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Former President Donald Trump and his 18 co-defendants have beenaccused of breaking a variety of criminal lawsin the Georgia 2020 election subversion case, but one crime ties all their alleged misconduct together: the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
The state law — which is commonly referred to as RICO — is similar to the federal version of the statute that targets so-called criminal enterprises. Georgia’s law allows prosecutors to pull an array of conduct into their indictments, including activities that took place outside of the state of Georgia but may have been part of a broad conspiracy.
Those convicted of racketeering charges also face steeper penalties, a point of leverage for prosecutors if they are hoping to flip potential co-conspirators or encourage defendants to take plea deals.
“Federal RICO is a very big deal. It’s difficult to prove, and it’s used pretty sparingly. Georgia RICO is a different animal. It’s easier to prove,” said Kenneth White, a defense attorney familiar with the federal law. “The point is, it’s used very aggressively there.”
ForFulton County District Attorney Fani Willis,the law has been her calling card. The Atlanta-area prosecutor has used it in a number of high-profile cases she’s previously brought in Georgia against school officials, gangs and musicians, including the rapper Young Thug.
Thehistoric 41-count indictment unsealed Mondayaccuses Trump and the other defendants of being part of a broad conspiracy to attempt to overturn the 2020 election result in the Peach State.
“The enterprise constituted an ongoing organization whose members and associates functioned as a continuing unit for a common purpose of achieving the objectives of the enterprise,” the98-page indictmentstates.
Prosecutors say the criminal actions the charge is built around include: making false statements, filing false documents and forgeries, impersonating officials, computer breaches and attempts to influence witnesses.
Several of the acts alleged to have made up the racketeering conspiracy involved states other than Georgia.
Donald Trumpfor the second time this month has been indicted on charges related to 2020 election subversion, this time in the state of Georgia – a stunning fourth time this year that the former president has faced criminal charges.
But could the former president, who remains the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, assume the Oval Office again if convicted of the alleged crimes? In short, yes.
University of California, Los Angeles law professor Richard L. Hasen – one of the country’s leading experts on election law – said Trump still has a path to the presidency should he win reelection in 2024.
“The Constitution has very few requirements to serve as President, such as being at least 35 years of age. It does not bar anyone indicted, or convicted, or even serving jail time, from running as president and winning the presidency,” he said in an email to CNN earlier this month.
Legal expertshave pointed to the 14th Amendmentas a way to keep Trump from holding office if he is convicted, which includes a “disqualification clause” that bars anyone from holding public office if they “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or “given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
“There’s a big open debate over whether that element of the 14th Amendment is self-executing, and then open to judicial enforcement or whether Congress would need to pass legislation to enforce that provision. And that’s a debate that the legal academies are currently having now, we have no answer for that,” said Anthony Michael Kreis, an assistant professor of law at Georgia State University.
“But to the extent that there might be a conviction in Georgia or in Washington, DC, for these election related crimes,” Kreis said, “I think that that’s another big open question about how these charges might relate to [Trump’s] ability and his eligibility to hold the office of the presidency.”
Read more here.
Former President Donald Trump’s surrender and arraignment will look different in Georgia than in his previous three criminal cases.
Now that Trump and others have been indicted, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis set an August 25 deadline for their voluntary surrender.
Defendants who are not immediately arrested upon indictment — as was the case for Trump and his associates — usually negotiate bond if applicable, as well as other terms of release with the district attorney’s office.
Defendants typically surrender and are processed at the Fulton County jail. It’s unclear if that will be the case for Trump, given his unique position as a former president with Secret Service protection.
Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat has previously suggested he wants to treat these defendants the same as any other defendant would be treated. That means they would have mugshots taken and be fingerprinted. However, now that Trump is indicted, the sheriff will have to negotiate with Secret Service and Trump’s attorneys about the logistics of Trump’s surrender.
The initial court appearance for Trump and other defendants is expected to be set by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who has been assigned to the case, according to court papers.
It will be up to McAfee’s discretion to schedule the initial appearance, which could take place in days, weeks or months.
Several judges in the county have been allowing these appearances to occur over Zoom, so it’s possible Trump’s initial appearance could take place remotely. It’s also possible Trump could waive some of these initial steps.
See a breakdown of next steps:
Former President Donald Trump is expected to surrender at the Fulton County jail, the local sheriff said Tuesday in a statement.
Trump has not publicly indicated when he intends to surrender ahead of the August 25 deadline. The statement from the Fulton County Sheriff’s office addresses the key question of where the former president would be arrested and processed as a criminal defendant.
“At this point, based on guidance received from the district attorney’s office and presiding judge, it is expected that all 19 defendants named in the indictment will be booked at the Rice Street Jail,” the statement said.
“Keep in mind, defendants can turn themselves in at any time. The jail is open 24/7,” the press release says. “Also, due to the unprecedented nature of this case, some circumstances may change with little or no warning.”
