On Thursday, a Manhattan grand jury under the supervision of District Attorney Alvin Bragg made history with its unprecedented indictment of former President Donald Trump. We do not know yet what charges have been filed against Trump, but careful analysis shows it’s a highly serious case posing enormous jeopardy for Trump.
Here are five reasons why an indictment in Georgia may ultimately be even more monumental than the one in New York.
1. The Georgia grand jury could charge Trump in the political crime of the century.
In New York, while we don’t yet know the precise charges, the grand jury was reportedly investigating if or how Trump may have concealed hush money paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in October 2016 — that is, days before the presidential election. But the Fulton County grand jury could charge Trump with something far worse: conspiring to end the lawful transfer of presidential power.
Here’s what evidence is already public. First, we know Trump tried to pressure Georgia officials to help him reverse the 2020 presidential election. Second, we know there was a fake elector scheme that sought to overturn the election. Those behind that scheme were hoping to convince then-Vice President Mike Pence to use the phony slates to reject or delay Congress’ Jan. 6, 2021, election certification.
Trump arraignment: Follow our live blog beginning at 10 a.m. ET on Tuesday for the latest updates and analysis on Trump’s arrest in New York.
Pointing out what the Georgia grand jury is reportedly investigating is not to minimize the potential impact of Trump’s alleged 2016 bribe payment to Daniels. Even so, history will remember any Trump involvement in a multi-pronged conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election as vastly more consequential.
2. “Lordy, there are tapes.”
The centerpiece of the Georgia case against Trump would seem to be his taped Jan. 2, 2021, phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Trump asked the state’s top election official “to find 11,780 votes,” exactly one more than he needed to overturn Biden’s victory in Georgia.
In another recorded call, Trump pointed Frances Watson, Georgia’s chief elections investigator, to urban Fulton County, instructing her to search only there for “dishonesty.”
Last month, we learned there was a third recorded call Trump made: this one in December 2020 to then-Georgia House Speaker David Ralston. He apparently rebuffed Trump’s request to call a special legislative session to reverse Biden’s win.
Trump — again, on tape — reportedly asked Ralston who would stop him from doing so. Ralston’s response? “A federal judge, that’s who.”
For prosecutors, there’s no better evidence than inculpatory recordings.
3. The Georgia Grand Jury could charge co-conspirators.
In February, the Fulton County special grand jury that investigated Trump recommended indicting multiple defendants, according to that grand jury’s foreperson. “It won’t be a short list,” she said of the people that special grand jury believed had committed crimes.
This makes sense. The fake elector scheme appears to have included multiple participants. In addition, to implement the scheme, Trump had help from others, including lawyers Rudolph Giuliani and John Eastman. In late 2020, Giuliani and Eastman appeared before the Georgia Legislature, falsely telling representatives they could reverse their certification of Biden’s win and name Trump electors.
In conspiracy cases, the more defendants, the more likely someone will “flip” and testify against the kingpin, which strengthens the prosecution’s hand.
4. Any Georgia penalties would likely be heavier.
While the indictment in New York remains sealed, falsifying business records in the first degree is a charge experts believe Alvin Bragg and the Manhattan grand jury may have focused on. It carries a maximum four-year prison sentence. In Georgia, the grand jury may be considering charges that include interfering with elections and the state’s anti-racketeering act. These crimes carry maximum sentences of 10 and 20 years, respectively.
5. A second prosecution would weaken Trump’s grievance claim.
It’s one thing for Trump to claim that a single prosecutor is out to get him. (He has repeatedly done this, of course, as have a host of his allies in the GOP.) But it’s quite another to claim that two different grand juries overseen by two different prosecutors in two different states have no case — even as they charge completely different crimes they say were committed at completely different times.
Also, these two district attorneys have more incentive than prosecutors usually have to insist on overwhelming evidence before urging a grand jury to return an indictment. Both know that an acquittal of Trump, or even a hung jury, would likely make them one-term DAs.
Willis is up for re-election in 2024. Bragg is up in 2025. They wouldn’t risk their careers or reputations on bringing cases this big and against the most high-profile person there is if they did not firmly believe they had the goods.
These are already troubled times at Mar-a-Lago. If, as expected, an even more weighty indictment is filed in Georgia, rightful concern there at the Florida resort will more than double. And so will others’ reason to doubt Trump’s claims that these prosecutions are political and without grounding in the evidence that grand juries properly require to return an indictment.