Key takeaways from Trump’s indictment in Georgia’s 2020 election interference case

Former President Donald Trump and 18 associates stand accused of racketeering and other charges related to alleged schemes to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, according to the indictment filed Monday night by Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis. 

It’s the fourth felony indictment for Trump as he pursues his third bid for the White House.

The 98-page indictment describes an alleged criminal enterprise that began with Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election. The defendants, according to the 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.”

Here are some of the top takeaways: 

19 defendants, 41 total charges

Trump is one of 19 defendants named in the indictment, and he faces 13 counts. The indictment says that Trump made false statements about the 2020 election to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and solicited him to unlawfully decertify the election. 

The indictment states that the former president urged then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject electoral votes from certain states or delay Congress’ Jan. 6, 2021, joint session to count the electoral votes. Trump is also accused of “corruptly soliciting” Justice Department officials to make false statements that the “election was corrupt” to top Georgia officials

Among those charged include Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and conservative attorneys John Eastman, Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell. 

Trump, Giuliani, Meadows and others accused in the indictment who have yet to enter pleas but say  they’re innocent accused Willis of seeking the indictments for political purposes.

Trump attorneys Drew Findling, Jennifer Little and Marissa Goldberg criticized “this one-sided grand jury presentation” that they said “relied on witnesses who harbor their own personal and political interests.”

In a statement to CBS News, Giuliani said the case “is an affront to American Democracy and does permanent, irrevocable harm to our justice system.” 

“The real criminals here are the people who have brought this case forward both directly and indirectly,” Giuliani said.

Meadows, who is charged with two counts, is trying to have the case against him in Fulton County moved to federal court because the conduct alleged in the indictment took place while he was White House chief of staff. His lawyers also indicated in a court filing Tuesday that they plan to file a motion to dismiss the charges, arguing in the filing that “nothing” he was alleged to have done is criminal: “arranging Oval Office meetings, contacting state officials on the President’s behalf, visiting a state government building, and setting up a phone call for the President.” 

The indictment describes several schemes allegedly employed by Trump and some of his co-defendants to try to reverse his electoral loss, including making false statements to state legislatures and top state officials; creating fake Electoral College documents and recruiting supporters to cast false votes at the Georgia Capitol; harassing Fulton County election worker Ruby Freeman; and “corruptly” soliciting senior Justice Department officials and Pence. 

Others in the alleged “enterprise” are accused of stealing data, including ballot images, voting equipment software and personal voter information, from Coffee County, Georgia, and making false statements to government investigators. 

There are also 30 additional unnamed, unindicted co-conspirators. 

Racketeering charges

All 19 of the defendants, including Trump, face a charge of racketeering under Georgia law.

The state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO, allows prosecutors to group together “predicate” acts that are alleged to have taken place both in Georgia — or outside the state — in furtherance of the conspiracy to overturn the outcome of the presidential election in Georgia.

Racketeering laws are commonly associated with organized crime syndicates, but they are far broader in scope. To charge a defendant in Georgia with racketeering, prosecutors must connect  a certain number of predicate acts or predicate crimes —which could include everything from violent crimes such as murder or arson, to false statements and obstruction of justice — and argue they’re part of a shared goal, which in this case, is the alleged attempt to overturn the presidential election in Georgia.

Multiple Trump allies, including Trump’s former attorney, Giuliani, Meadows, a number of his other lawyers and so-called “fake electors” — supporters who submitted an illegitimate version of the state’s Electoral College vote — were charged for their alleged roles in the racketeering scheme.

Fake electors schemes

Some alleged members of the enterprise are accused of making false statements concerning election fraud in a bid to convince the Georgia Legislature that it should reject the electoral votes cast by duly elected presidential electors and replace them with new, unlawful electors who would vote for Trump.

The indictment also alleges that some of the defendants solicited legislators in other states including Arizona, Pennsylvania and Michigan to appoint new electors. 

