Donald Trump braced for fourth criminal indictment

Good morning, US politics blog readers. The Fulton county district attorney investigating Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia is expected to seek multiple charges against more than a dozen defendants, including the former president, this week.

The timeline for when the district attorney, Fani Willis, would present evidence to a grand jury came into sharper relief over the weekend after prosecutors summoned the former Georgia lieutenant governor, Geoff Duncan, and reporter George Chidi to testify on Tuesday.

The presentation is expected to take two days, to a grand jury that meets Mondays and Tuesdays. In Georgia, it is typical for prosecutors to ask a grand jury to return indictments the same day. The notifications are the clearest indication that the prosecutors intend to charge the former president this week.

Prosecutors have identified roughly seven statutes of the Georgia state criminal code – including a racketeering charge, election law crimes as well as other non-election law crimes – with which to charge more than a dozen defendants in a sprawling indictment, the Guardian reported today, citing sources.

Here’s what else we’re watching today:

  • 10.30am Eastern time: President Joe Biden will depart Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, for the White House.

  • 1pm: Biden and vice president Kamala Harris will have lunch.

  • 3pm. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will brief the press.

  • The House and Senate are out.

Twice impeached and now arrested and indicted three times. Donald Trump faces serious criminal charges in New York, Florida and Washington over a hush-money scheme during the 2016 election, his alleged mishandling of classified documents and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

As Trump prepares for those cases to go to trial, the former president is simultaneously reeling from a verdict that found him liable for sexual abuse and defamation toward writer E Jean Carroll. A New York jury awarded Carroll, who accused Trump of assaulting her in 1996, $5m in damages.

And more criminal charges could be on the way for Trump in Georgia as early as this week.

Here is where each case against Trump stands:

Prosecutors investigating Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia have gathered evidence directly connecting members of the former president’s legal team to the voting system breach in Coffee County, according to a report.

Prosecutors have taken a special interest in the breach of voting machines in Coffee county by Trump allies because of the brazen nature of the operation and the possibility that Trump was aware that his allies intended to covertly gain access to the machines.

In a series of particularly notable incidents, forensics experts hired by Trump allies copied data from virtually every part of the voting system, which is used statewide in Georgia, before uploading them to a password-protected website that could be accessed by 2020 election deniers.

Investigators are in possession of text messages and emails indicating the breach was a top-down push by Trump’s team to access sensitive voting software, CNN reported, citing sources.

Six days before pro-Trump operatives gained unauthorized access to voting systems, the local elections official who allegedly helped facilitate the breach shared a “written invitation” to attorneys working for Trump, according to the report.

Investigators have also probed the involvement of Trump’s then attorneys, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, the sources said.

Georgia former state senator Jen Jordan has been spotted at the Fulton County courthouse today, according to NBC.

Jordan had been expected to testify before a grand jury as part of the Georgia prosecutor’s investigation into Donald Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn his election loss in the state.

The indictment that the Fulton County district attorney, Fanis Willis, may bring against Donald Trump as early as this week could be the most sprawling case against the former president in response to his efforts to remain in power after losing the 2020 election.

I think people are going to be surprised at the level of preparedness and the level of sophistication of the prosecution,” Clint Rucker, a former prosecutor in Fulton County, told AP.

He added that he was not surprised the investigation has taken so long. While Willis is likely to let her team of prosecutors handle the trial, he said there was no question that she is calling the shots.

When she says stuff like, ‘We’re ready to go,’ that’s not being braggadocious’. It’s her saying pretty much to anybody who’s interested, ‘Look, we’re ready.’

The synopsis for a Fani Willis biopic would probably go something like this:

In Fulton county, the first Black woman to serve as district attorney takes on an unlikely case. Willis grew up attending court with her father, a defense attorney and Black Panther. Now, she sits on the opposite side of the courtroom, hoping to indict a former president who sought to overturn election results and often espoused white supremacist rhetoric while doing so.

The film’s montage would pull from real life, depicting a determined, unflappable Willis relentlessly poring over documents, leading her team through the long work hours and security risks that come with bringing an indictment against an often inflammatory former president, even as national attention on the case reached a groundswell.

We’d watch her face racist threats and unsubstantiated rumors of misconduct, but she’d refuse to back down from the task at hand. She’d advocate for what she believed to be right even when it wasn’t popular. She’d appear in press conferences and in media interviews delivering stern soundbites such as: “Lady justice is actually blind. This is the reality. If you come into my community and you commit a crime, you deserve to be held responsible.”

According to some of Willis’s colleagues who have worked with her over more than 20 years, all of this would be an accurate depiction of the district attorney.

Defense attorney Brian Steel has known Willis her entire career and says she’s both “extremely honest” and “extremely hard working”. Atlanta NAACP president Gerald Griggs described her as “transparent”, a “zealous advocate for the state” and the “best trial attorney” in the Fulton county district attorney’s office. He said:

What you see on TV is authentic to who she really is.

Read the Guardian’s full profile of Willis here.

