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In Georgia, Donald Trump is indicted for seeking to overturn the 2020 election

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A criminal proceeding. In all of American history - all of it - a former president has been indicted only four times.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Yeah, and we have witnessed all four of them, all against the same man, Donald Trump. And all of them happened this year. The latest comes from a grand jury in Fulton County, Ga. District Attorney Fani Willis accuses Trump and 18 other people of a, quote, "criminal enterprise."

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FANI WILLIS: To accomplish the illegal goal of allowing Donald J. Trump to seize the presidential term of office beginning on January 20, '21.

FADEL: The indictment includes 41 counts, such as conspiracy to commit election fraud, filing false statements and forgery. Others charged include Trump's attorney, identified in the papers as Rudolph William Louis Giuliani, and Trump's White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

INSKEEP: Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler was at the courthouse when the charges were announced late last night, and he's with us early this morning. Stephen, thank you. Good morning.

STEPHEN FOWLER, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What is the essence of the case against Trump?

FOWLER: So the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act - or RICO Act - was meant to go after the mob. But the Fulton County DA in particular has used it creatively as this narrative tool to target alleged criminal enterprises. So in this case, Steve, former President Donald Trump and his allies are accused of engaging in more than 160 different acts, not all of them explicitly illegal, that contributed to the unlawful effort of trying to undo Georgia's 2020 election results.

INSKEEP: OK, what sort of acts would be part of a racketeering crime but not an ordinary crime?

FOWLER: Well, Georgia's racketeering law does have specific explicit triggers before you can be charged, with crimes like forgery and false statements getting you a RICO violation. But then there's these other acts that are instances that show there's a broader conspiracy afoot to do illegal things, for instance, like influencing lawmakers in other states to overturn their elections or acts that are efforts to influence lawmakers in Georgia, which is illegal here. Think of them like building blocks that make up the wall of actions to overturn the election, but not necessarily those critical, foundational, blatantly illegal things like, say, Trump calling Georgia's secretary of state to, quote, "find" votes.

INSKEEP: OK, so that is the indictment we've got against Trump. And there are 18 other people named. What kinds of people are these?

FOWLER: Well, there's several big buckets of names that have popped up in the other federal investigations and conversations about 2020. In addition to Mark Meadows and Rudy Giuliani, there's another Trump attorney involved, Sidney Powell. All of these people were involved with multiple states. You've also got those that spoke at hearings designed to convince Georgia lawmakers to change the election results, like lawyer Ray Smith.

There's also three electors who falsely claimed to be official electors, like Georgia's former state Republican Party chairman David Shafer. Another big part of this case is the effort to unlawfully copy election data in a rural county, Coffee County, and there's people involved with that as well. And so, notably new information, people involved in efforts to harass a particular election worker and convince her to falsely say she committed election fraud.

INSKEEP: Wow. How did the DA talk about all of this?

FOWLER: So she's the only state-level prosecutor to investigate Trump and 2020 election interference this way. She painted that decision as one that was her duty.

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WILLIS: The state's role in this process is essential to the functioning of our democracy.

FOWLER: It's notable what she didn't say responding to Trump's attacks.

INSKEEP: Stephen Fowler with Georgia Public Broadcasting, thanks so much.

FOWLER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Stephen Fowler
Stephen Fowler is a political reporter with NPR's Washington Desk and will be covering the 2024 election based in the South. Before joining NPR, he spent more than seven years at Georgia Public Broadcasting as its political reporter and host of the Battleground: Ballot Box podcast, which covered voting rights and legal fallout from the 2020 presidential election, the evolution of the Republican Party and other changes driving Georgia's growing prominence in American politics. His reporting has appeared everywhere from the Center for Public Integrity and the Columbia Journalism Review to the PBS NewsHour and ProPublica.