Former President Donald Trump was indicted for a third time on Tuesday by a federal grand jury In connection to his efforts to hold on to power following his loss in the 2020 presidential election, including actions that led to the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
It may not be the last. In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis — who launched her own election-related probe of Trump two years ago — has signaled that indictments are possible in the next few weeks as a grand jury convenes to consider potential charges against the former president and others who tried to persuade Georgia election officials to reverse his narrow loss to Joe Biden in the state.
What prompted the Georgia investigation?
A phone call.
Biden carried Georgia by just 11,779 votes. And Trump was caught on a taped Jan. 2, 2021, call pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, to “find 11,780 votes.”
“All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump can be heard telling Raffensperger on the call. “Because we won the state.”
“President Trump, we’ve had several lawsuits, and we’ve had to respond in court to the lawsuits and the contentions,” Raffensperger said in response. “We don’t agree that you have won.”
Willis launched her investigation soon after a recording of the call was released.
Trump also called other top state officials, including Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, also a Republican, in the hopes they would help him overturn his 2020 election loss.
What charges could Trump face in Georgia?
Details of the charges that Willis is pursuing in the Georgia investigation are scarce. But as the Associated Press noted, there has been speculation that Willis is “building a case under the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (or RICO) which would allow her to charge numerous people in a potentially wide-ranging scheme.”
Among those people is Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s former personal lawyer who falsely claimed election workers who were tallying absentee ballots at State Farm Arena in Atlanta had “suitcases” of unlawful ballots.
Georgia was one of seven battleground states that Trump lost where Republican fake electors signed and submitted certificates falsely stating that he, not Biden, had won.
What do Trump and his lawyers have to say?
Trump has said the phone call with Raffensperger was “perfect” and that he did nothing wrong. And the former president has tried, unsuccessfully, to get the case thrown out.
Last month, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously rejected a last-ditch effort by Trump to try to head off a potential indictment.
And on Monday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney issued a similar ruling, saying it’s too soon for Trump or his allies to seek to prohibit state prosecutors from continuing to investigate him.
“While being the subject (or even target) of a highly publicized criminal investigation is likely an unwelcome and unpleasant experience, no court ever has held that that status alone provides a basis for the courts to interfere with or halt the investigation,” McBurney wrote in a nine-page ruling. “And for some, being the subject of a criminal investigation can, a la Rumpelstiltskin, be turned into golden political capital, making it seem more providential than problematic.”
Trump is the prohibitive frontrunner in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. And his leadership PAC has already spent more than $40 million on his legal fees.
How does the Georgia case compare with the DOJ’s Jan. 6 investigation?
It’s much more specific, legal experts say.
“It refers to one state, where Trump tried to get votes that he hadn’t really earned in order to win the presidency,” Kevin O’Brien, former assistant U.S. attorney in the Justice Department, told Yahoo News. “And he leaned on the secretary of state in an attempt to do that, and it was caught on tape — which is fairly incriminating evidence. But it’s narrow. The DOJ’s case is far broader.”
When could we see a possible indictment?
Willis has strongly hinted that any indictment would come between Aug. 1 and Aug. 18.
In a letter Willis sent to county officials in May, she said she plans to have much of her staff work remotely for most days during the first three weeks of August and asked that judges not schedule trials or in-person hearings during that time.
“Thank you for your consideration and assistance in keeping the Fulton County Judicial Complex safe during this time,” Willis wrote.
And just last week, barricades were placed outside the Fulton County Courthouse in downtown Atlanta on Thursday ahead of possible charges being filed against Trump and his associates.