volunteer scuba diver with the Georgia Aquarium and plays tennis, according to his biography.
He's already running for reelection for his bench seat in 2024, according to his campaign website.
Part of the indictment focuses on the harassment of election workers
Some of the charges in the indictment focus specifically on the defendants' alleged intimidation and harassment of Ruby Freeman, a Fulton County election worker who has since found herself at the center of conservative conspiracy theories — and is now suing for defamation.
The document says several defendants falsely accused Freeman of committing election crimes, including repeating those claims to Georgia lawmakers in an effort to overturn the results.
"In furtherance of this scheme, members of the enterprise traveled from out of state to harass Freeman, intimidate her and solicit her to falsely confess to election crimes that she did not commit," it reads.
Trump allies — most prominently, his attorney Rudy Giuliani — shared edited video after the election claiming to show Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, processing fake ballots for Joe Biden.
While election officials were quick to debunk the claims, conspiracy theories about the duo took off online, prompting real-life harassment and racist threats that forced them to hide their identity.
Freeman and Moss testified about their experience at a televised session of the Jan. 6 House panel last summer, describing the impact of the harassment on their daily lives, physical security and well-being.
"There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere," Freeman said in a video aired at the hearing. "Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States to target you? The President of the United States is supposed to represent every American, not to target one. But he targeted me, Lady Ruby, a small business owner, a mother, a proud American citizen who stand up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of the pandemic."
The Georgia indictment charges Giuliani with making false statements pertaining to his sharing of conspiracies about Moss at a December 2020 Georgia House of Representatives committee meeting.
Among other accusations, Giuliani accused Moss and Freeman of "surreptitiously passing around USB ports as if they are vials of heroin or cocaine." Moss testified in front of the committee that her mom had actually been handing her ginger mints.
Freeman and Moss also sued Giuliani for defamation in 2021. He conceded in a court filing late last month that he had made false statements against them.
The defendants may try to move the case to federal court, one expert says
Georgia's case against Trump and 18 other defendants may not stay in state court, one legal expert says.
Stephen Gillers, professor emeritus at the New York University School of Law, told Morning Edition on Tuesday that "the first thing that may happen in the next 30 days is an effort to remove the case to federal court."
He says that would be to the advantage of the defendants, since a jury would be picked from a more conservative area than the one in Fulton County. Plus, he adds, it could delay the case for several months.
"Ultimately the federal court might send it back to state court, or federal court might keep it if the court concludes that the conduct alleged was under color of federal law," Gillers adds, predicting "a real fight over that ... in the next two months."
Notably, Georgia's RICO act is broader than its federal counterpart. But Gillers stresses that any change in venue would only affect the setting of the trial, not the underlying allegations at stake: "The state RICO act would be litigated in federal court."
Would Trump be able to pardon himself from these charges?
Generally, legal experts will tell you that one of Donald Trump's best legal defenses is to win the 2024 presidency.
But even if he was controlling the very government that's prosecuting him, Trump would struggle to pardon himself if convicted of these particular charges coming out of Georgia.
For one, presidents don't have the power of pardon in state cases. And in this state case, some of the other usual figures don't either.
Even if, say, Trump ally-turned-rival Brian Kemp, the Republican governor of Georgia, did a complete 180 on his election fraud stances and decided to pardon Trump, he couldn't.
Georgia constitutionally removed its governor's power to pardon in the late 1930s, after then-Gov. E.D. Rivers was indicted by a grand jury for selling pardons, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia.
Under the state's constitution, a five-member boardvotes to decide on pardons and paroles. And any chance of rigging that board would be tricky, too: The members are appointed by the governor, confirmed by the state Senate and serve staggered, seven-year terms.
How Republican presidential candidates are reacting
Some of Trump's Republican primary challengers are responding to his fourth indictment, with several calling for the party to move beyond him.
Vivek Ramaswamy, speaking at a NewsNation Town Hall late Monday, called itan example of "politicized persecutions through prosecution."
“It would be a lot easier for me if Donald Trump were not in this primary, but that is not how I want to win this election," he added, according to The Hill.
Meanwhile, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson reiterated in a statement that Trump's "actions disqualified him from ever serving as President again."
Hutchinson, a former federal prosecutor himself, added that he personally understands how slowly this type of case may proceed in state court and will have more to say after he reviews the details.
