By David Voreacos and Erik Larson, Bloomberg News
Donald Trump and 18 codefendants have fewer than 10 days to turn themselves in for arraignment in Atlanta on charges they engaged in a sweeping criminal operation to keep the former president in office after he lost the 2020 election.
In a 41-count indictment issued this week, 161 specific acts are stitched together under the umbrella of a racketeering statute that spanned remarkable months in U.S. history after President Joe Biden defeated Trump in Georgia.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis uses Georgia’s racketeering statute to tell the story of a criminal organization, allegedly led by Trump, that gave false testimony to Georgia lawmakers, empaneled a phony slate of electors, intimidated poll workers, stole election machine data and beseeched state officials to toss out votes.
As with his previous three indictments, Trump denies all of this as a partisan attack to thwart his bid to run for the White House in 2024. Here are some key dates:
Oct. 31, 2020
Four days before the election, Trump begins the alleged conspiracy by discussing a draft speech with an unindicted co-conspirator that falsely declares victory and alleges voter fraud, which prosecutors say set the stage for coordinated efforts to undermine faith in the results.
Nov. 4, 2020
One day after Trump loses to Biden, the outgoing Republican president delivers the speech to a nationally televised audience, hinting at a constitutional crisis. “The speech was an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy,” the indictment says.
Nov. 15, 2020
Attention shifts to Georgia, a key swing state. One of Trump’s election attorneys, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, leaves an 83-second voicemail for another unindicted co-conspirator, making what the indictment says are false statements about election fraud in Fulton County.
Nov. 19, 2020
Giuliani and two other lawyers charged in the case, Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell, make false statements about voter fraud in Georgia and other states during a televised press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington. Their claims about the election being rigged by voting-machine companies is widely mocked but takes root with Trump’s base.
Nov. 20, 2020
David Shafer, the former chair of the Georgia Republican party, who was also indicted, sends an email seeking assistance for Scott Graham Hall, an Atlanta-area bail bondsman, who is “looking into election fraud” on behalf of Trump. Willis alleges Shafer, like the others, knew there was no such fraud.
Nov. 21, 2020
Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows texts U.S. Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, requesting phone numbers for the speaker and leader of that state’s legislature. This is one of many acts in the indictment that took place in another state but was nevertheless used to show a conspiracy under Georgia law.
Nov. 22, 2020
Trump and Giuliani phone Arizona House Speaker Russell “Rusty” Bowers, a Republican, making claims about voter fraud and pressing him to appoint Trump-supporting electors in the swing state even though Biden had won it. Bowers refused and later testified to the U.S. House Jan. 6 committee that probed the attack on the U.S. Capitol, saying “I would not break my oath.”
Dec. 3, 2020
Attorneys for Trump make the first of three appearances before state lawmakers, making what prosecutors say are false claims about election fraud in an effort to persuade them to reject the state’s “duly elected and qualified presidential electors” for Biden. Claims included that 2,506 felons, 10,315 dead people and 66,248 underage citizens voted illegally. Similar presentations were made in other swing states, too.
“Wow! Blockbuster testimony taking place right now in Georgia,” Trump tweets. “Ballot stuffing by Dems when Republicans were forced to leave the large counting room. Plenty more coming, but this alone leads to an easy win of the State!”
Dec. 6, 2020
Trump and others call RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel to seek the organization’s help coordinating the alleged fake-electors scheme. It would end up involving pro-Trump electors in Georgia as well as six other states: Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. McDaniel isn’t accused of wrongdoing.
Dec. 7, 2020
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger recertifies Biden’s win following a recount requested by Trump’s campaign. That same day, then-Georgia State Senator Burt Jones tweeted a “call to action” that urged Trump’s supporters to contact state lawmakers to sign a petition for a special session of the legislature to ensure “free & fair elections.” Willis was barred by a judge from investigating Jones because he found she had a conflict of interest having hosted a fundraiser for the Democrat who lost to Jones in the 2022 lieutenant governor race.
Dec. 8, 2020
Trump calls Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and pressures him to support an election lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. The case asks the U.S. Supreme Court to block Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin from casting their collective 62 electoral votes for Biden. On Dec. 12, the Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit, which Trump had called “the big one.”
Dec. 31, 2020
Trump files a federal lawsuit in Georgia accusing election officials of counting illegally cast votes and claiming there was “misconduct” at ballot-counting facilities. His team asks for an “emergency injunction” to de-certify the election results in the state and includes a verification signed by Trump attesting to the truthfulness of the claims. In emails later made public, Trump attorney John Eastman expresses concern about Trump signing it because “he has since been made aware that some of the allegations (and evidence proffered by the experts) has been inaccurate.”
Jan. 2, 2021
Trump makes his infamous phone call to Raffensperger. In a recorded conversation lasting more than an hour, Trump urges him to “find 11,780 votes” — the exact amount needed to win Georgia — and presses several conspiracies that the secretary of state had already debunked. Georgia had already conducted a hand recount of all ballots and found no widespread fraud. Those on the call included Meadows and attorney Cleta Mitchell, who isn’t charged.
Jan. 3, 2021
Harrison William Prescott Floyd, the director of Black Voices for Trump, calls and texts Ruby Freeman, a Fulton County election worker. Floyd also calls Trevian Kutti, a publicist who has worked for musician Kanye West. Freeman later testified to the congressional Jan. 6 committee about the harassment she experienced and came to represent the human cost of the Trump allies’ conspiracy theories.
Jan 4, 2021
Kutti travels from Chicago to meet with Freeman. He tells Freeman he can help her, and they meet at a police station in Cobb County. Kutti and Floyd, who joins by speakerphone, offer protection and help, but instead pressure her to lie. Members of the enterprise “traveled from out of state to harass Freeman, intimidate her, and solicit her to falsely confess to election crimes that she did not commit,” according to the indictment.
Jan. 6, 2021
A mob of Trump supporters attack the U.S. Capitol in a failed attempt to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory, fueled by Trump’s claims.
Jan. 7, 2021
Cathleen Latham, Republican party chair in Coffee County, brings bail bondsman Hall to the county elections office to breach election equipment. Powell, Hall, Latham and Misty Hampton, the county’s elections director, agree to copy software and data from the equipment, prosecutors say. Over several more days, unindicted co-conspirators download that data.
The timeline of events is spelled out over 97 pages in the indictment brought by Willis, who took office amid Trump’s effort to stay in power. She opened the criminal probe in February 2021 and it would ultimately last 2 1/2 years, overlapping with a parallel federal investigation. The Georgia case is now one of three Trump faces as he seeks to return to the White House in the 2024 presidential election. He recently has doubled down on his claim that the 2020 vote was rigged — without evidence.
With assistance from Zoe Tillman.
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