The district attorney’s office in Georgia has spent more than two years investigating whether Donald Trump and his allies interfered in the 2020 election in Georgia, including impaneling a special grand jury that made it more straightforward to compel evidence from recalcitrant witnesses.

Unlike in the federal system, grand juries in the state of Georgia need to already be considering an indictment when they subpoena documents and testimony. By using a special grand jury, prosecutors can collect evidence without the pressure of having to file charges.

The special grand jury in the Trump investigation heard evidence for roughly seven months and recommended indictments of more than a dozen people including the former president himself, its forewoman strongly suggested in interviews with multiple news outlets.

Trump’s legal team sought last month to invalidate the work of the special grand jury and have the Fulton county district attorney, Fani Willis, disqualified from proceedings, but the Georgia supreme court rejected the motion, ruling that Trump lacked “either the facts or the law necessary to mandate Ms Willis’s disqualification”.

From his Bedminster club in New Jersey, where Trump spends his summers, the former president unleashed a wave of personal attacks against Willis ahead of what would be his fourth indictment after most recently being charged by special counsel Jack Smith with conspiring to subvert the 2020 election.

Trump posted on his Truth Social platform that Willis was “racist” and treated gang members with “kid gloves” – two accusations without any merit, especially given her office last week prosecuted members of the PDE gang in Atlanta with a Rico charge and street gang terrorism.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

In the weeks after the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump and his allies kicked off an aggressive pressure campaign in an attempt to overturn the election results in six swing states where certified results declared Joe Biden the winner.

Nowhere was the effort more acute than in Georgia, which became the consuming focus of the former president and his allies, according to a Washington Post report today. Those close to Trump pushed state officials to identify fraud that would cast Biden’s victory in doubt, it writes.

In the process, they personally targeted individual election workers with false claims of cheating, unleashing waves of threats, and amplified conspiracy theories about rigged machines that persist today. In the end, after Trump sought to use every lever of power to overturn the results, top state Republicans stood in his way, refusing to buckle under the pressure.

Some of the most fantastical claims of fraud came directly from Trump and his allies, “who amplified baseless accusations on conservative media and unleashed new waves of outlandish tips from rank-and-file Republicans”.

The former president’s accusations also turned election workers in Georgia and other states into targets of harassment and threats.

They spread false claims that thousands of mail ballots should be discarded because of questionable signatures, that a mother-daughter team of election workers in Atlanta had triple-tallied counterfeit votes, that voting machines had been programmed to flip votes from one candidate to another.

For the purposes of the Trump case, prosecutors in Georgia will be required to show an “interrelated pattern of activity by and through the [public] office” predicated on at least two “qualifying” or predicate crimes drawn from a list of specific statutes.

The prosecutors on the Trump case have developed evidence of a pattern of racketeering activity that could lead to a Rico charge based on predicates of influencing witnesses and computer trespass, the Guardian has previously reported.

Among the election law charges that prosecutors have been examining: criminal solicitation to commit election fraud through seeking a public or political officer to fail to perform duties and seeking to destroy, deface or delay the delivery of ballots; and conspiracy to commit election fraud.

The prosecutors have also developed evidence for the previously unreported state election law charges of intentional interference with performance of election duties, the people said, as well as general criminal solicitation, which is not part of the Georgia election law statutes.

In anticipation of charges against Donald Trump and his allies related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia, local law enforcement last week started to increase security around the building that contains the Fulton county district attorney’s office and Georgia superior court, closing off roads and installing temporary barricades.

The district attorney, Fani Willis, had instructed most of her staff to work remotely through the first weeks of August as a safety precaution, and the public area inside the building for days has been taken over by deputies from the Fulton county sheriff’s office.

Fulton County Sheriff officers block off a street in front of the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia.
A Fulton County Sheriff K-9 officer secures the area around the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia.

Good morning, US politics blog readers. The Fulton county district attorney investigating Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia is expected to seek multiple charges against more than a dozen defendants, including the former president, this week.

The timeline for when the district attorney, Fani Willis, would present evidence to a grand jury came into sharper relief over the weekend after prosecutors summoned the former Georgia lieutenant governor, Geoff Duncan, and reporter George Chidi to testify on Tuesday.

The presentation is expected to take two days, to a grand jury that meets Mondays and Tuesdays. In Georgia, it is typical for prosecutors to ask a grand jury to return indictments the same day. The notifications are the clearest indication that the prosecutors intend to charge the former president this week.

Prosecutors have identified roughly seven statutes of the Georgia state criminal code – including a racketeering charge, election law crimes as well as other non-election law crimes – with which to charge more than a dozen defendants in a sprawling indictment, the Guardian reported today, citing sources.

Here’s what else we’re watching today:

  • 10.30am Eastern time: President Joe Biden will depart Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, for the White House.

  • 1pm: Biden and vice president Kamala Harris will have lunch.

  • 3pm. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will brief the press.

  • The House and Senate are out.

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