Prosecutors investigating Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election in the US state of Georgia were expected to begin presenting evidence to a grand jury on Monday for what could be a sprawling, multi-defendant indictment.
The case would be the fourth brought against the 77-year-old Republican this year and could lead to the first televised trial of a former president — a watershed moment in US history — featuring charges typically used to bring down mobsters.
“There will be multiple co-defendants more likely than not, showing a pattern of unlawful conduct to overturn the election in Georgia: hacking, false statements, harassment, etc,” Georgia State University political analyst Anthony Kreis said in a social media post.
Judicial analysts expect an indictment by the end of Tuesday, predicting that Atlanta-area prosecutor Fani Willis will wrap the allegations against Trump and multiple co-defendants into one case under Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations (RICO) law.
The southern state, which President Joe Biden won by fewer than 12,000 votes in 2020, presents perhaps the most serious threat to Trump’s liberty as he seeks his party’s nomination to bid for reelection in 2024.
Even if he is returned to the Oval Office, he would have none of the powers in Georgia that presidents arguably enjoy in the federal system to self-pardon or have prosecutors drop cases.
Trump posted a number of messages to his Truth Social platform calling the matter “ridiculous” and urging a local election official whom he identified by name and called a “loser” not to testify to the grand jury.
“Those who rigged and stole the election were the ones doing the tampering, and they are the slime that should be prosecuted,” Trump said.
Infamous phone call
RICO statutes are usually used to target organised crime, and anyone who can be connected to a criminal “enterprise” can be convicted if there is a pattern of crime committed through that enterprise.
But the broader Georgia law allows prosecutors to string together charges committed by different defendants without proving the existence of a criminal organisation.
One incident highly likely to feature among the charges is a now infamous phone call Trump placed to Georgia officials asking them to “find” exactly the number of votes he would have needed to overturn Biden’s victory.
Analysts are also expecting individuals — possibly including the former president — to face charges over a scheme to send bogus certification of a supposed Trump victory in Georgia to the US Congress.
And the sweeping case may well bring in harassment of two Fulton County poll workers and the accessing of sensitive data from an election office in a rural county south of Atlanta, one day after the 2021 Capitol riot.
A separate “special” grand jury heard from 75 witnesses last year and produced a secret report in February that, according to the foreperson, recommended numerous indictments.
The Georgia case looks on the surface like a narrower version of the Justice Department’s election interference case against Trump, which focuses on multiple states — but it differs in other crucial aspects beyond the RICO element.
The federal case listed six co-conspirators but didn’t indict them, sparking speculation that they will likely be dealt with separately, and leaving Trump as the sole defendant.
In Georgia, Willis sent target letters to former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who pressured local legislators at several committee hearings held after the election, and the 16 bogus electors, half of whom are said to have immunity deals.
CNN reported that Willis is expected to seek charges against more than a dozen people.
These could also include former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and other aides who weren’t a focus of Trump’s federal indictment.
Georgia’s courts are also more transparent than the federal system, meaning there is no bar to the case being televised from the first preliminary hearing onwards.
The grand jury in Fulton County meets on Mondays and Tuesdays, and local court-watchers expect Willis to conclude and bring any indictments that the panel approves within two days, her normal timeline for racketeering cases.