A court in Georgia has charged Donald Trump with trying to illegally overturn the 2020 election.
Among the charges is “solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer” – in other words trying to persuade someone to betray their office.
It is the fourth set of charges against the former president this year.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis brought 13 counts against Trump and 18 of his associates, including forgery and racketeering, which is most often used to target members of organised crime groups.
In a press conference, DA Willis gave Trump and all his fellow accused until noon on 25 August to surrender to police.
She added that she hoped to get a trial date within the next six months and planned to try all 19 defendants together.
According to Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act it is a crime to participate in, acquire or maintain control of an “enterprise” through a “pattern of racketeering activity” or to conspire to do so.
The scheme the charge relates to does not need to have been successful for it to be considered criminal.
Several other people have been charged including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Trump’s former lawyer and ex-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, another of Trump’s ex-lawyers.
In a statement passed to US broadcaster NBC by an adviser, Giuliani said: “This is an affront to American democracy and does permanent, irrevocable harm to our justice system. It’s just the next chapter in a book of lies with the purpose of framing President Donald Trump and anyone willing to take on the ruling regime. They lied about Russian collusion, they lied about Joe Biden’s foreign bribery scheme, and they lied about Hunter Biden’s laptop hard drive proving 30 years of criminal activity.
“The real criminals here are the people who have brought this case forward both directly and indirectly.”
The 98-page indictment listed 19 defendants and 41 criminal counts in all.
Trump might welcome the Georgia election charges, but his co-accused might be tempted to ‘flip’
As prosecutors would have it, election interference in Georgia came with a soundtrack.
It’s the one that goes: “Fellas, I need 11,000 more votes, give me a break,” and it’s at the heart of this case.
They were Donald Trump’s words in a recorded phone call between him and Georgia’s secretary of state Brad Raffensperger on 2 January 2021.
Trump was asking the official for votes he didn’t have in an election he didn’t win, and floated the idea of criminal prosecution if he didn’t get them.
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.
Whatever it was, it prompted the investigation into election interference in the state of Georgia.
The call in indictment number four already features in number three. Both now have it as a centrepiece in a pattern of behaviour aimed at overturning an election result, allegedly.
Georgia has laid it out in a so-called RICO charge. It’s the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organisation Act, a prosecuting tool aimed at targeting mafia crime.
The ‘Don’ at the centre of these new charges faces increased criminal exposure and the list of supporting cast members is also extended, with all the potential they bring for ‘flipping’.
Will targeted individuals, minor players yet with information to divulge, choose to share it and take the target off their back? Prosecutors will hope they are given a push by the rules.
While a federal crime can be subject to presidential pardon (perhaps by a victorious Donald Trump at the next election?), convictions at state level are not.
Alleged co-conspirators might well feel the pressure from a state indictment that doesn’t apply in federal prosecutions elsewhere.
The more detail that’s aired across a ‘suite’ of prosecutions, the more Trump’s alleged assault on US democracy will be laid out publicly. So, of course, will his defence.
Trump has already filed the latest indictment under “witch hunt”. He calls the phone conversation with Brad Raffensperger an “absolutely perfect phone call”. His attorney John Lauro describes it as an “aspirational ask”.
It’s the aspirational defence that will now be a matter for a judge and jury to make a neutral assessment. The partisan view from the Trump camp continues to be supportive.
If a fourth indictment is no surprise to Trump, neither is it a disappointment, if he’s to be believed.
“We need a fourth indictment to close out this election,” he said recently.
Team Trump reckons that when his supporters are told “indictment”, they hear “injustice” and that the greater the detail, the more it is noise ignored.
All the defendants were charged with racketeering, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
The court in Atlanta sat beyond usual working hours as a grand jury decided whether or not to charge the former president.
Audio of a call by Trump to Georgia’s secretary of state also emerged in January 2021 in which he suggested election officials could “find” the votes he needed to win.
Trump is already defending several other cases – just a year before he hopes to reclaim the presidency.
The most serious concern allegations he plotted to overturn his election loss, laying the ground for the infamous US Capitol riots.
He denies the claims and says they are politically motivated.
In a statement, the Trump campaign said: “They could have brought this two and a half years ago, yet they chose to do this for election interference reasons in the middle of President Trump’s successful campaign.
“The legal double standard set against President Trump must end.”
Trump’s other legal troubles include allegations he kept national security documents at his Florida home when he left office.
The ex-president has again pleaded not guilty.