It marks the fourth time that Trump has been criminally charged ― and the second time this August the former president has been indicted for interfering in the 2020 election, which he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
But the Georgia case is far different because it also charges a large cast of alleged accomplices – from former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former state Republican Party chairman David Shafer.
Also charged: state Sen. Shawn Still; attorneys John Eastman, Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis, Bob Cheeley, Ray Smith III and Kenneth Chesebro; former assistant U.S. attorney general Jeffrey Clark; former Coffee County GOP chairwoman Cathy Latham; Atlanta bail bondsman Scott Hall; former Coffee County elections director Misty Hampton; GOP strategist Michael Roman; publicist Trevian Kutti; Illinois pastor Stephen Cliffguard Lee; and Harrison Floyd, who briefly ran for a suburban Atlanta U.S. House seat before serving as director of Black Voices for Trump.
The charges are the culmination of a 2 1/2-year criminal investigation launched by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis shortly after Trump’s leaked Jan. 2, 2021, phone call with Brad Raffensperger, during which he asked the Georgia secretary of state to “find” him 11,780 votes.
The indictment lays out several different areas of alleged criminal misconduct.
- The phone calls Trump made to Georgia officials, including Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp.
- The “alternate” GOP electors who cast Electoral College votes for Trump on Dec. 14, 2020 while the official Democratic electors cast votes for Joe Biden.
- The false testimony given to state House and Senate committees, which led to threats and harassment of Fulton County poll workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss.
- The copying of sensitive Georgia elections data in Coffee County, some 200 miles southeast of Atlanta, the day after the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Willis was expected to address reporters at a press conference Monday evening.
The DA took the unusual step of convening a separate special grand jury in 2022 which investigated election interference in Georgia for eight months. They heard from almost 75 witnesses and recommended who they thought Fulton prosecutors should indict.
The Georgia charges come two weeks after a federal grand jury returned a four-count indictment that charged Trump with using lies to advance a widespread national effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. That indictment, spearheaded by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith, covers a lot of the same ground as the Fulton charges. Trump has pleaded not guilty to the federal case.
It is unclear when Trump and his co-defendants will have to surrender to Fulton authorities and whether they must do so at the troubled county jail. It is also unclear whether Trump will have his mugshot taken and when the former president must make his first appearance in court.
Trump’s legal team is expected to use a little-known federal statute to try and move his case out of Fulton County and into U.S. District Court in Atlanta just a few blocks away. The benefit of shifting jurisdictions would be to get a more conservative jury pool.
Jurors from the U.S. District Court’s Atlanta division are culled from 10 metro counties. This includes Fulton County, where President Joe Biden won more than 72 percent of the vote in 2020. The DA’s office is expected to fight the move and attempt to keep the case in Fulton.
The Fulton charges add to an increasingly packed calendar for Trump, who is running for the Republican nomination for president for the third time.
In addition to the federal election case, Trump also has March and May court dates for two other cases. They are the scheduled New York state trial in March related to alleged hush money payments and the federal trial set for May in south Florida relating to the alleged mishandling of classified documents after Trump left office. Special counsel Jack Smith is asking that Trump be tried in January in U.S. District Court in Washington on charges he conspired to overturn the 2020 election.
The Fulton case, however, could ultimately have some of the most staying power if Trump is convicted. That’s because unlike the federal cases, which could be dismissed by a future Republican president, Georgia’s pardon process is in the hands of an independent board, not the governor. Under the state’s rules, a person needs to wait five years after they serve any prison sentences before they can be considered for a pardon.