What happened: A grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, has charged former President Donald Trump and 18 others with 41 counts in total regarding the 2020 election results in the state, including racketeering, filing false documents, and trying to coerce public officers to violate their oaths. Defendants have until August 25 to surrender.
Simply: The case argues that Trump’s investigation and challenges into the 2020 election were an illegal conspiracy to overturn the results. This indictment relies on RICO charges, the same ones used for mafia conspiracies.
- Zoom in: The indictment charged over a dozen Trump associates, including Rudy Giuliani, using statements saying the election was stolen, tweets by the team telling people to tune into specific shows, or public hearings to discuss election irregularities, as evidence. It also pointed to Trump and co.’s use of alternate electors.
Nothing new: Trump and his associates’s challenging and investigation of the election isn’t illegal and has been done before. Further, statements about possible election fraud are almost always protected by the First Amendment.
- Alternate electors: Democrats on behalf of John F. Kennedy sent alternative electors in the highly contested Hawaii race back in 1960. Democrats under Al Gore did it in 2020 in Florida, attempting to nullify vote counts.
- Investigating elections: Immediately after Trump’s 2016 election, Democrats under the direction of Hillary Clinton rejected the election results and claimed it was stolen. Despite the fabricated claims, the federal intelligence agencies then investigated the results for years.
So why the prosecution? Under RICO laws, prosecutors can bunch up individual actions by individual people and claim they together constitute a criminal enterprise. Conduct that may not be considered illegal on its own can now be considered evidence of criminal activity within the enterprise.
Big picture: Some analysts believe the case is weak and see the Democratic strategy as a ploy to get a conviction before the 2024 election, considering the Democrat-friendly juries, despite the high chances of them losing in an appeal.
What’s next? Trump faces a packed legal schedule with five trials set between now and May, coinciding with pivotal moments in the political calendar. These court dates will unfold during key events like the Iowa caucuses, Super Tuesday, and the Republican National Convention. Some Republicans in Congress are pushing to defund the federal investigations against Trump.