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Georgia charges Trump with illegally trying to overturn 2020 loss

Georgia charges Trump with illegally trying to overturn 2020 loss
Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Georgia GOP State Convention at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center in Columbus, Georgia, USA, 10 June 2023. EPA-EFE/ERIK S. LESSER

Aug 14 (Reuters) - Former US President Donald Trump was hit with a fourth set of criminal charges on Monday when a Georgia grand jury issued an indictment accusing him of efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

The charges, brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, add to the legal woes facing Trump, the front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential election.

Prosecutors brought 11 counts against Trump and his associates, including forgery and racketeering, which is used to target members of organized crime groups.

Prosecutors charged 18 other people, including Mark Meadows, Trump’s former White House chief of staff, and lawyers Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman.

The case stems from a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call in which Trump urged Georgia’s top election official, Brad Raffensperger, to “find” enough votes to reverse his narrow loss in the state. Raffensperger declined to do so.

Four days later, on Jan. 6, 2021and two weeks before Trump was due to leave office, his supporters stormed the US Capitol in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent lawmakers from certifying Biden’s victory.

Willis also investigated an alleged scheme by the Trump campaign to subvert the US electoral process by submitting false slates of electors, people who make up the Electoral College that elects the president and vice president.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing, and accuses Willis, an elected Democrat, of being politically motivated.

The court briefly posteda document on its website earlier on Monday listing several felony charges against Trump, but quickly removed it without explanation. Willis’s office said at the time no charges had been filed and declined further comment.

Trump has already pleaded not guilty in three criminal cases.

He faces a New York state trial beginning on March 25, 2024, involving a hush money payment to a porn star, and a Florida trial beginning on May 20 in a federal classified documents case. In both cases Trump pleaded not guilty.

third indictment, in Washington federal court, accuses him of illegally seeking to overturn his 2020 election defeat. Trump denies wrongdoing in this case as well, and a trial date has yet to be set.

Georgia, once reliably Republican, has emerged as one of a handful of politically competitive states that can determine the outcome of presidential elections.

Trump persists in falsely claiming he won the November 2020 election although dozens of court cases and state probes have found no evidence to support his claim.

 

NOT HURTING HIS CAMPAIGN

Strategists said that while the indictments could bolster Republican support for Trump, they may hurt him in next year’s general election, when he will have to win over more independent-minded voters.

His lead over Republican presidential rivals has widened since the New York charges were filed in April, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling.

But in a July Reuters/Ipsos poll, 37% of independents said the criminal cases made them less likely to vote for him, compared to 8% who said they were more likely to do so.

Willis’s investigation drew on testimony from Trump advisers including Giuliani, who urged state lawmakers in December 2020 not to certify the election, and allies like Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham, who asked state officials to examine absentee ballots following Trump’s loss.

Republicans who have kept their distance from Trump, including Raffensperger and Governor Brian Kemp, also testified.

While many Republican officials have echoed Trump’s false election claims, Kemp and Raffensperger have refused to do so.

Raffensperger has said there was no factual basis for Trump’s objections, while Kemp certified the election results despite pressure from within his party.

Both defeated Trump-backed primary challengers and easily won re-election in November 2022.

Voters in the state also might be less receptive to Trump’s complaints than elsewhere. Republican US Senate candidates who backed his false election claims narrowly lost runoff elections in January 2021 and December 2022, frustrating the party’s hopes of winning control of the chamber.

Trump has been mired in legal trouble since leaving office.

Apart from the criminal cases, a New York jury in May found him liable for sexually abusing and defaming the writer E. Jean Carroll and awarded her $5 million in a civil case. A trial is scheduled for Jan. 15 on a second defamation lawsuit seeking $10 million in damages. Trump denies wrongdoing.

Trump is due to face trial in October in a civil case in New York that accuses him and his family business of fraud to obtain better terms from lenders and insurers.

Trump’s company was fined $1.6 million after being convicted of tax fraud in a New York court in December.

By Andy Sullivan, Sarah N. Lynch and Jacqueline Thomsen

(Additional reporting by Tim Ahmann, Jacqueline Thomsen, Joseph Ax and Sarah N. Lynch; Writing by Andy Sullivan; editing by Scott Malone and Howard Goller)

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