Most defendants charged in Fulton County are typically booked at the Fulton County jail.
Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat has previously suggested he wants to treat the defendants charged in the Trump election subversion case the same as any other defendant would be treated
“Unless someone tells me differently we will be following normal practices. It doesn’t matter your status we will have mug shots ready for you,” Labat said earlier this month on CNN.
Rudy Giuliani is staring down hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills and sanctions amid numerous lawsuits in addition to the new criminal charges – related to his work forDonald Trumpafter the 2020 election.
In court on Monday, the former New York City mayor said the legal quagmires have left him effectively out of cash. He even appears to have responded to some of the money crunch by listing for sale a 3-bedroom Manhattan apartment he owns for $6.5 million.
Not including standard legal fees, Giuliani faces nearly $90,000 in sanctions from a judge in a defamation case, a $20,000 monthly fee to a company to host his electronic records, $15,000 or more for a search of his records, and even a $57,000 judgment against his company for unpaid phone bills.
While he has declined in court to provide details of his financial state, his lawyers wrote this week that “producing a detailed financial report is only meant to embarrass Mr. Giuliani and draw attention to his misfortunes.”
Giuliani’s financial situation is likely to become even more difficult to navigate in the coming days. He faces potentially perilous court decisions against him in two 2020 election defamation lawsuits as early as this week.
While Giuliani’s attorneys’ fees have not been paid directly by Trump’s political action committee, Trump’s PAC paid more than $300,000 in May to a company handling Giuliani’s archived records for evidence preservation in court cases, according to federal campaign finance records and court filings.
“He is having financial difficulties,” Giuliani’s lawyers said in a filing this monthin a civil defamation case brought by two Georgia election workers against him. “Giuliani needs more time to pay the attorneys’ fees and would like the opportunity to seek an extension from the Court.”
Giuliani is facing disbarment proceedings in DC and New York. His law license is already suspended – a situation his attorneys say leaves him further hampered from making money. And he is facing a personal lawsuit from an ex-employee filed in May, which he is contesting.
Thecriminal chargesthat Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis brought against Trump, Giuliani and 17 others will undoubtedly add to the former mayor’s legal bills.
Read more on Giuliani's financial struggles
Former President Donald Trump and his 18 co-defendants have until August 25 to voluntarily surrender to authorities after being indicted in the Georgia 2020 election subversion case, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told reporters Monday.
Here is a list ofpublicly availablestatementsissued by some of the 19 defendants and the lawyers representing them in the case:
- Trump lawyers Drew Findling, Jennifer Little and Marissa Goldberg:"The events that have unfolded today have been shocking and absurd, starting with the leak of a presumed and premature indictment before the witnesses had testified or the grand jurors had deliberated and ending with the District Attorney being unable to offer any explanation. In light of this major fumble, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office clearly decided to force through and rush this 98-page indictment. This one-sided grand jury presentation relied on witnesses who harbor their own personal and political interests — some of whom ran campaigns touting their efforts against the accused and/or profited from book deals and employment opportunities as a result. We look forward to a detailed review of this indictment which is undoubtedly just as flawed and unconstitutional as this entire process has been."
- Donald Trump on his social platform Truth Social: "So, the Witch Hunt continues! 19 people Indicated tonight, including the former President of the United States, me, by an out of control and very corrupt District Attorney who campaigned and raised money on, 'I will get Trump.' And what about those Indictment Documents put out today, long before the Grand Jury even voted, and then quickly withdrawn? Sounds Rigged to me! Why didn’t they Indict 2.5 years ago? Because they wanted to do it right in the middle of my political campaign. Witch Hunt!"
- Rudy Giuliani, Trump's former lawyer: "This is an affront to American Democracy and does permanent, irrevocable harm to our justice system. It's just the next chapter in a book of lies with the purpose of framing President Donald Trump and anyone willing to take on the ruling regime. They lied about Russian collusion, they lied about Joe Biden's foreign bribery scheme, and they lied about Hunter Biden's laptop hard drive proving 30 years of criminal activity.The real criminals here are the people who have brought this case forward both directly and indirectly"
- Harvey Silverglate, co-counsel for defendant John Eastman: "The indictment in Georgia vs. Donald Trump and 18 others sets out activity that is political, but not criminal. It goes hand-in-glove with the recent effort to criminalize lawful political speech and legal advice, in stark violation of constitutional rights to Freedom of Speech, Right to Petition the Government for Redress of Grievances, and the Right to Counsel. Lawyers everywhere should be sleepless over this latest stunt to criminalize their advocacy. This is a legal cluster-bomb that leaves unexploded ordinances for lawyers to navigate in perpetuity. Dr. Eastman will challenge this indictment in any and all forums available to him."
