WASHINGTON ― Former President Donald Trump on Monday night was indicted in Georgia on charges that he committed state crimes by trying to coerce election officials to overturn his narrow loss to Joe Biden there, as part of his coup attempt to remain in power despite losing the 2020 election.
Trump was charged with more than a dozen felonies, from conspiring to commit forgery to filing false documents to racketeering, which is considered a “serious” felony and punishable by as long as 20 years in state prison.
Also indicted were a laundry list of Trump lawyers and allies, including Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, John Eastman, Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell, Kenneth Chesebro, former Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark and a host of Georgia Republican officials.
At a news conference that started close to midnight, District Attorney Fani Willis said the “criminal conspiracy” had the “illegal goal of allowing Donald J. Trump to seize the presidential term of office beginning on Jan. 20, 2021.”
“The grand jury issued arrest warrants for those who are charged,” Willis said. “I am giving the defendants the opportunity to voluntarily surrender no later than noon on Friday the 25th day of August 2023.”
Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to a HuffPost query regarding if and when Trump would do that.
The sweeping 98-page document details a total of 161 criminal acts, 41 counts and 19 defendants, including Trump, who was charged with 13 of the counts. The scheme is described as a “criminal enterprise” under Georgia’s broad racketeering law.
“Trump and the other defendants charged in this indictment refused to accept that Trump lost, and they knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump,” the indictment stated in the introduction.
Among the charges: the harassment and threats against two Fulton County elections workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, on false allegations that they were tampering with ballots.
The indictment also focuses on the fake elector scheme, which it states was “intended to disrupt and delay the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021, in order to unlawfully change the outcome of the November 3, 2020, presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.”
Willis’ indictment lays out an act-by-act chronology of the conspiracy, starting with a discussion Trump had on Oct. 31, 2020 ― three days before election day ― about a speech in which he would claim fraud and declare victory even if he lost. Trump in fact gave such a speech in the wee hours of election night: “An overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy,” according to the indictment.
The narrative, listing dates, times and locations, lays out events that in most instances are not by themselves illegal but taken together are elements of a conspiracy to unlawfully remain in office despite having lost.
Trump’s indictment was handed up by a Fulton County grand jury just before 9 p.m. ET following a marathon day of hearing testimony from witnesses. Local police started setting up barricades around the courthouse two weeks ago in anticipation of potential protests.
In a statement released by his presidential campaign about an hour after the indictment was filed but before it was made public, Trump called Willis a “rabid partisan” who is trying to hurt his effort to return to the White House. “They are taking away President Trump’s First Amendment right to free speech, and the right to challenge a rigged and stolen election that the Democrats do all the time,” the statement said, repeating the same lies that led to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection in the first place.
The indictment is the second related to his post-election activities leading up to and on the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump was charged in a federal indictment in Washington, D.C., two weeks ago, accusing him of conspiring to defraud the United States, conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, obstructing an official proceeding, and conspiring to deny civil rights.
U.S. Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith had previously brought 37 felony charges against Trump in June for retaining top-secret documents at his Florida country club and then hiding them from authorities seeking their return. On Thursday, he added three new charges in an updated indictment, including two that accused Trump of ordering the deletion of a computer server that contained incriminating video footage.
In Georgia, Trump, his campaign and members of his White House team, including then-chief of staff Mark Meadows, pushed Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and others to set aside Biden’s 11,779-vote victory in that state and falsely declare Trump the winner.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis began her investigation shortly after a recording was made public of Trump seeming to threaten Raffensperger with the possibility of criminal prosecution.
Willis sought a special grand jury to investigate that pressure campaign and related efforts by Trump and his team in Georgia. The grand jury wrapped up its work early this year and disbanded. It did not have the authority to issue indictments, which were left for Willis to pursue with a regular grand jury.
The judge overseeing that 23-member panel, however, released three brief portions of the grand jury’s report on Feb. 16. In those, jurors wrote that they’d concluded there had been no widespread voter fraud in Georgia, as Trump continues to falsely claim. Jurors also said they believed that at least one of the 75 witnesses who appeared before them had committed perjury.
In a hint of Willis’ action, the grand jury included six pages of recommendations regarding whom to indict and on what charges, all of which were redacted from what the judge released.
Trump had been lying, and continues to lie, about the election in Georgia and other states having been “stolen” from him. Trump used those falsehoods to rile up thousands of followers he’d drawn to the nation’s capital for the Jan. 6, 2021, ceremonial counting of Electoral College ballots by Congress, as part of his campaign to pressure his own vice president into awarding him a second term.
Trump has long defended his phone call to Raffensperger in which he demanded that officials “find” him 11,780 more votes. Trump claimed that the conversation was “even more perfect” than his 2019 call to then-newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, when Trump asked him the “favor” of investigating Biden, whom Trump feared most as a general election opponent.
During a CNN “town hall” appearance the network hosted for him this May, Trump yet again repeated his claim that he had done nothing wrong by insisting Georgia officials “find” him the votes he needed.
“I said, ‘You owe me votes because the election was rigged.’ That election was rigged,” Trump said, returning to his oft-repeated lie that 2020 election was stolen from him. “This was a perfect phone call.”
Trump this spring was also indicted by the Manhattan district attorney on felony charges of falsifying business records to hide a $130,000 hush money payment he made to an adult film star just days before the 2016 election. Trump pleaded not guilty to the charges, and a trial is set for March.