As they defend Trump against inquiries into the concealment of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, his participation in the storming of the Capitol during his final days in office, and two inquiries into his business dealings in New York, the former president’s attorneys have been rushing to put out one fire after another in recent months.
However, a Georgia grand jury hearing evidence of Trump’s criminal attempts to alter the state’s 2020 presidential election results and prevent Joe Biden from taking office may pose the most legal risk to him.
According to Ronald Carlson, a renowned Georgia trial lawyer and professor at the University of Georgia’s law school, “it’s a greater legal threat to the president and some of his supporters than any of the other investigations which are going on right now.”
Some of the possible offences have quite severe punishments.
Even if Trump were to face criminal charges for taking sensitive documents from the White House, according to Carlson, previous government figures who have handled classified information improperly have merely received probation and misdemeanour convictions, such the former CIA director David Petraeus.
He claimed that rather than the former president, the New York investigations into claims of financial wrongdoing are more concentrated on Trump’s enterprises. What, if any, criminal charges might emerge from Congress’s inquiry into the assault on Congress on January 6, 2021, is still unknown.
Carlson argued that the former president is now at the centre of an investigation into alleged crimes that carry harsher punishments than those he might face in the other probes because of the strong evidence of Trump’s extensive attempt to reverse his narrow loss to Biden in Georgia by pressuring state officials to commit fraud.
After what it referred to as his “continuous assault” on the Georgia election process, a study by the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, found that Trump is “at substantial danger of possible state prosecution founded on several offences.”
Prosecutors appear to be exploring charges under anti-conspiracy legislation designed to combat organised crime, which may result in significant jail terms, among other things.
Fani Willis, the district attorney for Fulton County in Atlanta, has put up a “special purpose grand jury” to spend up to a year investigating Trump’s complex scheme to rig Georgia’s election results.
Willis seems to be assembling a substantial body of testimony from some of Trump’s closest associates, including his lawyer and advisor, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who saw the conduct of the failed president and in some cases intervened themselves. Giuliani learned he is also a target of the criminal inquiry two days before he gave a testimony last month.
The former White House top of staff Mark Meadows and Senator Lindsey Graham, a fervent supporter of Trump who contacted Georgia officials to try to sway the election, are also expected to testify before the grand jury.
According to attorneys, Willis will want to ensure that she has a strong case to fend off accusations of a political prosecution because any charges brought against Trump will just exacerbate the already acrimonious politics in America. Because Trump has hinted that he would run for president again, any decision to file charges might be made just as the next presidential campaign is getting started.
Although the grand jury’s evidence was kept secret, any case against Trump is anticipated to centre on a tape recording of his call to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, asking him to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory in the state.
Raffensperger refused the demand, and Trump threatened to bring criminal charges against him for not looking into claims that Democrats had stolen the election.
“You are not reporting what you know they did. You are aware that is illegal. You must prevent that from happening, you know. You run a significant danger, he said Raffensperger.
Then-President George W. Bush urged Chris Carr, Georgia’s attorney general, and Brian Kemp, the state’s governor, to challenge the state’s vote count. They also refused to give in.
Carr and Raffensperger have previously given grand jury testimony. Kemp is refusing to appear in court.
Trump also made an effort to enlist the assistance of federal agents from the justice department. His attorneys filed numerous cases with unusual allegations of foreign meddling and other conspiracies. They were all ejected.
After all of that failed, Giuliani and others promoted the myth that Georgia’s electoral college members could have been replaced by a slate that would have voted for the president who had lost. Legislators didn’t go along, so the Trump team sent 16 “fake electors” instead, using phoney election certificates in a failed attempt to rig the results that was repeated in six other states that Trump lost.
Willis has informed some of the conspirators, including the chair of the Georgia Republican Party, David Shafer, and a state legislator named Brandon Beach, that they are the subject of a criminal investigation by the grand jury.
This grand jury’s main area of interest is election fraud solicitation. They’ll likely focus on that a lot in the evidence they’re receiving. Making false declarations to state or other governmental organisations will follow. That kind of umbrella would include the selection of an electorate who believed Trump had won the election. The grand jury will then likely investigate criminal conspiracy and breach of oath of office, he predicted.
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act of Georgia may be used to prosecute Trump for a pattern of criminal behaviour if any combination of all or some of these allegations are brought against him. Although Willis utilised Rico seven years ago to convict 11 Atlanta teachers of falsifying test results for their children, the term is more frequently used to describe the prosecution of organised crime.
A Rico expert has been hired by the district attorney for the Trump inquiry.
According to the Brookings Institution, if Trump is accused of a crime, he will probably argue that he is not criminally responsible for the decisions he made while serving as president. However, it stated that this defence is most likely to fall short because the president is only immune from culpability for acts committed while carrying out his legal obligations.