Photo by Wadiifekar, Deposit Photos.
Former President Trump, along with 18 others, were indicted on Monday in Georgia, for alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 Presidential election in the state.
The charges include violating the Georgia RICO Act—the Racketeer Influenced And Corrupt Organizations Act; Solicitation of Violation of Oath by a Public Officer; Conspiracy to Commit Impersonating a Public Officer; Conspiracy to Commit Forgery in the First Degree; Conspiracy to Commit False Statements and Writings; Conspiracy to Commit Filing False Documents; Conspiracy to Commit Forgery in the First Degree; Filing False Documents; and Solicitation of Violation of Oath by a Public Officer.
The Georgia Fulton county District Attorney Fani Willis gave Trump and the others indicted until Aug 25th to surrender. Willis said that she would like the trials to take place within the next six months, putting the trial just before Super Tuesday, which is scheduled for March.
“Donald John Trump lost the United States presidential election held on November 3, 2020. One of the states he lost was Georgia,” the indictment states. “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. That conspiracy contained a common plan and purpose to commit two or more acts of racketeering activity in Fulton County, Georgia, elsewhere in the State of Georgia, and in other states.”
The 97-page indictment contains 41 felony counts against Trump and the 18 defendants and alleges they “unlawfully conspired and endeavored to conduct and participate in a criminal enterprise in Fulton County, Georgia, and elsewhere.”
This is the most significant charge in Trump’s latest indictment.
Federal and state RICO laws are generally used to prosecute organized crime, but Willis has a long history of applying Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization statute to a multitude of cases.
Willis opened the case after Trump asked Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes” while the votes for the 2020 election were being tallied. In 2022, a Georgia special grand jury heard from dozens of witnesses, including local officials and Trump aides who testified.
“The idea behind the RICO is that you can charge the mastermind with everything that those involved in the enterprise did,” Melissa Redmon, a director for the University of Georgia School of Law’s Prosecutorial Justice Program, told Insider. “And the RICO Act could give prosecutors the opportunity to give a “fuller picture of everything that was done to influence or to disrupt the election in Georgia.”
The RICO Act was introduced by the federal government in 1970, but it doesn’t refer to a specific offense. The act covers a wide range of criminal activities, including gambling, extortion, arson, robbery, bribery, theft, and fraud. Two or more acts would have to committed within a span of 10 years, establishing a “pattern of racketeering activity”, allowing this charge to be brought.
Georgia has it’s own standards, allowing the RICO Act to be used against a single person, rather than needing to be used against a group.
According to the law, it’s a crime for any person to “through a pattern of racketeering activity or proceeds derived therefrom, to acquire or maintain, directly or indirectly, any interest in or control of any enterprise, real property, or personal property of any nature, including money.”
State cases don’t typically charge defendants with RICO violations, but the feds use it “all the time,” Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor, told Insider in an interview.
RICO charges relate to criminal enterprises and allege a pattern of racketeering activity, Rahmani added, so “as long as there’s one RICO predicate act within Fulton County, [Willis] can identify all the other conduct in other counties and get that evidence in as part of the pattern.”
Monday’s indictment accuses Trump and 18 other co-defendants of engaging in “various related criminal activities including, but not limited to, false statements and writings, impersonating a public officer, forgery, filing false documents, influencing witnesses, computer theft, computer trespass, computer invasion of privacy, conspiracy to defraud the state, acts involving theft, and perjury.”
If convicted, Trump could face up to 20 years in prison for this charge.
Insider reported that the prosecutor also charged 35 Atlanta public school teachers, who are accused of falsifying standard test results. Willis has also used this act against local gangs and in an ongoing 56-count RICO case against rapper Young Thug and others.
Norm Eisen, a legal expert for the Brookings Institution, claimed that this charge could actually hurt prosecutors due to the case being so politically charged, and that he thinks a narrower case, rather than the broad RICO Act, would have been the better choice.
