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Former President Donald Trump at the Iowa Pork Producers Tent, on a visit to the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on Aug. 12. Trump has been charged in Georgia over a sweeping plot to overturn the 2020 election.JON CHERRY/The New York Times News Service

Former U.S. president Donald Trump has been charged in Georgia over a sweeping plot to overturn the 2020 election, his fourth criminal case this year even as he ramps up his bid to return to the White House.

The indictment, handed down by a grand jury in Atlanta on Monday evening at the behest of district attorney Fani Willis, is the largest yet: It also charges 18 of Mr. Trump’s alleged co-conspirators and, by including a count of racketeering, attempts to tie together every action they took to reverse the vote.

At a news conference, Ms. Willis described the operation as “a criminal enterprise,” which sought to “accomplish the illegal goal of allowing Donald J. Trump to seize the presidential term of office.”

The only former U.S. president to ever be indicted, Mr. Trump now faces 91 charges.

What’s in the indictment

The Georgia case is built around the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which is typically used to charge criminal gangs. The idea is that Mr. Trump and his associates’ co-ordinated efforts to reverse the election constituted a “criminal conspiracy,” as Ms. Willis put it.

The people charged alongside Mr. Trump include some of his close advisers, such as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former White House Chief of staff Mark Meadows; conspiracy theorists on his legal team, such as Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis, John Eastman and Ken Chesebro; former Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark; and a host of Republican operatives in Georgia. The document also references 30 more unnamed, unindicted people who helped along the plot.

The indictment lists 161 specific acts that the alleged conspirators took to advance their aims, both in Georgia and elsewhere, providing the most comprehensive record of Mr. Trump’s actions in the wake of the election.

Among other things, Mr. Trump used White House meetings and phone calls to press Republican legislators and officials in Georgia and other swing states to throw out Democrat Joe Biden’s victory; set up slates of fake electoral college members he hoped to substitute for Mr. Biden’s; cajoled the justice department to push Georgia to overturn the result; and demanded then-vice-president Mike Pence recognize the fake electors.

In one pivotal conversation, Mr. Trump asked Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to “find 11,780 votes” – enough to overcome Mr. Biden’s narrow victory in the state.

In addition, some of Mr. Trump’s associates are accused of tampering with voting machines in Georgia’s Coffee County in an effort to prove that they had been used to rig the election, and harassing Ruby Freeman, an Atlanta elections official who was baselessly accused of taking part in voter fraud.

Ultimately, most officials refused to go along with Mr. Trump, so he called his supporters to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, and exhorted them to descend on the Capitol, where lawmakers were gathered to certify Mr. Biden’s victory. The day culminated with a deadly riot.

In addition to racketeering, the 19 indicted also face a range of other charges, including trying to get elected officials to break their oaths, conspiring to commit election fraud, conspiring to defraud the state and forging documents.

A look at six legal challenges former U.S. president Donald Trump is currently facing

How this is different from previous indictments

Special counsel Jack Smith is prosecuting Mr. Trump in two federal cases: one related to his efforts to overturn the election and another for taking classified documents with him after leaving office and obstructing government attempts to get them back. In New York, the former president faces state-level charges for allegedly falsifying business records to cover up a hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Ms. Willis’s case differs from Mr. Smith’s in several key ways. For one, the federal indictment is much narrower, charging Mr. Trump with four counts and not including any co-conspirators. It also does not list all of the former president’s actions, which Ms. Willis does because of the wide-ranging RICO accusation.

If Mr. Trump returns to office after the 2024 election, he is likely to try to pardon himself or press the justice department to end the federal prosecutions. He would have no such power over the state-level indictments. Also, Georgia typically allows for cameras in the courtroom, which neither federal or New York courts do, meaning a trial in Atlanta could be broadcast live.

What happens next

The Georgia grand jury has issued arrest warrants for the 19 accused. Ms. Willis said they have a deadline of next Friday, Aug. 25, at noon to turn themselves in for arraignment. It’s so far unclear when exactly this will happen. The number of co-defendants will make this more complicated than Mr. Trump’s previous arraignments.

Ms. Willis has said she wants the trial to happen within six months, all the defendants will be tried together and, if convicted of the RICO charge, they will get time in prison as opposed to probation.

Mr. Trump is already scheduled to start the New York trial in March of next year and the classified documents trial in May. Mr. Smith has asked for the federal election trial to start in January. If this crowded trial calendar goes ahead as planned, Mr. Trump will be in court during much of the presidential primary season. His current legal strategy is to try to delay the proceedings until after the election.

What this means for 2024

U.S. law does not explicitly ban someone from running for or serving as president if they are under indictment or convicted.

Some legal scholars have suggested that a court could bar Mr. Trump from serving as president on the basis of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment contains a clause, enacted after the Civil War to keep former Confederate leaders from serving in Congress, prohibiting officials who have “engaged in insurrection” from holding government office. So far, no one has taken any action to apply this rule to Mr. Trump.

Amid the indictments, Mr. Trump has continued to hold a more than 30-point polling lead over his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination and is roughly even with Mr. Biden.

On Tuesday, the former president repeated the same lie that was at the centre of his efforts to overturn the vote. “No, Fani, the only Election Interference was done by those that Rigged and Stole the Election,” he wrote in a post on his Truth Social platform.

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