Read my statement on the fourth indictment of #DonaldTrump.— Gov. Asa Hutchinson (@AsaHutchinson) August 15, 2023
Donald Trump has disqualified himself from ever holding our nation’s highest office again.
I’m ready to take the case to him on the debate stage. Help me qualify here: https://t.co/0t63rhb8WJ pic.twitter.com/id3lBljEHe
And former Texas Rep. Will Hurd called it "another day, another indictment, and another example of how the former president's baggage will hand Joe Biden reelection if Trump is the Republican nominee." He urged the party to "move beyond" dealing with that baggage.
Hurd also described it as another opportunity for Trump to "manipulate Americans into paying his legal bills" and said the Republican Party needs a leader "who isn't afraid of bullies like Trump."
Trump says he'll present a report next week that 'completely' exonerates him
The former president says he has plans to deliver a "Large, Complex, Detailed but Irrefutable" report on these latest charges, which offers him a "complete exoneration."
You might be able to guess what it'll be about:
"They never went after those that Rigged the Election. They only went after those that fought to find the RIGGERS!" he said in a post on Truth Social.
At her press conference yesterday, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis stressed that there are legal channels for anyone to contest an election result. She says Trump and his allies did not use those channels.
Unlike the pattern set by his previous three indictments, Trump appears to be waiting to speak until next week, saying he'll hold this press conference at 11 a.m. ET on Monday.
A legal scholar explains the significance of the RICO charges
The bulk of the Georgia charges against Trump have been made under the state's RICO Act, which is broader than its federal counterpart.
Constitutional law scholar Fred Smith Jr., a professor at Emory University School of Law, tellsMorning Edition that the prosecutors only need to demonstrate that the defendants were associated "in fact" as opposed to in a formal enterprise.
"All the prosecutors need to show in order to bring a RICO charge is that these individuals were acting with a common purpose and that they engaged in a pattern of illegal activities in order to achieve that common illegal purpose," he explains.
Georgia law lays out the various crimes (nearly 50, as opposed to the 35 federal crimes, according to Reuters) that can qualify as illegal activities, and Smith says they're generally felonies. Prosecutors must show a pattern — and state law says two illegal activities are sufficient.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has used RICO throughout her career in ways that Smith describes as "bold and aggressive" — including successfully bringing charges against teachers and administrators who changed students' test scores, and currently bringing such charges against rapper Young Thug and his alleged street gang.
Defendants who are found guilty of Georgia RICO charges face between five and 20 years in prison.
When to expect an arraignment, including, this time, a mugshot
The long-anticipated Georgia indictment against Trump has been unsealed. Now what?
As part of that process, the grand jury issued arrest warrants for Trump and the other 18 individuals who were charged.
District Attorney Fani Willis says the defendants have until noon ET on Aug. 25 to voluntarily turn themselves in.
The next step is an arraignment, at which the defendants will be read their charges, asked to enter a plea and released under certain conditions. That first appearance is also when they would be processed, which usually includes fingerprints and mugshots.
Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat told local media earlier this month that if Trump were charged, he would go through the same process as anyone else — including posing for a mugshot that would be publicly released. That would be a first for the former president, despite this being his fourth indictment in as many months.
Reuters reports that Trump's attorneys could ask the court to waive his arraignment, and he could enter a plea of not guilty without physically appearing in court.
Willis said Monday that she will ask for a trial date within the next six months, adding, "We do want to move this case along."
She has said that she plans to try all 19 defendants together, which could present significant logistical challenges. Defendants can choose to petition the court to ask that their cases be separated from some or all of the others, according to NBC News.
Are Trump's indictments still boosting his campaign? What the numbers show
The growing number of criminal charges against Trump doesn't appear to be hurting his campaign. In fact, as NPR has reported, his polling numbers saw a boost after his previous indictments:
- In March, several weeks before the first indictment, Trump had just 43% of the vote in Republican polling, according to a RealClearPolitics average.
- But then Trump was indicted by a grand jury in New York in connection to a hush money payment to a porn actress. By the next day, his numbers had jumped to 50%.
- Two months later, he was indicted again, this time at the federal level, for alleged mishandling of classified documents. His polling average jumped again, this time to 55%.
