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Georgia indicts Trump, 18 allies on RICO charges in election interference case. Here are the details.

Georgia grand jury indicts Trump, 18 allies
Georgia grand jury indicts Trump, 18 allies in election interference case 03:56

A grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, has indicted former President Donald Trump and more than a dozen of his associates for election fraud, racketeering and other charges related to alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election. 

Trump, the first former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges, has now been charged in four separate cases involving allegations that bookend his presidency.

District attorney comments on charges

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said at a news conference Monday night that arrest warrants have been issued for all the defendants in the case, and that they have until noon on Aug. 25 to turn themselves in. 

"The state's role in this process is essential to the functioning of our democracy," Willis said. 

"Georgia, like every state, has laws that allow those who believe that results of the election are wrong, whether because of intentional wrongdoing, or unintentional error to challenge those results in state courts," she said. But rather than abiding by Georgia's legal process for election challenges, she said, the defendants "engaged in a criminal racketeering enterprise to overturn Georgia's presidential election result subsequent to the indictment." 

According to Georgia code, anyone convicted of a RICO offense can be imprisoned, fined, or both. The law says anyone found guilty of a RICO offense is "guilty of a felony and shall be punished by not less than five nor more than 20 years' imprisonment or the fine specified in subsection (b) of this Code section, or both."

Willis said the racketeering charges have "time that you have to serve, so it's not a probated sentence."

Willis also noted that all defendants are presumed innocent until proven otherwise. 

What does the indictment allege? 

The indictment names Trump as the top defendant and 18 others, including Rudy Giuliani, his former lawyer; John Eastman, a conservative lawyer; and Mark Meadows, former White House chief of staff. Other co-defendants include Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official; and Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis, conservative lawyers who pushed baseless claims of voter fraud.

The filing lists 41 total counts, including 13 against Trump, and notes there are 30 unindicted co-conspirators. In all, 19 defendants are charged with "the offense of violation of the Georgia RICO Act," among other charges.

Georgia's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO, allows this group of people to be charged for criminal acts that are alleged to have taken place both in Georgia or outside the state in furtherance of the conspiracy to overturn the outcome of the presidential election in Georgia.

The indictment describes the group as "a criminal organization whose members and associates engaged 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."

The 98-page indictment lays out a scheme that began with Trump's loss in the 2020 presidential election, including in the state of Georgia, and says that those charged "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 filing states.

The indictment describes several schemes allegedly used by Trump and his co-defendants to attempt to reverse his electoral loss, including making false statements to state legislatures and top state officials; creating fake Electoral College documents and recruiting supporters to cast false votes at the Georgia Capitol; harassing Fulton County election worker Ruby Freeman; and "corruptly" soliciting senior Justice Department officials and then-Vice President Mike Pence. 

It also accuses members of the "enterprise" of stealing data, including ballot images, voting equipment software and personal voter information, from Coffee County, Georgia, and making false statements to government investigators. 

What are Trump and his lawyers saying? 

Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. 

In a statement Monday night, attorneys for Trump criticized the investigation, saying "this one-sided grand jury presentation relied on witnesses who harbor their own personal and political interests."

"We look forward to a detailed review of this indictment which is undoubtedly just as flawed and unconstitutional as this entire process has been," said the attorneys, Drew Findling, Jennifer Little and Marissa Goldberg.

The charges against Trump

The indictment charges Trump with the following felony counts:

  • Violating the Georgia RICO Act
  • Three counts of solicitation of violation of oath by public officer
  • Conspiracy to commit impersonating a public officer
  • Two counts of conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree
  • Two counts of conspiracy to commit false statements and writings
  • Conspiracy to commit filing false documents
  • Two counts of false statements and writings
  • Filing false documents. 

The grand jury returned the indictments around 9 p.m. ET and it took around two hours to process before the details became public. 

The investigation, led by Willis, was prompted in part by a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call in which Trump told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger: "I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state." 

The indictment alleges that Trump also made a number of false claims about the election in Georgia to Raffensperger and two other state officials during the call, including that nearly 5,000 dead people voted in the November presidential election, hundreds of thousands of ballots had been "dumped" into Fulton County and an adjacent county, and that he won the presidential election in the state by 400,000 votes.

According to the indictment, "by knowingly, willfully, and unlawfully making" false statements and representations to state officials, Trump committed a felony offense.  

In a September 2022 statement, Trump called his conversation with Raffensperger "an absolutely PERFECT phone call" in which he did "nothing wrong." Trump has since repeated that the call was "perfect," including at an Aug. 7 rally in New Hampshire. 

