After months of speculation and anticipation, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has returned a sweeping criminal indictment against former president Donald Trump and his associates for attempts to interfere in the results of the 2020 election in Georgia. Most notably, Willis has used Georgia’s RICO law to charge Trump and over a dozen others with engaging in a “criminal enterprise.” While Trump faces dozens of criminal charges in multiple jurisdictions, this latest indictment is perhaps the broadest set of charges against Trump.
A criminal campaign to undermine the 2020 election
A 41-count indictment was unsealed Monday, detailing a range of crimes that Trump and his associates are accused of having committed after the 2020 election. The Georgia indictment includes many of the specific acts allegedly taken by Trump and others to change the outcome of the 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere. These include a January 2021 phone call made by Trump, pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to change the official election results and “find” the exact number of extra votes — 11,780 — that he needed to win the state. Trump and associates are also charged with harassing and making false statements against Shaye Moss, a Black election worker who has been targeted by a Trump-led conspiracy theory that falsely claims that she tampered with votes; Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, have faced threats and even gone into hiding as a result of these claims.
Trump and others are also accused of attempting to submit fake electors for Georgia and other states that he lost, and they are accused of pressuring then Vice President Mike Pence to illegally interfere with the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021. In total, the charges against Trump and 18 co-defendants — including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani — paint a picture of a multifaceted attempt to overturn the election. The indictment also cites dozens of unindicted coconspirators who allegedly played a role in the scheme.
RICO charges are a powerful tool used by Willis and others against organized crime
Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) laws, which exist at the federal level and in states such as Georgia, allow prosecutors to charge all members of a group of individuals with crimes committed by each of those members as long as the crimes were part of the same “criminal enterprise.” These laws have often been used against members of organized crime, allowing mafia or gang members to be charged for crimes they committed and crimes committed by their associates.
In Georgia, Willis has used RICO laws against a wide variety of groups, ranging from teachers accused of running a scheme to falsify test scores to associates of rappers Young Thug and Gunna who have been accused of operating a criminal gang. Willis has faced attacks from Republicans, including Trump himself. The former president has repeatedly made false accusations against Willis, challenging her competency and accusing her of bias without evidence. There had even been speculation that Republican officials would try to fire Willis in order to prevent her from pursuing the case against Trump.
In the end, however, Trump and his supporters were unable to prevent the Fulton County DA from going after Trump for his actions following the 2020 election. Now that Willis has moved forward with indicting Trump, the former president and his close allies will likely continue to attack Willis in the press and over social media, but these statements are unlikely to help Trump much as he faces the possibility of a long prison sentence if he loses this latest case.