Trump was indicted again earlier this month over his alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Recent polling, such as from ABC News/Ipsos, suggest the public finds those charges more serious than the other indictments (though results fall along partisan lines).
Trump's fundraising numbers also seem to rise alongside his legal woes, with each indictment triggering a fresh wave of donations (ostensibly for his legal fund).
And while the indictments may help Trump clinch his party's nomination, as NPR's Franco Ordoñez noted earlier this month, they could hurt his chances with independents and Republican swing voters.
"The general election is more than a year off, and he has not yet won the Republican nomination," he writes. "But his legal troubles have appeared to hurt him with the voters he needs to attract to have a chance if he is the nominee in 2024."
And an NPR/PBS/NewsHour/Marist poll released in late July — before Trump's two most recent indictments — shows that the mounting legal charges may be starting to take a toll.
The number of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents saying they believe Trump has done "nothing wrong" dropped from 50% to 41% over the previous months.
His support also dropped six points with that same group when asked whether they were more likely to support Trump or another candidate if he continues to run for president.
That said, a solid 58% still said they would support Trump.
Who else has been charged?
Trump is one of 19 defendants named in the Fulton County indictment, which alleges a coordinated group effort to pressure Georgia officials to change the outcome of the 2020 election.
Some of the others include:
- Onetime Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Kenneth Cheseboro, Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell;
- Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows;
- Former Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark;
- Those that spoke at hearings designed to convince Georgia lawmakers to change the election results, such as attorney Ray Smith;
- Several so-called fake electors, who signed certificates saying Trump won Georgia and that they were official electors. This group includes Georgia Republican Party Chair David Shafer.
Another part of the case deals with the effort to unlawfully copy election data in rural Coffee County and the alleged participants.
GPB's Stephen Fowler tells Morning Edition that the indictment reveals new information about "people involved in efforts to harass a particular election worker and convince her to falsely say she committed election fraud."
Explaining the indictment's 'criminal enterprise' accusations
The Georgia indictment accuses former President Donald Trump and 18 other people of a "criminal enterprise" aimed at accomplishing the illegal goal of allowing him to seize the presidency.
Its 41 counts include conspiracy to commit election fraud, forgery and filing false statements.
Georgia's version goes beyond the federal law — which was established to target organized crime activities like money laundering and drug trafficking — by saying that attempting or soliciting particular crimes can constitute a predicate act.
Fowler tellsMorning Edition that while the RICO Act was meant to go after the mob, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has "used it creatively as a narrative tool" to target all kinds of alleged criminal enterprises (including prosecuting teachers in an Atlanta-area teaching scandal).
In this case, he says, Trump and his allies are accused of engaging in more than 160 different acts — not all of them explicitly illegal — that contributed to their effort to overturn Georgia's election results. Some of those acts show what he describes as a "broader conspiracy afoot to do illegal things."
"For instance, influencing lawmakers in other states to overturn their elections are acts that are efforts to influence lawmakers in Georgia, which is illegal here," Fowler says. "Think of them like building blocks that make up the wall of actions to overturn the election but not necessarily those critical foundational blatantly illegal things like, say, Trump calling Georgia's secretary of state to 'find votes.' "
Trump slams the indictment as a politically motivated 'witch hunt'
Former President — and current 2024 GOP frontrunner — Donald Trump has spoken out against his fourth indictment, accusing Georgia's district attorney and other Democrats of "taking away" his right to free speech and trying to interfere with the upcoming presidential election.
Trump's campaign posted a statement to Truth Social late Monday calling District Attorney Fani Willis a "rabid partisan" who has "strategically stalled her investigation to try and maximally interfere with the 2024 presidential race."
Willis spent over two years investigating various efforts in Georgia to pressure public officials and overrule President Biden's 2020 victory.
It was a lengthy process, involving seven months of a grand jury probe complicated by numerous legal battles involving witnesses unwilling to testify and Trump's own unsuccessful effort to block the investigation, as GPB's Stephen Fowler explains.
Speaking at a press conference late Monday night, Willis stressed that she made her decisions based on facts and the law, calling the law "completely nonpartisan."
The Trump campaign described the charges against him as "the latest coordinated strike by a prosecutor in an overwhelmingly Democrat jurisdiction" and one of several "intentionally slow-walked" investigations against him.