Making False Statements and Writings
Georgia law says that it’s illegal for an individual to knowingly and willfully make a false, fictitous, or fradulent statement or representation to officials.
The indictment alleges that Trump violated this law several times, including
- In a September 2021 letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger stating that “the number of false and/or irregular votes is far greater than needed to change the Georgia election results”.
- And telling Raffensperger, his deputy, and his general counsel that thousands of dead people voted in the 2020 election, that election workers illegally tampered with balots, and that 250,000-300,000 ballots were mysteriously dropped into Georgia’s voter rolls, among other claims.
This charge may be difficult to prove as the prosecutor would have to prove that Trump “knowingly” pushed false statements, not just that he believed that a signficant amount of fraud occured. Trump likely would have to be on tape saying that he knows he lost the election but is going to push to overturn it anyways.
“The question is not just whether the claims themselves were false but whether the defendant knew they were false,” Anna Cominsky, an associate professor of law and the director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at New York Law School, told Insider regarding Trump’s previous indictment.
“If they fail to show any criminal intent, that could certainly undermine their case,” said Sarah Krissoff, a former federal prosecutor with the Southern District of New York and a current defense attorney with the firm Cozen O’Connor, also claimed regarding Trump’s third indictment earlier this year.
Prosecutors allege that Trump engaged in a conspiracy to commit impersonating a public officer when he and other co-defendants tried to get fake pro-Trump electors “to falsely hold themselves out as the duly elected and qualified presidential electors from the State of Georgia, public officers, with intent to mislead the President of the United States Senate, the Archivist of the United States, the Georgia Secretary of State, and the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia into believing that they actually were such officers”, Insider has reported.
Trump is also being charged with his alleged involvement in an email that stated that “Notice of Filing of Electoral College Vacancy” that falsely claimed to have been from “duly elected and qualified presidential electors” from Georgia and was sent to the US archivist and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.
Solicitation of a violation of oath by a public officer
Trump is being accused of soliciting the violation of the oath of office by a public officer in several instances including:
- Asking David Ralston, incoming Speaker of Georgia’s House of Representatives, to call a special session “for the purpose of unlawfully appointing presidential electors from Georgia, in willful and intentional violation of Ralston’s oath of office.
- Asking Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a phone call on January 2nd 2021, telling Raffensperger to “find” thousands of votes to nullify Biden’s win.
- Asking Raffensperger in September 2021 to decertify the 2020 election, “or whatever the correct legal remedy is, and announce the true winner.”
If convicted, Trump faces up to three years in prison.
Filing False Documents
The indictment alleges that Trump, along with the GOP lawyer John Eastman, “knowingly and unlawfully” ﬁled a document titled “Verified Complaint for Emergency Injunctive and Declaratory Relief” and knew it contained at least one of six “materially false” statements.
Those statements included the claim that “as many as 2,506 felons,” “at least 66,247 underage” people, “at least 2,423” people who weren’t registered to vote, “at least 1,403 individuals” who had illegally registered to vote, and “as many as 10,315 or more” dead people had all voted in the 2020 election in Georgia.
“Deliberate misinformation was used to instruct Republican poll watchers and members of the press to leave the premises for the night at approximately 10:00 pm. on November 3, 2020” at State Farm Arena in Fulton County, Georgia, the indictment alleges.
The eigtheen others charged include former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, the GOP lawyers Sidney Powell and John Eastman, and others.
Trump has denied the charges and is expected to plead not guilty.
Several of Trump’s primary opponents have slammed the latest indictment of former President Trump.
Vivek Ramaswamy called it “another disastrous Trump indictment”, called it “pathetic”, and even offered to “write the amicus brief to the court myself”.
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott called the latest indictment “un-American and unacceptable”.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told reporters on a press call Tuesday that he hadn’t yet read the full indictment but said it illustrated the “criminalization of politics”, adding that “I don’t think this is something that’s good for the country.”