What to know about the Trump indictment in Georgia
JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:
Here are some of the numbers associated with the Georgia indictment of former President Donald Trump. Nineteen - that is the number of defendants in this racketeering case, including the former president. Forty-one - that is the number of total felony counts. And to round things out, four, as in this is the fourth time the former president has now been indicted all since the month of March. And now we have two reporters joining me to discuss these charges and what comes next - Sam Gringlas from WABE in Atlanta, and NPR correspondent Franco Ordoñez is here in the Washington studio. Hey, y'all.
SAM GRINGLAS, BYLINE: Hey.
FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hey, Juana.
SUMMERS: So, Sam, I want to start with you in Georgia because I know you had a very late night last night at the Fulton County Courthouse. Now that you've had more time with it and maybe even a little bit of sleep, what is the story that prosecutors there are trying to tell with this indictment?
GRINGLAS: Juana, what Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is trying to show here is that Trump and his allies conspired to unlawfully change the outcome of the 2020 election. And she's deploying Georgia's RICO law, which is often used to target organized crime, to outline this wide-reaching racketeering case. It's a case that wraps in defendants from the inner ring of Trump's circle, like former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, to relatively unknown players like some of the false electors in Georgia. The alleged crimes - they range from forgery and false statements to computer theft, soliciting public officials to violate their oath. The indictment touches on more than a hundred actions from Trump's infamous phone call pressuring Georgia's secretary of state to attempts to unlawfully access voting machines in a rural Georgia county.
SUMMERS: We're dealing with a lot of defendants here, but of course, the former president is the biggest. Franco, you've been covering Trump. What have you heard from him so far?
ORDOÑEZ: Well, I mean, he's going after the district attorney professionally and personally. He's calling her, quote, "out of control" and "corrupt." And like in pass indictments, Trump is calling this a witch hunt and says the accusations are rigged. What is new, though, is that he announced today that he plans to hold a press conference on Monday. And he says his team will release a detailed report on what he promises will be proof of election fraud in Georgia, which, of course, has been shown repeatedly to be false. And I'll just add that earlier today, the Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, also dismissed this, stating that in the three years, no one has been able to provide any legal proof of fraud.
SUMMERS: That's right. Let's stay with Georgia, Sam. In addition to Governor Brian Kemp, what else are you hearing from Georgia? What has been the reaction in the state to these indictments?
GRINGLAS: Many Democrats see these charges as the first steps toward accountability for people they see as having tried to chip away at their right to vote. Now, Secretary of State Raffensperger, a Republican whose call from Trump really sparked this investigation, said today that the most basic principles of a strong democracy are accountability and respect for the Constitution and rule of law. You either have it or you don't. Compare that to comments today from the chair of the Georgia Republican Party, who called the charges another weapon in the endless political wars. And I think, Juana, that juxtaposition of these two comments, both from Republicans, really illustrates this ongoing rift in the Republican Party in Georgia and nationwide, which is a theme to watch in 2024.
SUMMERS: Yeah. And, I mean, we can't forget that we're really getting deep into campaign season here - first Republican primary debate coming up soon. Franco, former President Trump remains the clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination. He has not been shy about discussing these charges with his supporters, with the Republican base. Do we think that this latest charge will alter his campaign strategy in any way?
ORDOÑEZ: I mean, not shy at all. And those who I have spoken with who are close to Trump's team say the answer is basically no. I mean, to them, this is another example of a hyper-partisan prosecution by a prosecutor who is a Democrat. Bryan Lanza - he's a former aide to Trump and remains in very close contact with the campaign. He says it doesn't change any of the dynamics. And he also makes clear what the stakes are for Trump.
BRYAN LANZA: I mean, the strategy is simple. It's either the White House or the jailhouse. And so from Trump's line, you know, the line is in the sand. It's red. It's pretty clear we need to win this so we can, you know, successfully push back against these federal prosecutions, most likely get the charges dropped and leverage whatever power we have over the states to drop those.
ORDOÑEZ: And Lanza adds that like before, the Georgia charges are only galvanizing supporters, and the team is raising a lot of money off the indictment. And Trump himself is using the case as just another example of why Republicans should nominate him to lead the party in a rematch against President Biden next year.
SUMMERS: OK, so what about the other Republicans who are seeking the party's nomination? At this point, most of them have avoided direct confrontation with the former president.
ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, they have been very quiet this time. Also, on this particular charge, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has not spoken out. Former Vice President Mike Pence hasn't said anything about these charges. Senator Tim Scott was confronted today on the campaign trail. He basically defended Trump, repeating his claims that the government is being weaponized against political opponents. And, Juana, we've talked a lot about this, about the power that Trump has over the base of the party and the fear that his rivals have about confronting Trump. It's going to be very interesting at next week's debate. And we still don't know if Trump's going to show up, but we do hope to get some clarity about which candidates are really willing to take on Trump because so far, his top rivals have not.
SUMMERS: Sam, last word to you in Georgia. What comes next for this investigation now that the charges are out?
GRINGLAS: District Attorney Willis says defendants have until Friday, August 25 to voluntarily surrender. She says she'll ask for a trial within six months and that she wants to try all defendants together. I expect efforts from Trump to slow the case down, even move it to...
GRINGLAS: ...Federal court. Considering the number of defendants, this Georgia case will likely stretch well into 2024.
SUMMERS: WABE's Sam Gringlas and NPR's Franco Ordoñez in Washington. Thank you both.
ORDOÑEZ: Thank you.
GRINGLAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.