"They could have brought this two and a half years ago, yet they chose to do this for election interference in the middle of President Trump's successful campaign," his team said. "These activities by Democrat leaders constitute a grave threat to American democracy and are direct attempts to deprive the American people of their rightful choice to cast their vote for President."
Trump echoed several of those claims in another Truth Social post around 1:30 a.m. ET. in which he repeatedly referred to the indictment as a "witch hunt."
"19 people Indicated tonight, including the former President of the United States, me, by an out of control and very corrupt District Attorney who campaigned and raised money on, 'I will get Trump,'" he wrote, adding, "Why didn't they Indict 2.5 years ago?"
Criminal charges against Trump — who survived multiple scandals during his presidency, including two impeachments — do not appear to be hurting his campaign, as NPR has reported: Polls show each of his first three indictments correlated with a boost in support.
Scenes from the Atlanta courthouse where a day of history was made
It's been more than two years since Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis first started investigating the efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
In recent weeks, orange security barriers began lining the courthouse and media encampments became a daily occurrence.
That was especially the case this morning, after Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan publicly said he'd been called in to testify as Willis outlined her case before the grand jury.
Based on Duncan's stated timing, reporters thought the final step of this investigation might take two days, with news of an indictment coming on Tuesday. But then one media outlet, Reuters, reported that the indictment had been published — based on a document that it said it had seen published on the court's website. The court clerk called the document "fictitious."
And as 5 p.m. ET came and went without sign that the grand jury had wrapped for the day, it became clear that the court was still in session — holding back jurors with the aim of finishing up sooner.
Just before 9:00 p.m., the grand jury handed up the indictment, but it remained sealed and inaccessible to the press. Reporters, and the public, had no choice but to wait for the court to go through a procedure to unseal it.
Willis rewarded that wait by taking a few questions at a brief press conference, a move that broke the prosecutorial pattern set by the last two Trump indictments.
Indictments are not moving the needle on Republicans' view of Trump
Trump has insulated himself with his base, having sold them over the past seven years on his false narrative of a deep-state conspiracy against him.
But news of yet another indictment — the fourth against him since April — puts in stark relief just how deep and widespread Republicans apparently believe this conspiracy goes.
Take whether people think President Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election. Recounts, audits and more than 60 court cases have proved that to be the case. And yet, in July, a CNN poll found that only 29% of Republicans thought Biden won. Almost 7 in 10 (69%) Republicans said he did not.
Of Republicans who said Biden lost, 56% said they base that on “solid evidence,” of which there is none, versus 44% who said it was “suspicion” only.
The latest NPR poll found that Republicans had declined by 9 points in saying that Trump had done nothing wrong, from 50% to 41%. But a majority continued to say they preferred Trump to be the GOP standard-bearer in 2024.
The grand jury heard from over 70 witnesses — but not Trump himself
The special purpose grand jury heard from more than 70 witnesses from inside and outside Georgia to determine what, if any, laws were broken. Some of those witnesses took immunity deals from the prosecutor's office in exchange for their testimony.
The special grand jury issued a final report earlier this year with recommendations to Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. Limited portions of that report were made public in February, after a judge decided that the recommendations would largely be kept under wraps.
The district attorney had argued for the report to stay sealed to protect the rights of those who might face criminal charges.
The following week, several media outlets conducted interviews with the foreperson of the grand jury, Emily Kohrs, after The Associated Press identified her. Kohrs gave bits of behind-the-scenes information about the closed-door process, stopping short of elaborating on any recommendations still left under wraps but strongly hinting at multiple recommended indictments for many crimes.
Trump's allies and his Georgia-based attorneys took the opportunity to attack the investigation into election interference, with high-profile criminal defense attorney Drew Findling arguing that the foreperson "poisoned" any potential efforts of securing an impartial regular grand jury that could seek indictments.
Willis' decision to charge Trump comes after the special grand jury declined to ask him to appear for questioning, either voluntarily or under a subpoena.
The former president's Georgia-based lawyers previously argued that they assumed the lack of outreach meant the grand jury concluded Trump did not violate any laws.
The grand jury's star-studded witness list included Gov. Brian Kemp and Sen. Lindsey Graham
The special grand jury used subpoena power to compel dozens of people to testify over the last several months, though it faced difficulties from some out-of-state witnesses.
