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Former U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks during an event at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., June 13, 2023, following his arraignment on classified document charges at a federal courthouse in Miami. (OSV News photo/Amr Alfiky, Reuters)

(OSV News) -- Former President Donald Trump and 18 of his allies were indicted in Georgia Aug. 14 over their efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state, prosecuting him under an anti-racketeering statute alleging he and his aides conducted a “criminal enterprise” to keep him in office despite his election loss to President Joe Biden.

“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,” read the 98-page indictment filed in Atlanta’s Fulton County Superior Court.

The indictment follows a two-year investigation and details efforts by Trump or his allies to overturn his defeat in the state’s election, including a highly publicized phone call where Trump appeared to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and other state officials to “find 11,780 votes” to overturn the state’s election in his favor rather than Biden’s. Trump or his allies also allegedly both harassed an election worker -- who then faced false claims of participating in fraud -- and attempted to get Georgia lawmakers to override the will of voters by appointing a new slate of Electoral College electors who would back Trump.

[In the Trump indictments, something more than democracy is at stake: the truth itself.]

Those charged alongside Trump include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was Trump’s personal attorney after the 2020 election; Trump’s former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows; American law professor and constitutional scholar John Eastman; and attorney Sidney Powell.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, whose office brought the case, told reporters Aug. 14 the 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.”

Tom Hoffman, a professor of politics at Spring Hill College, a Jesuit college in Mobile, Alabama, told OSV News that “what sets the latest indictments apart from the others is the sheer number of co-defendants or alleged co-conspirators in this case.”

Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, laws “cast a wide net around a defendant,” Hoffman said.

“Obviously, this makes it more likely that someone involved with inside information might be turned by the prosecutor and provide evidence against him (Trump),” he said.

Notre Dame professor Robert Schmuhl said the Georgia indictment “reads like a who’s who of Trump loyalists—and lawyers.”

Robert Schmuhl, professor emeritus of American studies at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, who critically observes the modern American presidency, told OSV News the Georgia indictment “reads like a who’s who of Trump loyalists -- and lawyers -- at the center of the alleged attempt to change the outcome of Georgia’s presidential vote count in 2020.”

The indictment marks the fourth set of indictments for Trump, who also faces federal charges for his his alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, his alleged mishandling of classified documents, and state charges in New York over his alleged role in paying hush money to an adult film actress in the closing days of the 2016 campaign.

Trump has not backed down from his baseless claims of systemic election fraud, even as they have been overwhelmingly rejected in the nation’s courts, and he has claimed his legal woes are a political “witch hunt.”

In an Aug. 15 post on his Truth Social platform, Trump called the latest charges a “WITCH HUNT!” and in another post he pledged to provide a “Large, Complex, Detailed but Irrefutable REPORT on the Presidential Election Fraud which took place in Georgia” the following week.

“Based on the results of this CONCLUSIVE Report, all charges should be dropped against me & others -- There will be a complete EXONERATION!” he wrote. “They never went after those that Rigged the Election. They only went after those that fought to find the RIGGERS!”

Trump has previously pledged to provide evidence of his unfounded claims, but has yet to do so.

Notre Dame’s Schmul noted that Trump’s criminal indictments do not seem to have had a substantial impact on Republican primary voters; but they may prove decisive for general election voters.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican who resisted Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn the election in the state, wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that the “2020 election in Georgia was not stolen.”

“For nearly three years now, anyone with evidence of fraud has failed to come forward -- under oath -- and prove anything in a court of law,” Kemp said Aug. 15. “Our elections in Georgia are secure, accessible, and fair and will continue to be as long as I am governor. The future of our country is at stake in 2024 and that must be our focus.”

Georgia is a rare state where pardons are not granted by a governor but administered by an appointed state board, meaning Kemp could not pardon Trump unilaterally even if he were inclined to do so.

Notre Dame’s Schmul noted that Trump’s criminal indictments do not seem to have had a substantial impact on Republican primary voters; but they may prove decisive for general election voters, including those in the swing state of Georgia, who will likely view them with more concern.

“The case will probably make it more difficult for Republicans to win in Georgia if Donald Trump is running at the top of the ticket in 2024,” he said. “The Republicans statewide who’ve shown their independence from him have been much more successful (with voters) than those clinging to his coattails. The more independent-minded voters in the Atlanta suburbs and elsewhere might move away from Trump in droves.”

“Donald Trump will have his various cases, and Joe Biden could have his son, Hunter, on trial. Instead of issues, next year’s campaign could revolve around unfolding court activity.”

The onset of the pandemic in 2020 resulted in campaigning that was “very different from what we traditionally see because of COVID and the restrictions imposed,” Schmul said.

But Schmul noted that the 2024 election will also have a “tremendous difference” from past campaigns and Trump won’t be the only candidate with legal drama in 2024. The Justice Department announced Aug. 11 the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the business dealings of President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.

“Donald Trump will have his various cases, and Joe Biden could have his son, Hunter, on trial. Instead of issues, next year’s campaign could revolve around unfolding court activity,” he said. “It’s not a happy prospect.”

John White, a professor of politics at The Catholic University of America in Washington, concurred, telling OSV News that “independents and suburban voters are turned off by Trump, and the country is reluctant to go back to an encore of his presidency with all the disruption and threats to our democracy that entails.”

White also pointed to Georgia voters not supporting Trump-backed primary candidates as a potential weakness for Trump’s general election prospects.

James Patterson, chair of the politics department at Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida, told OSV News that “in the long term, Trump might be in trouble and he likely would prefer not to be indicted.”

“However, Trump has always leaned into these events in a way that few if any political campaigners ever have,” he said. 

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