One defendant, Kenneth Cheseboro, is accused of coordinating groups of fake electors in Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — states lost by Trump — who would cast illegal electoral votes on Dec. 14, 2020, the same date that legal electors were to vote. 

After the indictment was made public, Chesebro did not reply to a request for comment.

Some in the enterprise also, according to the indictment, urged Pence to reject Georgia’s electoral votes during the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.

The fake elector scheme is also part of Trump’s federal indictment connected to his alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election and were highlighted by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

False statements about and harassment of Fulton County election worker Ruby Freeman

The indictment accuses Trump and Giuliani of spreading false information about Fulton County election worker Freeman, while three other defendants allegedly harassed Freeman.  

Freeman’s daughter, Wandra “Shaye” Moss, testified last year before the House Jan. 6 select committee that after she and her mother appeared in security footage of ballot counting at an arena in Atlanta, it upended their  lives. 

Trump is alleged to have told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs and Secretary of State general counsel Ryan Germany that Freeman was a “professional vote scammer” and a “known political operative.” Both descriptions are false.

The indictment said Trump falsely accused Freeman, Moss and others of being “responsible for fraudulently awarding Joseph R. Biden 118,000 ballots at the State Farm Arena” and falsely stated that Freeman had “stuffed the ballot box.” Giuliani, according to the indictment, falsely said that Freeman and Moss were seen in the security footage “passing around USB ports “‘as if they’re vials of heroin or cocaine'” to be used to “‘infiltrate'” Dominion voting machines.

According to the indictment, several of the co-defendants are accused of trying to contact and intimidate Freeman. They purported to “offer her help,” but were instead allegedly trying to “solicit her to falsely confess to election crimes she did not commit” and “influence her testimony” in an official Fulton County proceeding examining election night at State Farm Arena.  

Voting equipment breach alleged in Coffee County

The indictment alleges that some of the defendants, including conservative lawyer Sidney Powell, unlawfully breached election equipment in rural Coffee County, Georgia. Powell, according to the indictment, contracted with a Fulton County forensic data firm, SullivanStrickler LLC, in early December  for the “performance of computer forensic collections and analytics on Dominion Voting Systems equipment” in areas that included Coffee County. 

Powell and others are accused of unlawfully taking possession of ballots in Coffee County on Jan. 7, 2021, and illegally copying data from Dominion Voting Systems equipment. 

An unindicted co-conspirator is accused of illegally accessing that data and then downloading it. On April 22, 2021, an unindicted co-conspirator allegedly sent an email to SullivanStrickler directing the transfer of the voting data to another unindicted co-conspirator and Powell. 

Powell did not respond to a request for comment after the indictment was announced.

Alleged lies to investigators 

The indictment claims that Powell made two false statements in a sworn deposition to the House Jan. 6 select committee investigating the Capitol attack. Both alleged lies concerned access to the voting machines in Coffee County.

The charging document states that Powell falsely claimed she “didn’t have any role in really setting up” efforts to access the equipment in Coffee County or Antrim County, Michigan. 

Powell also told committee investigators she was aware of an “effort by some people” to gain access to voting machines in Georgia, but falsely stated she did not “know what happened with that” and didn’t “remember whether that was Rudy (Giuliani) or other folks.”

“This was an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy,” the indictment states.

Robert Cheeley, a longtime Georgia lawyer allegedly involved in a scheme to convene fake presidential electors and transmit their Electoral College votes to Congress, is accused of making numerous false statements about those efforts to the Fulton County Special Purpose Grand Jury, which Willis convened in May 2022 to assist in her investigation. He’s been charged with perjury.

Cheeley declined to comment on the indictment.

A section in the Fulton County special purpose grand jury’s report released in February stated that a “majority of the grand jury believes that perjury may have been committed by one or more witnesses testifying before it” and recommended Willis seek “appropriate indictments” for crimes where the “evidence is compelling.”