How prosecutors could charge Trump with racketeering in Georgia case

11 months ago 15

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The Georgia prosecutor investigating Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in that state is reportedly weighing a racketeering indictment against the former president and others.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis could rely on evidence tied to Mr Trump’s infamous call to the state’s top elections official to “find” votes for him, as well as the breach of voting machines by a group of Trump-connected operatives, according to The Guardian, citing two people briefed on the matter.

Prosecutors are reportedly reviewing a racketeering indictment including statutes related to influencing witnesses and computer trespass.

An indictment is expected within the first two weeks of August.

The office has been investigating efforts to overturn election results in the state and the baseless allegations of widespread election fraud that fuelled them, adding to a long list of investigations and other legal consequences facing the leading candidate for the 2024 Republican nomination for president and his allies who rejected 2020 results.

Ms Willis’s investigation is separate from the federal probe under US Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith, who is investigating a broader effort from Mr Trump and his allies to reverse election results in states Mr Trump lost to Joe Biden, culminating in a pressure campaign around Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to certify electoral college results during a joint session of Congress on 6 January, 2021.

A grand jury in the Fulton County case was seated on 11 July.

Ms Willis has made a career out of high-profile cases involving charges of racketeering– typically used to break up organised crime – including indictments against more than two dozen people connected to a sprawling Atlanta hip-hop empire, 38 alleged gang members, and 25 educators accused of cheating Atlanta’s public school system.

Georgia’s racketeering statute requires prosecutors to show the existence of an “enterprise” with a pattern predicated on at least two other “qualifying” crimes.

Evidence in the case is unlikely to be revealed until an indictment is unsealed, but a charge involving influences witnesses could look to Mr Trump’s phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which Mr Trump suggested that he “find” him 11,780 votes – enough to swing the election in the state.

For the computer trespass charge, in which prosecutors would need to show that defendants used a computer or network without permission to interfere with a program or data, prosecutors could turn to the breach of voting machines in Coffee County.

That breach involved a group of people working under former Trump-connected attorney Sidney Powell to copy voting machine data at the county’s election office.

That data from Dominion Voting Systems machines was uploaded to a password-protected website in a spurious, failed effort to prove that the 2020 election was rigged against Mr Trump.

The Independent has requested comment from the Fulton County District Attorney’s office.

Roughly one year into her investigation, Ms Willis took the unusual step of asking for a special grand jury to rely on its subpoena power to compel testimony from witnesses who otherwise would not be willing to talk with prosecutors.

That special grand jury was seated in May 2022 and concluded its work in January 2022 after hearing from roughly 75 witnesses before dissolving in January.

A partially released report from the special grand jury shows that jurors unanimously agreed that “no widespread fraud took place” in Georgia’s election following interviews with election officials, analysis and poll workers.

Mr Trump also faces criminal charges in Manhattan stemming from hush money payments allegedly made to silence stories about his alleged affairs in the lead up to the 2016 election. Mr Trump and his adult children also face a likely trial from a multi-million dollar lawsuit filed by the New York Attorney General’s office alleging a years-long fraud operation.

A federal judge in Florida has also set a trial date of 20 May, 2024 on charges surrounding the alleged mishandling and illegal retention of dozens of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago property.

The former president has repeatedly characterised the multiple investigations against him, including the January 6 probe, as a politically motivated “hoax” and an attempt to “steal” the 2024 election from him.

On 23 July, Mr Trump published several posts on his social network Truth Social, once again calling the special prosecutor “deranged”.

He claimed that investigations into him were a “coordinated HOAX,” pointing to the probe into allegations of collusion between the Trump 2016 campaign and Russia.

Mr Trump also went after President Joe Biden, claiming without providing evidence that he’s a “criminal” before going on to call him “the most corrupt and incompetent President in United States history”.

“Get smart, Republicans, they are trying to steal the Election from you!” he wrote before referring to Democrats and federal and state prosecutors as “monsters” who are “destroying our country”.

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