Donald Trump faces deadline to 'voluntarily surrender' on Georgia election charges

Former president calls latest criminal charges a 'witch hunt'

After his latest indictment, Donald Trump complained the timing was 'right in the middle of my political campaign', as he runs for president again. AFP
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Former US president Donald Trump has until August 25 to “voluntarily surrender” after he was charged with attempting to overturn his 2020 electoral loss in the state of Georgia.

The case brought against Mr Trump – and 18 co-defendants – on Monday is the fourth in five months and adds to his growing legal complexities in the lead-up to his 2024 presidential campaign.

Mr Trump faces 13 felony charges. In addition to alleged racketeering, he was charged with conspiracy to commit forgery, solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer, conspiracy to commit impersonating a public officer and more.

The co-defendants include Mark Meadows, Mr Trump's last chief of staff, lawyers Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, and former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark.

Another 30 people accused of being co-conspirators, but not indicted, were mentioned in the documents, as well as 13 suspected “fake electors” who allegedly gathered in December 2020 to provide fraudulent voter certification to a federal judge.

“Rather than abide by Georgia's legal process for election challenges, the defendants engaged in a criminal racketeering enterprise to overturn Georgia's presidential election result,” Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said after the charges were announced.

Ms Willis said she would like the case to go to trial in six months.

On Tuesday, Mr Meadows filed a motion to have his Georgia charges be tried in federal court.

He said the case should be moved because it includes alleged conduct that took place while he was a government employee. Ms Willis and her office have not commented on this motion yet.

Mr Trump has reacted by calling the case a “witch hunt” and calling Ms Willis names, which he has also done to other prosecutors investigating him, and his perceived opponents.

He has claimed without evidence that the Georgia investigation and the other three criminal cases against him are an act of “election interference” as he looks to return to the White House.

Mr Trump is campaigning and raising funds around these themes, portraying himself as the victim of Democratic prosecutors out to get him.

“Sounds rigged to me. Why didn't they indict 2.5 years ago? Because they wanted to do it right in the middle of my political campaign. Witch hunt,” he posted on Truth Social.

Mr Trump said he would host a news conference next week to release a detailed report on “presidential election fraud which took place” in the state, but Georgia Governor Brian Kemp again denied any claims of fraud.

"The 2020 election in Georgia was not stolen,” Mr Kemp, a Republican, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"For nearly three years now, anyone with evidence of fraud has failed to come forward – under oath – and prove anything in a court of law.

The former president has been charged under Georgia's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act, which allows prosecutors to charge people for offences by a criminal organisation.

A criminal organisation does not need to exist for someone to be charged, as federal law only requires a crime be committed by a group of people working towards a common goal.

An investigation was launched shortly after a report of a phone call was released in which Mr Trump had asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes needed to overturn Mr Biden's narrow victory in the state.

In addition to his latest indictments, Mr Trump faces dozens of felony charges for allegations of attempting to overturn the 2020 election, mishandling classified documents and falsifying business records.

Updated: August 16, 2023, 5:16 AM