The investigation grew from its initial focus, eventually probing a variety of efforts by Trump and his allies to undermine Joe Biden's victory in Georgia — including an alleged scheme to submit an alternate slate of electors committed to electing Trump, attempts to pressure or intimidate election workers and, in at least one county, accessing election software and data.   

Over the course of about six months in 2022, the special purpose grand jury's dozens of interviews included Trump advisers such as Giuliani and Meadows, as well as Georgia officials such as Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp. In January, it completed a report based on its investigation and turned it over to Willis, who ultimately decided to bring the charges before a regular grand jury.

Before any charges were released to the public Monday, the Trump campaign released a statement calling Willis a "rabid partisan" who "stalled her investigation to try and maximally interfere with the 2024 presidential race" and damage Trump's campaign. 

Attorneys for Trump said in February that they would challenge any indictment filed by Willis' office. 

In their statement following the indictment, Trump's attorneys called Monday's events "shocking and absurd." 

"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," the Trump attorneys said. "We look forward to a detailed review of this indictment which is undoubtedly just as flawed and unconstitutional as this entire process has been."

Who is charged in the Georgia indictment?

The individuals charged in the case are:

  • Donald John Trump
  • Rudolph William Louis Giuliani
  • John Charles Eastman
  • Mark Randall Meadows
  • Kenneth John Chesebro
  • Jeffrey Bossert Clark
  • Jenna Lynn Ellis
  • Ray Stallings Smith III
  • Robert David Cheeley
  • Michael A. Roman
  • David James Shafer
  • Shawn Micah Tresher Still
  • Stephen Cliffgard Lee
  • Harrison William Prescott Floyd
  • Trevian C. Kutti 
  • Sidney Katherine Powell
  • Cathleen Alston Latham
  • Scott Graham Hall
  • Misty Hampton

Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor who served as mayor of New York City from 1994 through 2001, was Trump's personal attorney for more than half of Trump's presidency. Giuliani spearheaded the effort to, as he described it, find voter fraud, and as prosecutors claim, overturn the election.

In a July interview with CBS News, Giuliani's attorney Robert Costello described his role in the aftermath of the election as "among this election fraud group of lawyers and investigators, he was like the general of this army."

"So in lots of areas he didn't really have anything to do with it, but they reported the results to him, so he had to rely on his soldiers," Costello said.

Reached Monday evening, Costello declined to comment on the charges, but said he was "surprised."

Asked if he believed Giuliani was surprised, too, Costello said, "Yes, I believe so."

The indictment unsealed Monday paints Giuliani as being at the center of a team bent on reversing the election's results.

In a statement to CBS News, Giuliani said the case "is an affront to American Democracy and does permanent, irrevocable harm to our justice system."

"The real criminals here are the people who have brought this case forward both directly and indirectly," Giuliani said.

Meadows, Trump's chief of staff during his final months in the White House, is charged with two counts, for allegedly violating Georgia's RICO Act and solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer, which stems from the Jan. 2, 2021, call to Raffensperger. 

Those charged also include several other attorneys who worked on behalf of Trump or the campaign, including Powell, Eastman, Clark, Ellis, Kenneth Chesebro and Ray Smith III, who made false claims about election fraud in public and also allegedly plotted to overturn the outcome of the election.

The filing also describes attempts by three of the co-defendants — Lee, Floyd and Kutti, a former publicist for Kanye West — to allegedly influence testimony from Freeman, the Fulton County election worker, at an official proceeding. Lee traveled to Freeman's home twice in mid-December 2020, while Kutti visited Freeman's house in early January 2021, the indictment claims.

Three other felony cases against Trump

The indictment in Georgia is now the fourth felony case filed against the former president.

In a New York State criminal case, Trump entered a not guilty plea on April 4 after he was charged with 34 felony counts of falsification of business records. The charges relate to alleged efforts to obscure the source of payments made to porn actress Stormy Daniels, who agreed in October 2016 not to speak publicly about an alleged affair with Trump. Trump has denied having the affair and any wrongdoing in connection with this case. He claims this case is also politically motivated.

He is also facing two federal cases filed by special counsel Jack Smith. 

In Florida, Trump entered a not guilty plea on June 13 to 37 counts after he was indicted on allegations related to his handling of classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago residence after his presidency. He also pleaded not guilty in August to additional counts filed in a superseding indictment. Trump has denied wrongdoing and repeatedly criticized Smith, calling him a "radical." 

And in Washington, D.C., Trump pleaded not guilty on August 3 to four federal counts related to an alleged conspiracy to thwart the electoral vote count following his 2020 election loss.

–Ellis Kim contributed to this report.

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