Washington: Donald Trump has been indicted by a grand jury for racketeering and other charges related to efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state of Georgia, the fourth set of criminal charges brought against the former US president ahead of his bid to reclaim the White House in 2024.
Trump and 18 others have been indicted on counts that include racketeering in a 41-charge document issued by a Fulton County grand jury on Monday.
The indictment marks the fourth time the 77-year-old leader, currently the front-runner among the Republican hopefuls, has been criminally charged this year and could lead to a watershed moment, the first televised trial of a former president in US history.
The indictment says the alleged co-conspirators “knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favour of Trump”.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis announced at a news conference on Monday that the 19 defendants listed in the 2020 election subversion case indictment have until noon on August 25, to “voluntarily surrender”, CNN reported.
She said she intends to try all 19 defendants in the indictment together, the report said.
Willis told reporters she would like a trial date for the Trump case within the next six months.
“We do want to move this case along, and so we will be asking for a proposed order that occurs a trial date within the next six months,” she was quoted as saying by the USA Today newspaper.
Willis said each of the 19 people named in the indictment was charged with one count of “violating Georgia’s Racketeer, Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act through participation in a criminal enterprise in Fulton County, Georgia, and elsewhere, to accomplish the illegal goal of allowing Donald J Trump to seize the presidential term of office beginning on January 20, 2021”.
The list of defendants indicted late on Monday night includes former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former White House lawyer John Eastman and former justice department official Jeffrey Clark.
Responding to the indictment, Trump said in an interview with Fox News Digital late on Monday that the charges filed against him in Georgia are “politically inspired.” “This politically-inspired indictment, which could have been brought close to three years ago, was tailored for placement right smack in the middle of my political campaign,” he said.
Trump said Fulton County District Attorney Willis “should focus on the people that rigged the 2020 presidential election, not those who demand an answer as to what happened.” “Just like she has allowed Atlanta to go to hell with all of its crime and violence, so too has Joe Biden allowed the United States of America to go to the same place with millions of people invading our country, inflation, bad economy, no energy, and lack of respect all over the world,” CNN quoted Trump as having said in the interview.
Attorneys for former President Trump released a statement calling the grand jury presentation “one-sided” and Monday’s events “shocking and absurd.” “We look forward to a detailed review of this indictment which is undoubtedly just as flawed and unconstitutional as this entire process has been,” Trump attorneys Drew Findling, Jennifer Little and Marissa Goldberg wrote in the statement.
The Trump campaign condemned the charges as politically motivated.
“Call it election interference or election manipulation,” said a campaign statement.
Besides the Georgia case, Trump faces New York charges of falsifying business records to make hush payments to women who claimed to have had sex with him before the 2016 election.
Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith charged him with conspiracy to obstruct justice and retaining classified documents after leaving the White House.
In all cases, Trump has denied the accusations and says they are politically motivated.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, both Democrats, said that the indictment “portrays a repeated pattern of criminal activity.” “This latest indictment details how Mr. Trump led a months-long plot pushing the Big Lie to steal an election, undermine our democracy, and overturn the will of the people of Georgia,” they said in a joint statement.
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said President Joe Biden has “weaponized government” against Trump.
Trump lost the state of Georgia to President Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
An investigation was sparked in part by a leaked phone call where Trump asked Georgia’s top election official to ‘find 11,780 votes’, the number he would have required to beat Biden in that state.
At least eight “fake electors”, who signed a bogus certificate claiming Trump won the election in that state, have reached immunity deals in the case after agreeing to interviews with Fulton County prosecutors.