Former President Trump and a suite of 18 co-conspirators were indicted by a Georgia grand jury Monday on charges tied to efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
The charges follow a more than two-year investigation by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) into Trump’s efforts to pressure state officials to intervene to reverse his loss while also organizing a group of 16 Georgians to serve as fake electors and claim the former president had won the state.
The indictment also targets several Trump allies accused of aiding in the scheme, naming Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Kenneth Chesebro, Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell as co-conspirators. Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows also faces charges, as does Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department lawyer Trump mulled installing as attorney general.
In total, the indictment lists charges on 41 counts; it is the fourth criminal case brought against Trump this year.
“I make decisions in this office based on the facts in the law,” Willis said at a press conference late Monday night. “The law is completely nonpartisan. That’s how decisions are made in every case to date.”
Willis said Trump and the other defendants must voluntarily surrender by Aug. 25 at noon, and that she hopes to schedule a single trial for all the defendants within the next six months.
The indictment brings sweeping Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) charges to weave together actions taken by numerous people involved in the plots, relying on a law crafted to address any criminal “enterprise.” It outlines 161 acts prosecutors allege furthered that conspiracy.
It also alleges that Trump’s conduct violated a number of other criminal statutes in Georgia, including solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer as well as several conspiracy charges relating to filing fraudulent documents, including forgery and making false statements.
The indictment also includes two counts of violations of a Georgia election law: conspiracy to commit election fraud.
“Defendant Donald John Trump lost the presidential election held on Nov. 3, 2020,” prosecutors write as their very first statement.
“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 98-page indictment reads. “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.”
Though Trump sought to pressure election officials in a number of states to intervene in the election, his recorded January 2021 phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger asking him to “find 11,780 votes” has become one of the best known examples of the former president’s campaign to recruit state-level actors. He would reiterate that request still months later in a September letter asking him to begin “decertifying” the state’s results.
He would make similar calls to then-Georgia House Speaker David Ralston to call a special session of the Legislature to reverse his loss, something the indictment deems as a solicitation to violate his oath of office. Conversations with numerous other lawmakers sparked the same charge.
Trump’s narrow margin of loss in the state combined with a Senate race recount made it a chief focal point for his campaign, rolling out a series of false claims about mishandled ballots and other faulty allegations of fraud — many of which were repeated in a Dec. 31 lawsuit.
And the campaign relied heavily on a memo crafted by attorney Chesebro pushing them to assemble false slates of electors, despite the admission that a move to have the vice president certify them would “likely” be rejected by the Supreme Court. Chesebro faces seven charges.
Those events and others serve as the basis for the sprawling indictment.
As justification for the RICO charges, Willis touches on nearly every aspect of Trump’s efforts to stay in power, from a series of hearings his campaign allies held with lawmakers to spreading lies about election workers who have since launched a defamation suit against Giuliani.
Also used to support the charges are numerous actions that happened outside Willis’s jurisdiction, activity that can be used as a predicate for RICO charges.
That includes a breach at an elections office in Coffee County, a rural area of the state located south of Atlanta.
The pressure campaign on the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud and Trump’s push to convince former Vice President Mike Pence to buck his ceremonial duty to certify the election results are also listed.
More Trump indictment coverage
- Meadows, Giuliani charged in Georgia indictment
- READ: Fulton County grand jury indicts Trump, 18 others
- Willis says defendants must surrender by Aug. 25
But at the center of the RICO charges are the fraudulent statements Trump and his associates made at every turn, whether in filing false documents through the fake elector plot, or making false statements to a number of Georgia officials.
“Rather than abide by Georgia’s legal process for election challenges, the defendants engaged in a criminal, racketeering enterprise to overturn the presidential election,” Willis said shortly after the indictment was unveiled.
The rest of the indictment reads as almost a timeline of activity from Trump and other allies.
The indictment also lists 30 unindicted co-conspirators, who are not named and are alleged to have aided in various efforts to overturn the election results.
The false elector scheme hatched by Chesebro sparked charges for conspiracy to commit impersonating a public officer as well as forgery.
That includes charges against three individuals — Cathy Latham, David Shafer and Shawn Still — who met in the state capitol Dec. 14 as part of that scheme to send the false certificates despite Joe Biden’s victory in the state.
Both Shafer and Still also held positions in the Georgia Republican Party. Shafer served as the group’s chairman, while Still was the party’s finance chairman and is now a sitting state senator.
But most of the 16 individuals who signed documents purporting to be the state’s valid electors avoided being charged in the indictment.
False claims about the election, including specific claims of widespread fraud or improper voting, spurred charges for making false statements or writings for numerous of the defendants.
The activities targeting election workers under RICO also surface elsewhere in the indictment, with Georgia accusing Trump associates of criminal attempt to commit influencing witnesses.
Even before the lengthy indictment was released, Trump railed against Willis.
“GA’s radical Democrat District Attorney Fani Willis is a rabid partisan who is campaigning and fundraising on a platform of prosecuting President Trump through these bogus indictments,” his campaign said in a statement.
Zach Schonfeld, Ella Lee and Brett Samuels contributed.
Updated at 12:39 a.m. ET Tuesday