Trump and 18 co-defendants charged with racketeering in Georgia 2020 election probe

ATLANTA — Former President Donald Trump and top allies, including his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and a top former Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark, were indicted Monday on felony charges in connection with efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia.

The sweeping 41-count indictment also names lawyers John Eastman, Sidney Powell, Kenneth Chesebro, Jenna Ellis and Ray Smith, along with several others. All were charged with violating Georgia’s RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization) act.

In an indictment handed up to the judge around 9 p.m. and made public just before 11 p.m., Trump was charged with felony racketeering and numerous conspiracy charges, court filings show.

The racketeering charge carries a sentence of five to 20 years, while a conspiracy conviction can result in a minimum sentence of one year in prison with a variable maximum sentence.

“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 indictment says.

The 98-page indictment lays out a number of alleged schemes aimed at achieving that goal, including pressuring state officials to change the results, accessing voting machines and data in rural Coffee County, and harassing election worker Ruby Freeman with bogus fraud claims.

Trump has denied all wrongdoing, as Giuliani did hours before the indictment was made public. Scott Grubman, a lawyer for Chesebro, said Tuesday his client had been giving the Trump campaign legal advice and “stands ready to defend himself against these unfounded charges.”

Eastman attorney Harvey Silverglate, who also has said his client was giving legal advice, said he sent a legal memo to Willis’s office Monday morning explaining why his client should not be charged.

Ellis, meanwhile, tweeted Tuesday morning, “The Democrats and the Fulton County DA are criminalizing the practice of law.” 

Meadows, Powell and Smith all did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said at a late-night news conference that arrest warrants have been issued for all of the defendants and that each has until Aug. 25 to surrender voluntarily.

Willis said she intends to try all 19 defendants together, and is aiming to have the case go to trial in the next six months.

The grand jury hearing evidence in Willis’ investigation into whether Trump and his allies interfered in the 2020 presidential election returned the indictment earlier Monday night.

It is the fourth time Trump has been indicted in the last 4½ months and the second time he has been charged with trying to interfere with the election in the past two weeks.

Willis led a sprawling two-year investigation into whether Trump and his allies “coordinated attempts to unlawfully alter the outcome of the 2020 elections.”

Among the incidents cited in the new indictment was Trump’s Jan. 2, 2021, phone call urging Georgia’s top elections official, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, to “find” the votes needed for Trump to overtake Joe Biden and claim victory in the state.

Trump has said the phone call was “perfect.”

The indictment also focuses on the so-called fake electors — people who signed a certificate falsely declaring that Trump won Georgia in the 2020 election and that they were the state’s official electors. A number of the bogus electors struck immunity deals with Willis’ office in the past few months, court filings show. Through the indictment, prosecutors number at least 30 unindicted co-conspirators, a fair number of whom are alleged to have participated in the fake elector plot.

“The false documents were intended to disrupt and delay the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021, in order to unlawfully change the outcome of the November 3, 2020, presidential election in favor of Donald Trump,” the indictment says.

The indictment lays out the plot chronologically, listing various efforts by Trump and the alleged co-conspirators to overturn the results in the state, and it says that in addition to those who have been charged, that there are 30 unindicted co-conspirators. 

Willis convened a special grand jury to question witnesses and examine evidence in the case last year. The panel heard from 75 witnesses.

Raffensperger and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who had also been pressured by Trump and his allies to alter the outcome of the 2020 election, testified before the panel, as well. Raffensperger and Kemp are Republicans.

Trump has accused Willis of “election interference” by proceeding with the probe while he is running for president.

It is the fourth time Trump, the front-runner in the polls for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has been indicted on criminal charges since late March. In all he’s facing 91 felony charges in four different locations.

He was first charged by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to his role in hush money payments toward the end of his 2016 presidential campaign. He has pleaded not guilty in that case, which is scheduled to go to trial in March.

In June, Trump was hit with a 37-count federal indictment in Florida alleging he illegally held on to and mishandled highly sensitive national security information.

He has pleaded not guilty in that case, which he also maintains is politically motivated. The documents case is tentatively scheduled to go to trial in May.

The federal prosecutor in the documents case, special counsel Jack Smithindicted Trump this month on charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. and trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of presidential power to Biden. A trial date has not been set. Trump has pleaded not guilty.

The allegations in the federal election case and the Georgia case overlap significantly, but there are key differences. To date, Trump has been the only defendant named in the federal case, which has a narrower focus than Willis’s wide-ranging indictment.

The Georgia case, meanwhile, is a state case, which means any conviction would not be subject to a presidential pardon.

Blayne Alexander and Charlie Gile reported from Atlanta, Katherine Doyle from Washington, D.C., and Dareh Gregorian from New York.

Blayne Alexander

Blayne Alexander is an NBC News correspondent, based in Atlanta.

Katherine Doyle

Katherine Doyle is a White House reporter for NBC News.

Dareh Gregorian

Dareh Gregorian is a politics reporter for NBC News.

Olympia Sonnier

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Daniel Barnes

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