Trump charged with attempt to overturn 2020 US election loss in Georgia

Grand jury in Georgia hands up indictment and criminal charges against Trump and 18 others over 2020 election meddling.

Donald Trump, dressed in a blue suit and red tie, exits a black vehicle with tinted windows.
Former US President Donald Trump arrives to board his plane at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, on August 3, 2023, in Arlington, Virginia [File: Alex Brandon/AP Photo]

Prosecutors have charged Donald Trump with trying to overturn his 2020 election loss in the US state of Georgia in the most damning indictment so far against the former president.

The charges, brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on Monday, add to the legal woes facing Trump, the frontrunner in the race for the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential election.

The former president is already facing three other cases.

“Trump and the other Defendants charged in this Indictment refused to accept that Trump lost, and they knowingly and wilfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump,” states the indictment issued by Willis’s office.

Willis said the defendants would be allowed to voluntarily surrender by noon on August 25.

She also said she plans to ask for a trial date within six months.

The 98-page indictment lists 19 defendants and details dozens of acts by Trump and his allies to undo his defeat in the battleground state, including hectoring Georgia’s Republican secretary of state to find enough votes to keep him in power, pestering officials with bogus claims of voter fraud and attempting to persuade Georgia lawmakers to ignore the will of voters and appoint a new slate of electoral college electors favourable to Trump.

It also outlines a scheme to tamper with voting machines in one Georgia county as well as steal data.

The document describes the former president of the United States, the former White House chief of staff, Trump’s lawyers and the former mayor of New York as members of a “criminal organization” who were part of an “enterprise” that operated in Georgia and other states – language that conjures up the operations of mob bosses and gang leaders.

Other defendants named in the indictment included former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows; Trump’s lawyers Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman; and a Trump administration Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark, who advanced his efforts to undo his election loss in Georgia.

Multiple other lawyers who devised legally dubious ideas aimed at overturning the results, including Eastman, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, were also charged.

The indictment in Georgia bookends a remarkable crush of criminal cases against Trump – four in five months, each in a different city – that would be daunting for anyone, never mind a defendant simultaneously running for president.

‘Find’ enough votes

The grand jury indictment stems from a January 2, 2021, phone call in which Trump urged Georgia’s top election official, Brad Raffensperger, to “find” enough votes to reverse his narrow loss in the state to his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Raffensperger declined to do so.

Four days later, on January 6, 2021, and two weeks before Trump was due to leave office, his supporters stormed the US Capitol in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent legislators from certifying Biden’s victory.

Willis also investigated an alleged scheme by the Trump campaign to subvert the US electoral process by submitting false slates of electors, people who make up the Electoral College that elects the president and vice president.

Trump, 77, has denied any wrongdoing.

His campaign, in a statement issued shortly after the grand jury in Georgia delivered the indictment, described Willis, an elected Democrat, as a “rabid partisan” and said she has “strategically stalled her investigation to try and maximaximally interfere with the 2024 presidential race”.

“All of these corrupt Democrat attempts will fail,” the statement added.

Trump also faces federal charges over his effort to overturn his election defeat in 2020. That case, brought by US Special Counsel Jack Smith, charges the former president with conspiracy to defraud the US government and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding: the congressional certification of Biden’s victory.

Trump has long dismissed the many investigations, including two impeachments, he has faced in his years in politics as a politically motivated “witch hunt”.

Al Jazeera’s John Hendren, reporting from Atlanta, Georgia, said the indictment on Monday was “very different to any other”.

“That’s because Fani Willis prosecuted it exactly as if it were a crime case against an organised crime family,” Hendren said.

“Every one of the 19 defendants were charged with racketeering. They were also charged with forgery, with making false statements, with making false statements in writing. They were charged with harassing and intimidating election workers and also were accused of a data breach,” he said.

“If Trump becomes president, he has the power to pardon himself in the federal cases. That’s never been done before and it could be tested in court. But he has a very broad power of pardon if he were to be elected again,” Hendren continued.

“So this is testing new boundaries in elections and testing new boundaries in the courtroom. One interesting fact, the more Trump is indicted, the higher his poll ratings go among Republicans, and the more money he raises for the 2024 election,” he added.

Trump now faces a New York state trial beginning on March 25, 2024, involving a hush money payment to an adult film star, and a Florida trial beginning on May 20 in a federal classified documents case. In both cases, Trump pleaded not guilty.

A third indictment, in a Washington, DC federal court, accuses him of illegally seeking to overturn his 2020 election defeat. Trump denies wrongdoing in that case as well and a trial date has yet to be set.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies