Trump and 18 others charged in Georgia election inquiry

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Donald Trump speaks as he campaigns at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on 12 August 2023IMAGE SOURCE,REUTERS
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The Trump campaign described the charges as “bogus” and said they were designed to “damage the dominant… campaign”

Former US President Donald Trump has been charged with attempting to overturn his 2020 election defeat in the state of Georgia.

It is the fourth criminal case brought against him in as many months.

Mr Trump, who is the leading Republican candidate for president in 2024, was indicted along with 18 other allies.

He denies all 13 charges against him, which include racketeering and election meddling. He has said they are politically motivated.

Georgia prosecutor Fani Willis first launched an investigation in February 2021 into allegations of election meddling against Mr Trump and his associates.

In a 98-page indictment made public late on Monday, prosecutors listed 41 charges against the 19 defendants.

Ms Willis announced she was giving defendants the opportunity to voluntarily surrender no later than noon on Friday 25 August. She said she plans to try all 19 accused together.

The list of alleged co-conspirators includes former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former White House lawyer John Eastman.

Others include a former justice department official, Jeffrey Clark, and Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis – two Trump lawyers who amplified unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud.

The indictment says the defendants “knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favour of Trump”.

The former president is accused of the following felony counts, including:

  • Violating Georgia’s racketeering act
  • Solicitation of violation of oath by public officer
  • Conspiracy to impersonate a public officer
  • Conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree
  • False statements and writings and filing false documents

The indictment refers to the defendants as a “criminal organisation”, accusing them of other crimes including influencing witnesses, computer trespass, theft and perjury.

The most serious charge, violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (Rico) Act, is punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison.

The act – designed to help take down organised criminal syndicates like the mafia – helps prosecutors connect the dots between underlings who broke laws and those who gave them orders.

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In a statement, the Trump campaign described the district attorney as a “rabid partisan” who had filed “these bogus indictments” to interfere with the 2024 presidential race and “damage the dominant Trump campaign”.

“This latest co-ordinated strike by a biased prosecutor in an overwhelmingly Democrat jurisdiction not only betrays the trust of the American people, but also exposes the true motivation driving their fabricated accusations,” said the statement.

He is the first former president in US history to face criminal charges.

Fani WillisIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis launched an investigation in February 2021

There was confusion earlier on Monday when a list of a criminal charges against Mr Trump appeared on a Fulton County website before the grand jury had voted to return an indictment.

The filing said Mr Trump had been charged with racketeering, conspiracy to commit fraud and making false statements.

A spokesperson for Ms Willis said the document was “fictitious” but did not explain how it ended up on the court’s website.

Mr Trump and his allies seized on the apparent clerical error to claim the process was rigged.

Earlier this month, Mr Trump was charged by federal prosecutors in Washington DC with conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, which he lost to President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

That charge sheet devoted significant time to the Trump team’s activities in Georgia. Mr Trump has pleaded not guilty in that case.

Ms Willis’ investigation focuses specifically on Georgia, a key battleground state for the US presidency that Mr Trump narrowly lost.

In January 2021, Mr Trump was recorded on a phone call asking Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 votes – the number he would have required to beat Mr Biden in that state.

The indictment outlines an alleged scheme to tamper with voting machines in one Georgia county and steal data.

It also mentions an alleged scheme to submit false lists of electors, officials who make up the Electoral College that elects the president and vice-president.

There are key differences between state charges such as those in Georgia and federal ones. Significantly, if Mr Trump were to become president again in 2024, he would not have the power to pardon himself from state charges.

Mr Trump also faces a New York state trial on 25 March next year involving a hush money payment to a porn star. And he is due to go on trial in Florida on 20 May on allegations related to his handling of classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago residence after his presidency.

In both cases Mr Trump also pleaded not guilty.

With additional reporting from Jonathan Csapo

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Donald Trump: “I just want to find 11,780 votes”

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