Trump indictment: Breaking down the ‘criminal enterprise’

Fulton County prosecutors this week charged former President Donald Trump and 18 others with a criminal conspiracy to steal the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

The sprawling indictment cites 161 actions allegedly taken by the defendants to support a racketeering charge against them. It also includes 40 additional charges stemming from each defendant’s participation in the scheme.

The indictment says the defendants “refused to accept that Trump lost, and they knowingly and willfully joined conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump.”

The operation, the indictment said, was “a criminal enterprise.”

Here’s a look at the various elements of the alleged conspiracy and each defendant’s role.

False statements

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Allegations of voting fraud provided Trump the rationale for overturning Joe Biden’s victory. Trump and his allies claimed tens of thousands of illegal votes were cast in Georgia. And they claimed election night video in Fulton County showed workers counting and double-counting fraudulent ballots.

None of it was true. Election experts found Trump’s voting fraud evidence “highly inaccurate” and “worthless.” State and federal investigators found the video showed normal ballot counting. Investigators found various claims of voting fraud were false.

Evidence compiled by federal investigators suggests Trump campaign officials knew the allegations were false. But they doubled down on them anyway as they fought to keep Trump in power.

The indictment says attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Ray Smith and Bob Cheeley knowingly made false statements about fraud at Georgia General Assembly hearings. It says Trump and attorney John Eastman knowingly included false claims in a federal lawsuit that sought to overturn the election. And it says Trump made false claims in his infamous call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and again in September 2021 when he asked Raffensperger to decertify the election.

The fake electors scheme

Credit: Richard Elliott, WSB-TV

Credit: Richard Elliott, WSB-TV

Judges across the country rejected Trump’s fraud claims. But his lawyers hit upon another strategy to keep him in office.

As official presidential electors met to elect the next president, Trump’s team convened slates of “alternative” electors in Georgia and other states Biden won. These electors voted for Trump.

The stated rationale was to preserve Trump’s legal options – if a judge ruled in his favor, the alternative electors could be recognized as official. But when his lawsuits went nowhere, Trump’s team asked state legislators and Vice President Mike Pence to recognize his electors as the rightful ones.

A Trump campaign operative directed the Georgia electors to operate in “complete secrecy” and to mislead security guards and the media about why they were at the Georgia Capitol. When reporters spotted them, the electors initially turned them away, saying they were a group of “educators” (the electors later opened the proceeding to the media).

The indictment charges three of Georgia’s 16 Trump electors – then-GOP Chairman David Shafer; Shawn Still, now a state senator; and Cathleen Latham – of impersonating public officers, forgery, false statements and attempting to file false documents in connection with the fake electors scheme. It charges Trump, Giuliani, Eastman, Smith and Cheeley – along with attorney Kenneth Chesebro and campaign operative Michael Roman – with allegedly conspiring to cause those various crimes.

A special counsel may investigate one of the other electors, Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, who in December 2020 was a state senator.

Pressuring public officials

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Credit: Natrice Miller /

At Georgia legislative hearings in December 2020, Trump attorneys pressed lawmakers to overturn Biden’s victory, citing false voting fraud allegations. Though the evidence of fraud did not withstand scrutiny, many Georgia Republicans were willing to overrule the will of the voters.

But Gov. Brian Kemp and legislative leaders would not convene a special session to allow lawmakers to do Trump’s bidding. Trump pressed his case in phone calls to Kemp and House Speaker David Ralston to no avail.

Trump also urged Attorney General Chris Carr to support a long-shot Texas lawsuit to overturn the election in Georgia. He told the chief investigator in an audit of Cobb County absentee ballot signatures she would be “praised” if she found “the right answer.” And he twice asked Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn the election – once in an infamous January 2021 phone call and again by letter the following September.

The indictment charges numerous people with soliciting public officials to violate their oaths of office: Trump; White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; and attorneys Giuliani, Eastman, Smith, Cheeley and Jenna Ellis.

Harassing poll workers

As Trump and his allies hyped false voting fraud allegations, they singled out Fulton County election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. The mother and daughter were featured in the election night surveillance video that Giuliani called a “smoking gun” for fraud (it was not).

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The workers endured harassment and threats from angry Trump supporters. Freeman fled her house for months on the advice of the FBI.

Stephen Cliffgard Lee, an Illinois resident, visited Freeman’s Cobb County home but was later pulled over by a police officer after Freeman called the cops. He told them he was “working with some folks who are trying to help Ruby out.

Lee allegedly worked with Harrison Floyd, director of Black Voices for Trump, and Trevian Kutti, a former publicist for R. Kelly and Kanye West, to get Freeman to admit to voting fraud.

During a meeting with Freeman, Kutti and Floyd pressured her “to reveal information under the threat of incarceration if she did not comply,” according to a grand jury summons.

The indictment charges Lee, Floyd and Kutti with influencing witnesses and conspiracy to solicit false statements and writings. Lee faces additional charges of attempting to influence witnesses for visiting Freeman’s home.

Politicizing the Justice Department

Trump tried to enlist the Justice Department to aid his campaign to overturn the election, congressional investigators found.

Jeffrey Clark, a Trump ally in the department, drafted a letter to Georgia officials that said the department had “significant concerns” about voting fraud. The letter urged Georgia officials to convene a special session of the General Assembly to consider invalidating the state’s presidential election results and selecting the winner themselves.

Senior Justice Department officials refused to send the letter. The department had found no evidence of widespread fraud. And they said allowing the department to intervene on Trump’s behalf would have “tremendous constitutional, political and social ramifications for the country,” according to documents released by congressional investigators.

When the officials refused to send the letter, Trump considered appointing Clark acting attorney general. He backed down when top Justice Department officials threatened to resign.

The indictment charges Clark with criminal intent to make false statements and writings.

Copying Georgia’s election system

Credit: Coffee County video

Credit: Coffee County video

One of the conspiracy theories that fueled Trump’s fraud narrative was that mysterious actors hacked voting machines and “flipped” votes from Trump to Biden. Election officials and federal cybersecurity experts disputed the claim. Nearly three years later, there is no evidence to support the vote-flipping allegations.

Computer analysts hired by attorney Sidney Powell — a proponent of the conspiracy theory — gained access to election equipment and software in Coffee County, about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta.

On Jan. 7, 2021, Latham, one of the Georgia Republican fake electors, escorted the computer analysts into the county elections office. Then-Coffee Elections Supervisor Misty Hampton and Atlanta bail bondsman Scott Hall also were present.

They copied election software used throughout the state and distributed it to other conspiracy theorists through a file-sharing website. Election security experts say the files could be used to create malware to hack future elections, but Georgia election officials say the danger is remote.

The indictment charges Powell, Latham, Hall and Hampton with conspiring to commit election fraud and to defraud the state. It also charges them with conspiring to commit computer theft, computer trespass and computer invasion of privacy.

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