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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Hugo Lowell in Atlanta, Georgia

Fulton county prosecutors prepare racketeering charges in Trump inquiry

New details about the direction and scope of case signal prosecutors are close to finalizing charges.
New details about the direction and scope of case signal prosecutors are close to finalizing charges. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The Fulton county district attorney investigating Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in the state of Georgia has developed evidence to charge a sprawling racketeering indictment next month, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The racketeering statute in Georgia requires prosecutors to show the existence of an “enterprise” – and a pattern of racketeering activity that is predicated on at least two “qualifying” crimes.

In the Trump investigation, the Fulton county district attorney, Fani Willis, has evidence to pursue a racketeering indictment predicated on statutes related to influencing witnesses and computer trespass, the people said.

Willis had previously said she was weighing racketeering charges in her criminal investigation, but the new details about the direction and scope of the case come as prosecutors are expected to seek indictments starting in the first two weeks of August.

The racketeering statute in Georgia is more expansive than its federal counterpart, notably because any attempts to solicit or coerce the qualifying crimes can be included as predicate acts of racketeering activity, even when those crimes cannot be indicted separately.

The specific evidence was not clear, though the charge regarding influencing witnesses could include Trump’s conversations with Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, in which he asked Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 votes, the people said – and thereby implicate Trump.

For the computer trespass charge, where prosecutors would have to show that defendants used a computer or network without authority to interfere with a program or data, that would include the breach of voting machines in Coffee county, the two people said.

The breach of voting machines involved a group of Trump operatives – paid by the then Trump lawyer Sidney Powell – accessing the voting machines at the county’s election office and copying sensitive voting system data.

The copied data from the Dominion Voting Systems machines, which are used statewide in Georgia, was then uploaded to a password-protected site from where election deniers could download the materials as part of a misguided effort to prove the 2020 election had been rigged.

Though Coffee county is outside the usual jurisdiction of the Fulton county district attorney’s office, the racketeering statute would allow prosecutors to also charge what the Trump operatives did there by showing it was all aimed towards the goal of corruptly keeping Trump in office.

A spokesperson for Willis did not respond to requests for comment.

The district attorney’s office has spent more than two years investigating whether Trump and his allies interfered in the 2020 election in Georgia, while prosecutors at the federal level are scrutinizing Trump’s efforts to reverse his defeat that culminated in the January 6 Capitol attack.

A special grand jury in Atlanta that heard evidence for roughly seven months recommended charges for more than a dozen people, including the former president himself, its forewoman strongly suggested in interviews, though Willis will have to seek indictments from a regular grand jury.

The grand jury that could decide whether to return an indictment against Trump was seated on 11 July. The selection process was attended by Willis and two prosecutors known to be on the Trump investigation: her deputy district attorney, Will Wooten, and special prosecutor Nathan Wade.

Charges stemming from the Trump investigation are expected to come between the final week of July and the first two weeks of August, the Guardian has previously reported, after Willis told her team to shift to remote work during that period because of security concerns.

The district attorney originally suggested charging decisions were “imminent” in January, but the timetable has been repeatedly delayed after a number of Republicans who acted as fake electors accepted immunity deals as the investigation neared its end.

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