Donald Trump has been criminally charged for the fourth time this year, with Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis unveiling an indictment Monday night concerning Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election result in Georgia.
The indictment features 41 counts — 13 against Trump — and charges against Trump-aligned lawyers including Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. The core of the indictment, a racketeering charge, implicates all 19 defendants.
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That brings the total number of criminal charges this year against the runaway front-runner in the GOP presidential primary to 91.
The indictment is Trump’s second involving his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the second to be brought outside federal court. Trump was charged on the federal level in special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation of his broader efforts on the election front. Smith’s probe into Trump’s refusal to return classified documents also brought an indictment.
Trump’s first indictment came in Manhattan over an alleged 2016 plot to cover up hush money payments to women who alleged he had affairs with them. As in Fulton County, that prosecution was brought by a Democratic district attorney.
Below are some takeaways from the latest indictment.
The biggest way in which this indictment isn’t like the others? The Trump allies it ensnared.
Smith opted this month to bring a case against Trump alone while listing six unnamed (but mostly easily identifiable) associates as unindicted co-conspirators. Willis has gone in a different direction, also indicting 18 others she says took part in the criminal enterprise.
Those 18 include five of the six unindicted co-conspirators from the federal indictment, most notably former New York mayor and federal prosecutor Giuliani, who faces 13 counts of his own.
Powell, who is accused of orchestrating a breach of voting machines in Coffee County, Ga.Trump lawyer John Eastman, a key figure in the alternate-elector plotTrump-aligned lawyer Kenneth Chesebro, another key figure in the alternate-elector plotFormer Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, whom Trump aimed to install as acting attorney general and who attempted to get the DOJ to bolster baseless claims about voter fraud
Others of note, who weren’t listed as co-conspirators in the federal indictment, include Meadows, Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis and state Republican Party Chairman David Shafer.
These aren’t the first non-Trump white-collar defendants to be prosecuted for their efforts to overturn the 2020 election — Michigan’s attorney general recently indicted 16 alternate Trump electors, including a former state party chair — but these are the first ones close to Trump.
The indictments could ramp up pressure on the defendants to provide information and possibly even serve as witnesses against Trump, either in Georgia or in the federal case, where charges could still be brought against them.
A core Trump defense in the federal Jan. 6 case is the idea that he was merely exercising free speech.
But that defense won’t work as easily in Georgia, which has a broad prohibition against making “a false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation … in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of state government.”
That law figures heavily in the indictment, with the phrase “false statement” appearing more than 100 times, including as individual counts and as part of the alleged racketeering. (The indictment lists 161 overt acts as part of the latter.) Defendants like Trump and Giuliani are accused of making false statements about voter fraud publicly, in legal filings, in hearings in Georgia and elsewhere.
Another frequently included crime is solicitation of violation of public oath by a public officer. Essentially, this amounts to asking someone to violate their sworn duties, including by asking them to help overturn a legitimate election result. The most notable example: Trump’s Jan. 2, 2021, call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) during which he told Raffensperger he needed to “find” just enough votes to overturn the result. Meadows was also indicted over his role in the call.
Trump and others, including Giuliani, Eastman and Chesebro, are also charged in the alternate-elector plot with various conspiracies, including to commit forgery, a charge that was also brought against the Michigan alternate electors.
One of the more striking details comes in the 38th and 39th counts — the last charges against Trump — which date to Sept. 17, 2021, nearly eight months after Trump left office.
The charge has to do with a letter Trump sent to Raffensperger in which he enclosed a report alleging that 43,000 ballots in Atlanta-based DeKalb County were not properly handled using chain-of-custody rules. Trump suggested that Raffensperger “start the process of decertifying the election, or whatever the correct legal remedy is, and announce the true winner.”
The indictment accuses Trump and others of having “corruptly solicited Georgia officials, including the Secretary of State and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to violate their oaths to the Georgia Constitution and to the United States Constitution by unlawfully changing the outcome of the November 3, 2020, presidential election in Georgia in favor of Donald Trump.”
After Trump left office, many Republicans urged him to stop talking about a “stolen election” for fear it would damage their party in the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. But Trump was unswayed. It wound up costing the GOP in the 2022 election, and now it’s cost Trump in the form of additional charges.
The prosecution of Trump and the others in Fulton County will stand out for one distinct reason: Unlike the federal trials (unless the rules change), it should be televised.
That will seemingly bring a measure of transparency to the high-stakes proceedings and create appointment viewing — just as the House Jan. 6 committee hearings did last year but potentially with even greater numbers.
But unlike the other trials, that spectacle is less likely to play out when it matters politically. The many defendants and Trump’s already crowded legal calendar make this a strong candidate for getting delayed past the 2024 election. Willis says she will ask for a trial date within six months, but that’s ambitious.
That doesn’t mean it won’t matter politically. As noted above, the charges against Trump allies could matter when it comes to how the federal prosecution takes shape. Trump’s attacks on witnesses could create problems under Georgia’s witness intimidation laws, which allow bail only if there is “no significant risk of intimidating witnesses.”
And there remains the possibility of Trump’s winning the 2024 election and facing this trial as a sitting president.