The list of those who testified includes:
- Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp
- Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr
- Former Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger
- Trump-aligned attorneys John Eastman, Jenna Ellis and Kenneth Chesebro
- Sen. Lindsey Graham (his efforts to halt his testimony were argued all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to block a lower court's ruling that Graham was protected from questioning about activities related to being a lawmaker but could answer for other statements and actions.)
Former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani testified for hours behind closed doors after failed attempts to delay his appearance before the grand jury.
One person who didn't testify? The former president himself.
Many of his actions and statements were in the public domain, uncovered via reporting or shared through testimony from others, but it is unclear why the panel did not seek out Trump's testimony firsthand, as he is a central figure in the investigation.
Listen to the recording of Trump's call with the Georgia secretary of state
Broadly, the work of the 26-person grand jury panel centered around two major themes:
- The pressure campaign to reverse Donald Trump's roughly 12,000-vote loss in Georgia's thrice-counted election;
- And the coordinated effort to send so-called "alternate" slates of Republican presidential electors in states won by Biden.
The most infamous example of the former is Trump's phone call to Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, exhorting him to "find 11,780 votes" and undo Biden's victory ahead of the counting of Electoral College votes.
An audio recording of the hourlong call details that Raffensperger and representatives of the secretary of state's office continued to patiently knock down some of the more inflammatory claims made by Trump and other top Republicans, who alleged hundreds of thousands of votes were illegally counted.
Mark Meadows, Trump's chief of staff, told Raffensperger he was hopeful that in a "spirit of cooperation and compromise" there would be some way to find a path forward to overturn Georgia's certified election results, which were confirmed by both a full hand audit and a machine recount.
"We don't agree that you have one," Raffensperger said.
There were other calls, too, like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham's conversation with Raffensperger regarding absentee ballots, and another leaked call Trump had with Georgia's top election investigator about a review of ballot envelopes.
🎧Listen to parts of the phone call and analysis on what they mean here.
The Georgia election workers at the core of the Trump indictment
Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia were sprawling, and they touched many people involved with administering the voting process there. Here are some of the key figures mentioned in the indictment.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger: The Republican secretary of state was the chief election official in Georgia during the 2020 election, and he was on the other end of the phone when Trump made his now-infamous request to “find” enough votes for him to win the state. Trump and his chief of staff Mark Meadows are both charged with solicitating a public officer to violate their oath in regards to that call.
When Raffensperger declined, he put his political future at risk, but last year he beat an election-denier challenger in the Republican primary and was easily reelected in a general election. In an interview with the NPR Politics Podcast in 2021, Raffensperger said Trump “knows in his heart that he lost this election,” and the Republican has spent that past few years fighting back against Trump’s misinformation about American elections.
Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss: Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, both worked as election workers in Fulton County. In the time after the 2020 election, Trump allies, notably his attorney Rudy Giuliani, shared edited video that purported to show Freeman and Moss processing fake ballots for Joe Biden. The videos were quickly debunked by election officials, but conspiracy theories about the pair flourished, leading to a wave of harassment and racist threats.
“A lot of threats wishing death upon me, telling me that, you know, I'm — I'll be in jail with my mother, and saying things like 'be glad it's 2020 and not 1920,' ” Moss told the congressional committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol last summer.
Giuliani is charged with making false statements to the government, for sharing conspiracies about Moss among other election falsehoods at a Georgia House of Representatives committee meeting in December 2020.
Misty Hampton: Hampton is the only election official charged in the indictment. She previously oversaw voting for Coffee County, Ga., and she allegedly granted unauthorized access to her county’s elections equipment for the purpose of furthering election conspiracies. She faces seven charges.
Frances Watson: In addition to calling Raffensperger, Trump also called Georgia’s chief elections investigator, Frances Watson, after the election to try to get her to find fraud that would help overturn the results. "When the right answer comes out you'll be praised," he told her, according to the indictment. A full recording of the call is available here.
Indictment centers on fake electors plot
On Dec. 12, 2020, political operative Michael Roman sent an email to multiple people seeking to make a "tracker for the electors," according to the indictment.
Essentially, Roman was looking to make a spreadsheet of all the Trump presidential electors in battleground states, with information on whether they had been contacted and whether they had indicated that they would be willing to meet on Dec. 14 to take part in a plot to send in competing slates of election results. The "fake electors" scheme that Trump's campaign allegedly put together, was critical to trying to create chaos on Jan. 6, 2021, when Congress was set to meet to certify the results, and it proved to be a centerpiece of the Georgia indictment.
