Georgia Envisions Next After Trump Impeachment in New York

ATLANTA — Donald J. Trump's New York indictment of hush money payment to a porn star became a global spectacle, with the former president gloomily returning to his old Manhattan quarters as TV networks closely tracked his procession of black SUV on their way to the courthouse .

But when you remove the high drama, the actual prosecution documents in the case were far less substantial – the 34 felony counts of a fairly narrow and general ledger that Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, described as the “bread and butter” of prosecution. white collar criminals in his office.

In Georgia, however, there is another criminal investigation against Mr Trump nearing completion, this one also being led by the local district attorney, Fani T. Willis of Fulton County. While nothing is certain, there are plenty of signs that he will make it big, with a more kaleidoscopic impeachment against not only Trump, but perhaps a dozen or more of his allies.

His investigations have targeted a variety of behaviors centered on attempts to subvert the democratic process and undo Trump's 2020 election defeat. Nearly 20 people are known to have been told they were targets who could face charges, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump's former personal attorney, and David Shafer, chairman of the Republican Party of Georgia.

For Mr Trump, the possibility of a second and potentially more complex criminal indictment in another state underscores the storm of legal challenges he faces, even as he emerges as the frontrunner among the Republican presidential candidates.

For Ms. Willis, the choice to pursue narrowly focused or broader indictments – the classic prosecutor's dilemma – carries with it potential risks and rewards on both sides. And American history offers several examples where the stakes were so high.

“Certainly prosecutors will have conversations about what is in the best interest of justice and what is strategically preferable for a case,” said Barbara McQuade, a law professor at the University of Michigan and a former federal prosecutor. Narrow cases can be more easily understood by jurors. But it's also possible to go “too narrow,” said Ms. McQuade, denied the jury's ability to see the entire scope of the defendant's criminal behavior.

Conversely, if broad schemes are charged, “you're allowing them to see the full scope of criminal behavior,” he said. But going big can cause a jury to get lost amidst the mass of evidence, with a lengthy trial increasing the likelihood of a mistrial.

In Georgia, the investigation focused on efforts to undo Trump's narrow loss in Georgia after his 2020 election loss, including his January 2021 phone call to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia's secretary of state, in which he pressured Mr. Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, to count. repeat the results and “find” him enough votes to win.

Trump is also being investigated by Jack Smith, special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, for his role in the events leading up to the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol and his decision to retain sensitive administration documents at his Florida home.

If Miss Willis chooses to seek impeachment in the Georgia case, she may do so after a new grand jury begins work in the second week of May, although nothing has been decided. Usually, presenting such a case before a regular grand jury is a brief process that takes a day or two.

The wide scope of the investigation has proven over the months, and Ms. Willis has said that filing charges under the state's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, statute is an option he's considering. Like similar federal laws, Georgia's RICO law allows prosecutors to combine seemingly unrelated crimes committed by a number of different people if the crimes are deemed to serve a common cause.

Ms Willis has extensive experience with racketeering cases, including a case she won involving a group of public school educators who were accused of altering students' standardized tests. His office is currently pursuing racketeering charges against two gangs connected to the hip-hop scene, including one led by Atlanta rapper Jeffery Williams, who plays the Young Thug.

“I think the jury is very, very smart,” said Ms. Willis at a press conference in August, where he announced the racketeering case against a third Atlanta-area gang known as Drug Rich. “RICO is a tool that allows the prosecutor's office or law enforcement to tell the whole story. So we use it as a tool so they have all the information they need to make an informed decision.”

After starting the Trump investigation in February 2021, Ms. Willis sought the assistance of a special jury to gather and consider evidence. In Georgia, such jurors do not have the power of impeachment but can issue subpoenas in long-term investigations. The body was sealed last spring and completed the job in January after hearing closed-door testimony from 75 witnesses, though most of its recommendations remain classified.

Emily Kohrs, chair of the special jury, pointedly hinted in an interview with The New York Times in February that Trump was among more than a dozen people who had been recommended for indictment. “You wouldn't be surprised,” he said, when asked if Trump was named in the report. “This is not rocket science.”

Court records show that the special grand jury solicited testimony from witnesses including Mark Meadows, who served as White House chief of staff under Mr Trump; Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, an ally of the former president; and Trevian Kutti, a self-described former publicist for rapper Kanye West who, according to prosecutors, was involved in a plot to coerce Fulton County election officials to provide false confessions of election fraud.

The documents also show that prosecutors followed many narrative threads in Georgia involving Trump or his allies. These included Mr Trump's phone calls to Georgia officials, including calls to Mr Raffensperger; false statements about election fraud made by Mr Giuliani and others at a state legislature session; gathering of pro-Trump voters to the Electoral College at the Georgia State Capitol; Ms.'s strange encounter Kutti with the election official, Ruby Freeman, two days after Mr. Trump to Mr. Raffensperger, where is Mr. Trump falsely accused Ms. Freeman as a “vote trickster”; and a plot by an ally of Mr. Trump involving the copying of sensitive election software in rural Coffee County, Ga.

The battle lines have been drawn. Mr. Trump steadfastly maintained his innocence and used seditious language to attack prosecutors in Georgia and New York. And last month, his legal team in Georgia filed a 52-page motion, with more than 400 pages of additional evidence, challenging a case that had not yet been filed. Legal experts see it as a sign of what's to come.

“That shows the kind of motion you would see if there was an indictment,” said Melissa D. Redmon, a law professor at the University of Georgia who was a former prosecutor in Fulton and Clayton Counties. “Every step will be challenged from the start.”

In New York, Bragg said he also focused on crimes that undermine the democratic process, although these date back to a 2016 campaign. In a statement, he said Trump had “repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal crimes that concealed information that damage from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election.” He was accused of covering up a potential sex scandal involving porn star Stormy Daniels.

Mr. Trump has more than once compared his legal woes to those of notorious Chicago mob boss Al Capone. He said on social media, as recently as February, that he had more lawyers working for him than Capone, who famously was convicted in 1931 and sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion. the scariest or annoying his many faults.

Mr Bragg's decision in New York opened it to harsh criticism from Republicans, who called the accusations weak and politically motivated, and the alleged violations insufficient to establish the nation's first indictment against a former president. Even some Democrats noted that the New York indictment seemed unremarkable compared to those against Trump elsewhere.

“Is it as problematic as January 6 or what happened at Mar-a-Lago? No,” said David Pepper, the former chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, recently, referring to the federal investigation into Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election and his handling of classified documents. “But that doesn't mean you don't investigate.”

If Miss Willis brings up the sprawling RICO case, it could create problems of its own, said Michael J. Moore, former US attorney for the Central District of Georgia. Asking jurors to consider a range of actions not directly related to Mr Trump might make it more difficult “to convict him with the force that you might in a simpler case,” he said.

Mr. Moore also wondered how far the trial involving Mr. Trump would go into the next presidential election season. He chronicles the jury selection process in a racketeering case involving Young Thug's many defendants has been going on for approximately four months, and that the judge in the case has been estimated trials can take up to nine months.

“We just have to face the fact that we have to face it,” he said.