- Rachel Cauley, spokesman for Center for Renewing America, on behalf of Jeffrey Clark : "Jeff Clark is a brilliant legal mind who has litigated cases of national significance in and out of government for decades. Willis is exceeding her powers by inserting herself into the operations of the federal government to go after Jeff. She even jumped the gun and illegally presumed an indictment before it was issued. It's clear Willis aspires to higher office and is using this witch hunt to climb the political ladder. Jeff Clark was simply doing his job in 2020 and he doesn't deserve to be subjected to this naked political lawfare, especially not by apublicity hound like Willis."
One day after claiming Reuters published a "fictitious" document outlining potential charges against former President Donald Trump before they were actually filed, the Fulton County court clerk's office issued a new statement acknowledging that it was actually a "sample" document that it accidentally posted to the court's website.
The Reuters reportcaused an uproar Monday, several hours before Trump and 18 others were formally charged in a sweeping indictment by state-level prosecutors in Georgia alleging they took part in a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election results there.
The new statement from the clerk's office states that a media outlet obtained "a docket sheet and shared it with other media outlets who then released the sample working document related to the former United States President, Donald Trump — reporting that an indictment had been returned by the Special Grand Jury in Fulton County Georgia.”
“Upon learning of the mishap, Fulton County Clerk of Superior and Magistrate Courts Ché Alexander immediately removed the document and issued correspondence notifying the media that a fictitious document was in circulation and that no indictment had been returned by the Grand Jury," the statement said Tuesday.
The statement goes on to say that Alexander had entered the document into the system “to test the system and conduct a trial run.” But “the sample working document led to the docketing of what appeared to be an indictment, but which was, in fact, only a fictitious docket sheet."
Georgia prosecutors allege that former President Donald Trump and his allies broke state laws during about a dozen separate incidents after the 2020 election, according to the indictment made public Monday night.
There are 41 overall charges in the case, which was brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. The first charge involves Georgia’s anti-racketeering law known as the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. But the next 40 non-racketeering charges stem from roughly a dozen key incidents after the 2020 election.
The events, and the crimes the Trump group allegedly committed, break down this way:
- Counts 2-4: Presentation of fraud claims toGeorgia Senate: Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others are accused of making false statements about election fraud and pressuring members of the Georgia Senate while presenting to a legislative panel in early December 2020.
- Count 5: Call to Georgia House Speaker: Trump is charged with asking then-Georgia House Speaker David Ralston to call a special session of the Georgia General Assembly.
- Count 6-7: Presentationof fraud claims to Georgia House: Two charges accuse Giuliani and another man of breaking the law as they presented a video of vote counting at State Farm Arena, misconstruing it, to the Georgia House of Representatives.
- Count 8-19: Fake electors scheme: This series of charges capture the fake elector scheme. A trio of Georgia residents were charged with crimes including forgery. Trump, Giuliani, Trump lawyer John Eastman and others around Trump's campaign were charged with conspiracies related to the fake electors.
- Count 20-21: First attempt to intimidate Atlanta election worker: Illinois pastor Stephen Lee is charged with two charges of attempting to influence witness Ruby Freeman, a 2020 election worker in Fulton County. Prosecutors say Lee went to Freeman's home, knocked on her door and spoke to a neighbor. He was “purporting to offer her help” with the intent to influence her testimony about the vote counting in Atlanta, the indictment said.
- Count 22: Trying to get DOJ to intervene in Georgia: Jeffrey Clark is charged with an attempt to make false statements when he tried to persuade the Justice Department to make false assertions in Georgia about the validity of the election's results.
- Count 23-26: Communication withGeorgia Senate about voter fraud: These four charges capture efforts by Giuliani and others to influence and make false statements to the Georgia Senate on December 30, 2020, when he falsely told them thousands of dead people and felons voted in the election and smeared the vote counting at the State Farm Arena.
- Count 27: Filing election lawsuit: This charge accuses Donald Trump and John Eastman of filing false information about votes in a federal court case that sought to block Georgia's election result.
- Count 28-29: Phone call to Georgia Secretary of State: Donald Trump and his White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows are charged around the call they made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on January 2, 2021, where Trump pleaded with Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to flip the results.
- Count 30-31: Second attempt to influence Atlanta election worker: Three people are charged with conspiracy to solicit false statements from Ruby Freeman and trying to influence her on January 4, 2021.
- Count 32-37: Coffee County voting machine breach: Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell and others are accused of conspiracies of computer theft, computer trespassing, invasion of privacy and election fraud related to the breach of voting machines in rural Coffee County, Georgia.
- Count 38-39: Letter sent to Georgia Secretary of State: Donald Trump is charged with solicitation and false statements related to a letter he sent to Raffensperger in September 2021.
- Count 40-41: Allegedlies to investigators andgrandjury perjury: These are two charges that relate to the course of the investigation. Georgia GOP chairman David Shafer is accused of lying to the Fulton County District Attorney's Office investigators. Robert Cheeley is also accused of perjuring himself before the Fulton County Special Purpose Grand Jury.