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Trump, allies charged with racketeering scheme over bid to subvert election in Georgia

Trump, allies charged with racketeering scheme over bid to subvert election in Georgia

by host

The 98-page indictment tracks several well-known aspects of Trump’s conduct in the chaotic weeks that followed his defeat in the Nov. 3, 2020 election, many of which were aired by the House Jan. 6 select committee and, more recently, in a federal indictment obtained by special counsel Jack Smith.

But Willis’ indictment was breathtaking in its scope and is the first to charge the coterie of Trump’s enablers with crimes for their efforts to help facilitate his bid to remain in power despite losing the election.

The indictment includes several key components:

  • Trump’s bid to assemble false slates of presidential electors to foment a controversy aimed at derailing the transfer of power. Mike Roman, a Trump campaign aide involved in that effort, was among those charged in the indictment. Some participants in the effort, including Georgia GOP chairman David Shafer, were also charged.
  • A pressure campaign by Trump, Giuliani, Eastman and others aimed at Georgia officials with responsibilities for certifying the presidential election.
  • The filing of false claims of fraud in court documents associated with a last-ditch lawsuit by Trump to upend the results in Georgia.
  • A breach of sensitive election equipment by Trump-aligned officials in Coffee County, Ga. Cathleen Latham, one of Trump’s false electors, was charged for her role in this effort.
  • A campaign of harassment and false claims against Ruby Freeman, an election worker who became the target of pro-Trump conspiracy theories about voter fraud.

Willis also charged elements of Trump’s efforts that extended beyond Georgia’s borders, taking aim at Clark’s effort to disseminate a letter putting pressure on Georgia legislators to reconsider certifying a pro-Trump slate of electors. And she charged Trump and Eastman with orchestrating a pressure campaign against Pence to single-handedly overturn the election on Jan. 6, 2021, when Congress met to count Electoral College ballots.
It’s the fourth and by far the most wide-ranging set of criminal charges Trump faces as he seeks to reclaim the Oval Office in 2024. The indictment comes two weeks after Smith charged Trump with a federal conspiracy to derail the transfer of power. Willis’ charging document mentions dozens of unindicted co-conspirators.

The Fulton County indictment cites an infamous phone call on Jan. 2, 2021, in which Trump pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes for him to reverse his defeat.

It lists more than a dozen false statements Trump made on the call, including several attacks on Freeman.

Trump has spent months assailing Fani Willis and accusing her of leading a politically motivated investigation. He has made several attempts to disqualify her from the case, but has so far gained no traction in the courts for those efforts. He continued to attack the impending prosecution on Monday, insisting “I didn’t tamper with the election!” And he urged Geoff Duncan, Georgia’s former lieutenant governor, not to appear before the grand jury just hours before the indictment was handed up.

Willis, a Democrat and career prosecutor, was elected in 2020 as the district attorney after running against her former boss. She is the first female DA of Fulton County, which includes most of Atlanta and is the most populous county in Georgia.

The newly filed case is the fourth criminal case against Trump since March. He also faces New York state charges for allegedly falsifying business records to cover up an affair with a porn star; federal charges in Florida from Smith’s team for hoarding classified military secrets at his Mar-a-Lago estate; and the federal charges in Washington, D.C., also from Smith’s team, for his election scheme.

Willis’ charges have been years in the making. She empaneled a “special grand jury” in early 2022 — a quirk of Georgia law that permits prosecutors to pursue complex, focused investigations that don’t fit within the bounds of the traditional grand jury process. Though that panel spent months hauling in some of Trump’s top aides and allies, it had no power to issue indictments. Rather, Willis took the evidence amassed by the special grand jury before a traditional grand jury in order to secure indictments.

The crucial witnesses who were summoned before the special grand jury included Eastman, Giuliani and Chesebro, all of whom were described as co-conspirators in Smith’s recent indictment. Willis also interviewed Meadows; Trump’s former national security adviser, Mike Flynn; and at least two GOP lawmakers, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.).

Even after the special grand jury process ended in January, Willis continued to investigate the case. In court filings, Willis indicated she had offered immunity to several of the GOP activists who posed falsely as legitimate presidential electors at the urging of the Trump campaign in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

Some of them have alleged they took those steps after being advised by the campaign that their efforts were a contingency plan in case Trump won any of his lawsuits aimed at overturning the election. In those exchanges, Willis — as well as the judge presiding over the special grand jury, Robert McBurney — indicated that one of those false electors, Georgia GOP Chair David Shafer, was more criminally exposed than the other false electors.

In addition, Willis has made clear she is probing the unauthorized breach of election equipment in Coffee County, Ga., by pro-Trump investigators in the aftermath of the 2020 election. One of the pro-Trump false electors, Cathy Latham, has been linked to that effort as well, and she has at times joined Trump’s legal efforts to derail Willis’ prosecution.

Asked by POLITICO in November 2020 whether she saw reason for Trump’s electors to cast their ballots instead of Biden’s, Latham responded: “Bahahaha you think I’m going to respond to you? You don’t know GA law. Read the Constitution.”

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