At least 13 of the 41 charges are related to the false electors scheme. Roman, the aforementioned campaign operatives, faces seven charges.
Trump campaign contests Georgia investigation
Shortly after a grand jury in Atlanta presented its findings in an election interference probe to a Georgia judge, the Trump campaign issued a statement calling the then-unsealed indictments "bogus."
The former president's campaign, which is currently the front-runner for the GOP primary, reiterated claims that any charges are election interference.
The campaign also issued a statement accusing Fulton County attorney Fani Willis of being politically motivated in bringing the indictments forward. Willis is no stranger to high-stakes cases and insists she works to do "what's right" regardless of political pressure.
Who is Fani Willis? Fulton County's district attorney is no stranger to high-stakes cases
Back before Donald Trump was trying to convince Georgia officials he'd won the election in their state, Fani Willis had claimed an election victory of her own.
Willis had unseated her old boss to become the first woman elected district attorney in Fulton County, which is home to Atlanta.
"My career has taught me, no matter the political pressure, just do what's right," Willis pledged as she took office. "And no matter if you were at the state Capitol or the slums, you will be held accountable if you commit a crime in my community."
Now, Willis is helming a criminal investigation that is entangling a former president.
Willis is no stranger to high-stakes cases. She first made her name prosecuting an Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal, winning 11 convictions.
Her co-prosecutor back then, Clint Rucker, says the high visibility and controversy the case inflamed all prepared her for this moment. Willis has been condemned by Trump and has faced threats.
"If you've gotten one shot when you go into the doctor, you know what it feels like to take a shot," Rucker told Georgia Public Broadcasting last year. "So if you have to take two or three more, you can handle it."
Still, Willis has made some mistakes. Last year, she hosted a political fundraiser for the political opponent of one of the so-called fake electors her investigation was targeting. A judge called it a "what-are-you-thinking moment" and disqualified Willis' office from prosecuting him.
🎧 Hear the full story on Fani Willis' background from GPB's Sam Gringlas.
Willis looks to move forward within 6 months
Willis said her office will be submitting a proposed scheduling order within this week that will include a proposed trial date within the next six months. The actual date will be up to the judge's discretion, after also hearing the defendants' proposal.
In a press conference with reporters, Willis said she intends to try all 19 defendants, which includes the former president and some of his closest allies, together.
"I make decisions based on the facts and the law. The law is completely nonpartisan," Willis said, adding that this is only the 11th RICO indictment, in response to Trump's claims that these indictments are politically motivated.
That federal act was established to target organized crime activities like money laundering, bribery, drug trafficking and other serious offenses.
In remarks to the press, Fani Willis stressed the role states play in U.S. elections
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis took the podium and spoke for roughly 6 minutes before taking questions from the press. She began her statement by listing each of the 19 defendants by name, starting with "Donald John Trump."
She alleged they were all part of a “criminal racketeering enterprise,” all aiming to “accomplish the illegal goal of allowing Donald J. Trump to seize the presidential term of office” after 2020.
Willis also spent some time explaining the racketeering charges, and summarized the importance of her work with a few lines about the nature of U.S. elections:
"All elections in the United States are administered by the states," she said. "The states' role in this process is essential to the functioning of our democracy."
She thanked the staff who kept the courthouse open late and the local law enforcement who've been camped outside the building for weeks.
Democratic and GOP congressional leaders respond
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries issued a joint statement calling on the former president to "allow the legal process to proceed without outside interference.”
“The actions taken by the Fulton County District Attorney, along with other state and federal prosecutors, reaffirms the shared belief that in America no one, not even the president, is above the law," they said in a statement.
But Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is standing by Trump.
In an online statement, McCarthy joined Trump in casting the indictments themselves as interference in the upcoming 2024 presidential election. Trump and his Republican allies have repeatedly used allegations of bias in the justice system as a way to dismiss the various investigations and indictments.
Justice should be blind, but Biden has weaponized government against his leading political opponent to interfere in the 2024 election.— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) August 15, 2023
Now a radical DA in Georgia is following Biden’s lead by attacking President Trump and using it to fundraise her political career.
