Teflon Trump no longer: is the Georgia indictment different?

A televised state trial with a long list of associates liable to ‘flip’ poses huge risks for the former president

Donald Trump addresses Georgia state GOP convention, 10 June 2023
Donald Trump now faces 91 criminal charges in four separate cases
(Image credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Donald Trump’s fourth criminal indictment, this time over alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election result in Georgia, could prove to be his most politically perilous.

Trump and 18 associates have been indicted on a total of 41 counts, with the 13 charges against the former president himself including forgery, perjury and racketeering, and of leading a “criminal enterprise” to overturn the 2020 election result in the state.

“Their indictment alleges that rather than abide by Georgia’s legal process for election challenges the defendants engaged in a criminal racketeering enterprise to overturn Georgia’s presidential election result,” Fani Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County District, Georgia, said in announcing the charges.

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‘Putting pressure on state officials to help him steal the result’

The case centres around the now infamous call between the outgoing president and Georgia’s secretary of state Brad Raffensperger on 2 January 2021. In it Trump asked Raffensperger to “find” extra votes to reverse Joe Biden’s victory and “floated the idea of criminal prosecution” if he did not comply.

Put bluntly, “prosecutors believe they have the recording of a criminal committing the crime – of a defeated president ringing round with claims of a rigged election and putting pressure on state officials to help him steal the result”, said Sky News,

Previous indictments against Trump – from alleged hush money paid to former porn star Stormy Daniels to mishandling classified documents to inciting insurrection related to the Capital riots – have so far failed to dent support for the former president’s campaign to secure the Republican Party nomination. If anything they have had the opposite effect.

But in Georgia, Trump faces what could prove to be “the toughest legal battle yet, with the biggest consequences for his political career – and personal freedom”, said The Telegraph.

It may have received less media attention than the other indictments but “may prove to be the most fatal”, added the paper.

First, Georgia’s expansive racketeering law – known as the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations) Act – which is normally reserved for organised crime, gives prosecutors a “powerful tool” to pursue charges in their investigation into Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election, Axios reported. The law effectively allows prosecutors to string together crimes committed by different people towards one common goal.

‘The trickiest knot to unpick’

The indictment also carries a long list of supporting cast members, “with all the potential they bring for ‘flipping’”, said Sky News.

The Georgia trial also pits Trump against fellow Republicans and local party officials, “who not only refused to ‘find’ the extra votes Trump had demanded to cancel President Biden’s narrow victory, they were also comfortably re-elected last year in the midterms”, said The Times. “It means that these charges cannot as easily be dismissed as a plot by Washington elites, the department of justice or the White House,” the paper added.

The latest indictment is also unique because, unlike the federal judiciary and New York courts that are averse to televising criminal proceedings, it “may end up being the only case that is broadcast to the world”, said Axios. This could give “the public a better chance to digest the evidence – which could be politically damning for Trump”, said the US news site. It would be the first time a former president has appeared in a criminal court on television.

Finally – and perhaps most crucially – the case is taking place at a state rather than federal level, meaning if Trump was found guilty and then elected to the White House he would be unable to pardon himself. This sets up the possibility that the sitting president would also be a serving convict.

The Georgia charges “may not derail Trump’s presidential campaign for now, and in the short term may give it a boost, but it could become the trickiest knot to unpick”, said The Times. His opponents will hope it is “the straw that breaks the back of his campaign, and with that his spell over the Republican Party”.

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