The twice-impeached former president has now been indicted for a fourth time. But while Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith took care to bring narrow indictments against Donald Trump—over his personal role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election—the Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis, has laid out a sprawling criminal conspiracy centered on many of the same actions.
The 41-count indictment charges Trump and 18 other people—some of them his very closest and topmost aides—with a number of charges related to the former president’s attempts to cling to power after losing the 2020 election. Those efforts to stay in power included intimidating Georgia’s top elections official and recruiting fake electors to hijack the nation’s democratic process.
Among the 19 people indicted Monday night were Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, election lawyer John Eastman, attorney Ken Chesebro, DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis, Trump campaign aide Mike Roman, and Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell. Additionally, there were 30 unindicted co-conspirators mentioned in the document who, with the indicted individuals, are collectively referred to as a “criminal organization.”
All are accused of taking part in a mob-like racketeering scheme during a nearly two-year period stretching from Election Day 2020 until September 2022.
“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 said in its introduction.
The indictment goes on to claim these individuals “unlawfully conspired and endeavored to conduct and participate in a criminal enterprise in Fulton County, Georgia.”
“The enterprise”—as the indictment also calls the group, as defined by Georgia law—is accused of “false statements and writings, impersonating a public officer, forgery, filing false documents, influencing witnesses, computer theft, computer trespass, computer invasion of privacy, conspiracy to defraud the state, acts involving theft, and perjury.”
During a press conference just before midnight, Willis gave all 19 men and women “no later than noon on Friday” to turn themselves in voluntarily, or they would face arrest.
“All elections in our nation are administered by the states, which are given the responsibility of ensuring a fair process and an accurate counting of the votes. That includes elections for presidential electors, Congress, state officials, and local offices,” Willis said, stressing that fair elections are “essential to the functioning of our democracy.”
Willis noted that she wants to put all of the defendants on trial simultaneously sometime in the next six months—potentially interrupting Trump’s re-election campaign as he seeks the 2024 Republican nomination.
The 98-page indictment, unsealed just before 11 p.m., was the result of a more than two-year investigation by Willis and her office.
The indictment accuses many of those in the group with false statements and perjury related to conspiracy theories in official state legislative hearings in the weeks after the 2020 election, as Trump and his associates tried to cast doubt on election results in Georgia.
“The purpose of these false statements was to persuade Georgia legislators to reject lawful electoral votes cast by the duly elected and qualified presidential electors from Georgia. Members of the enterprise corruptly solicited Georgia legislators instead to unlawfully appoint their own presidential electors for the purpose of casting electoral votes for Donald Trump,” the indictment said.
Notably, the indictment pins the worst behavior on Trump himself, noting the way he tried to have a loyalist at the upper echelons of the Department of Justice intimidate Georgia state officials into changing the election outcome.
“Donald Trump stated to the Acting United States Attorney General, ‘Just say that the election was corrupt, and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen,’” the indictment said.
The indictment also alleges that “members of the enterprise” corruptly solicited Vice President Mike Pence “to violate the United States Constitution and federal law by unlawfully rejecting Electoral College votes cast in Fulton County, Georgia.”
Although this law enforcement effort by the local DA in Atlanta is the last of the expected indictments against Trump, it appears to be the farthest-reaching one. The conspiracy laid out by prosecutors documents phone calls, meetings, and planning sessions that took place across the country—stretching from Arizona to Pennsylvania. In doing so, the indictment attempts to hold Trump accountable not just for what he did in Georgia, but the overall coup plans he had to remain in power after losing to Joe Biden.
Prosecutors also describe the way Sidney Powell—a conspiracy-spewing lawyer who tried to flood the nation’s courts with multi-tentacled “Kraken” lawsuits—allegedly teamed up with Georgia computer forensics firm SullivanStrickler to illegally access voting machines in a rural county. The Daily Beast first uncovered that plot in June 2022, citing never-before-seen text messages that show county and state GOP officials conspiring after the election to breach those machines—ironically, while they were publicly claiming that leftists had done that to tamper with election results.
The DA is attempting to nail each of Trump’s most trusted associates for every action that grabbed headlines in the stressful weeks after the tumultuous election. She charged Meadows with racketeering over the way he tried to force his way into the Cobb County Civic Center during a signature match audit—which was closed to the public—and the conversations he had with employees at the Office of Georgia Secretary of State. She also charged Illinois pastor Stephen Cliffgard Lee and Black Voices for Trump member Harrison William Prescott Floyd over their roles in a pressure campaign that defamed and scared election-poll worker Ruby Freeman.
Prosecutors also targeted several Republican operatives with lying profusely about the entire affair. They criminally charged David J. Shafer, until recently the state’s Republican Party chairman, with making false statements to Fulton County investigators. They also levied a perjury charge against Robert David Cheeley, a plaintiff lawyer who helped Giuliani present fake evidence about supposed ballot stuffing, over his closed-door testimony to a special purpose grand jury last year. That panel undertook a months-long investigation which recommended Willis seek this very indictment.
A Georgia courtroom stayed late Monday night to hand the indictments over to Judge Robert McBurney at almost exactly 9 p.m., with the whole spectacle taking place on live television. The judge reviewed the indictments and handed the documents back to a clerk, who then uploaded the documents about two hours later.
These historic indictments originated from an equally extraordinary event: a phone call Trump made from the White House on Jan. 2, 2021, to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pressuring him to “find 11,780 votes” that didn’t exist. The ham-fisted scheme sought to erase Joe Biden’s lead—by one single vote—and flip the election results.
The DA has also examined how the Trump campaign and his personal lawyers, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, sowed chaos in the weeks after the 2020 election by spreading easily disproven conspiracy theories and trying to convince state legislators to overturn ballot results. The most bizarre aspect of their plan involved assembling a shadow team of “alternate electors” willing to do what actual electors would not: submit official paperwork to Congress that perpetuated Trump’s hallucinatory presidential victory.
Even before the indictments had dropped, Trump released a rambling statement on his social media app claiming that Willis, the DA, was a “rabid partisan.”
“Ripping a page from Crooked Joe Biden's playbook, Willis has strategically stalled her investigation to try and maximally interfere with the 2024 presidential race and damage the dominant Trump campaign,” Trump claimed. “All of these corrupt Democrat attempts will fail. Combined with the intentionally slow-walked investigations by the Biden-Smith goon squads and the false charges in New York, the timing of this latest coordinated strike by a biased prosecutor in an overwhelmingly Democrat jurisdiction not only betrays the trust of the American people, but also exposes true motivation driving their fabricated accusations.”
Trump’s insistence on brazenly flouting election rules is why this real estate tycoon is also facing serious criminal charges in New York. In late March, a Manhattan grand jury formally charged him with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records over the way he used his private company to pay off porn star Stormy Daniels to prevent the American public from learning about their one-night sexual affair before the 2016 election.
And his stubborn refusal to abide by the most basic rules is why he’s also facing criminal charges in Florida. In June, a federal grand jury in Miami indicted him over the way he amassed hundreds of classified records at his oceanside estate of Mar-a-Lago after leaving the White House—and lied to investigators to try covering it up. That indictment was revised in July, with additional accusations that Trump ordered his lackeys to delete the mansion’s video surveillance footage as part of the coverup.
And then another federal grand jury—this one in D.C.—indicted Trump less than two weeks ago for inciting MAGA loyalists to attack Congress to prevent it from certifying the results of the 2020 election he lost.
At this point, Trump faces four historic criminal trials that could each send him to prison in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election—one in which he remains, despite it all, the Republican frontrunner.