Falsehoods play a huge role in Georgia indictment
The indictment handed down Monday night centers on the many election lies Trump and his allies spun about the 2020 election.
In just the first 26 pages, the indictment notes these key falsehoods:
- Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani (who faces 13 charges) told a Senate subcommittee that more than 96,000 mail ballots were incorrectly counted in the state.
- He falsely told the same subcommittee that Dominion voting machines switched 6,000 votes in Michigan.
- At the same hearing, attorney Ray Stallings Smith (who faces 12 charges) claimed more than 2,500 felons illegally voted in Georgia.
- Smith also said more than 66,000 underage people illegally registered to vote.
- He claimed more than 10,000 dead people voted as well.
- Trump claimed on Twitter that Democrats were "ballot stuffing" in a ballot counting room.
"The purpose of these false statements was to persuade Georgia legislators to reject lawful electoral votes cast by the duly elected and qualified presidential electors from Georgia," the indictment reads.
What is RICO and why was it used to charge Trump and his allies?
In charging Trump and his allies, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is relying on a particular aspect of Georgia state law: RICO.
That federal act was established to target organized crime activities like money laundering, bribery, drug trafficking and other serious offenses.
Georgia's version says that attempting or soliciting any of the mentioned crimes can count as a predicate act.
Trump and allies named as defendants
A total of 19 people, including Trump, are named defendants. Some additional people charged in the indictment:
- Former Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark
- Attorney John Eastman
- Attorney Kenneth Chesebro
- Attorney Jenna Ellis
- Attorney Sidney Powell
Some of these allies of the former president have also been at the center of the other indictments that have come down on Trump in recent months.
Others charged in Georgia include Meadows, Giuliani
Nearly 20 people face charges in Fulton County.
Those also charged by an Atlanta-based grand jury include onetime Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani; former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows; and a number of so-called fake electors, who signed certificates saying Trump won Georgia and that they were official electors, and which included former Georgia Republican Party Chair David Shafer.
Meadows was on the infamous Trump call with Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and traveled to Georgia unannounced at one point to try to gain access to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation-led audit of absentee ballot signature envelopes.
Giuliani was a chief purveyor of baseless election fraud claims, including at a meeting with Georgia lawmakers. Giuliani spread a debunked story about two Fulton County election workers depicted in a surveillance video and shared in Georgia hearings and across social media.
Read the indictment
Donald Trump has been indicted in Georgia for seeking to overturn the 2020 election
A grand jury in Georgia has indicted Donald Trump for his role in failed efforts to overturn the state's 2020 election results, implicating the former president as the head of a sweeping conspiracy to subvert his defeat.
It's the fourth indictment in as many months for Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. And it's part of a massive case brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis under Georgia's racketeering law, ensnaring a number of defendants that the DA alleges acted as part of a coordinated effort to pressure officials to change the election outcome.
In an indictment handed up Monday, an Atlanta-based grand jury outlined a series of charges against Trump, including violation of the Georgia RICO law and solicitation of a violation of an oath by a public officer.
The indictment in Atlanta comes less than two weeks after Trumppleaded not guilty to federal charges that he conspired to overturn the 2020 election.
Why is this indictment coming out of Georgia?
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis spent more than two years investigating various efforts in Georgia to pressure public officials and overrule Joe Biden's narrow victory in the 2020 presidential election.
Georgia was one of the central states where false fraud claims dominated the post-election period.
The efforts there included Trump's call to Georgia's secretary of state to "find" votes to overturn the election; a scheme to send documents from Republicans claiming to be presidential electors; and hearings where an army of Trump loyalists tried to convince Georgia lawmakers they could choose the state's victor.
The so-called fake electors signed certificates saying that Trump had won and they were official electors. They've argued that they were doing so in case Trump's lawsuit challenging the results was successful.
Georgia grand jury returns indictment in 2020 election probe
A grand jury in Atlanta has presented its findings in an election interference probe to a Georgia judge, but no details were read aloud to gathered reporters.
The Fulton County clerk's office told reporters it was planning to post the indictment, but it was not immediately clear when that would happen.
The grand jury had been presented evidence in county prosecutors' investigation into the efforts of former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election.
If Trump is indicted, it would be his fourth indictment in as many months.
Trump remains the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.