Updated Feb 16, 2024 - Politics & Policy

The stakes of Georgia's case against Trump


Former President Trump on Feb. 8 in Palm Beach, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Time is of the essence in Georgia's 2020 election interference case against former President Trump, which is potentially the most damaging against him, as the 2024 election creeps nearer.

The big picture: The GOP presidential frontrunner has employed a delay tactic in all four criminal cases against him — using the charges to cast himself as victim and appeal to voters. At the moment, the weakest and potentially least impactful case is moving the fastest.

  • If the Georgia case gets derailed, the stakes are massive. Stopping a trial from moving forward before the election would be an enormous win for Trump.
  • The case includes a charge centered around the state's expansive racketeering law — known as RICO — which is a legal tool normally reserved for the Mafia and organized crime.
  • If Trump is found guilty on the Georgia charges, a sitting president won't have the ability to pardon him due to state laws controlling who has the power to pardon.

What's happening: Proceedings in Georgia over whether Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis engaged in an improper relationship, and financially benefited from it, don't change the current facts of the case she brought against Trump.

  • But they certainly complicate the case's future, including whether Willis and lead prosecutor Nathan Wade will continue to oversee it; whether the current slate of charges holds; and how quickly it moves to trial. An August start date, as Willis called for, doesn't look incredibly likely.
  • Also at stake is whether the judge overseeing the evidentiary hearing about the Willis misconduct allegations decides to dismiss the case entirely, as Trump and co-defendants have asked.
  • Finally, even if the case does move forward but without Willis, the appointment of a new prosecutor will delay proceedings likely until after the 2024 election.

Of note: During a hearing this week, Willis reiterated: "I'm not on trial, no matter how hard you try to put me on trial."

  • She referred to Trump's alleged electoral interference as the focus of the trial.
  • Willis has denied claims that her personal relationship with Wade resulted in a financial conflict of interest, as alleged by the opposition.
  • "If this is proven, I don't understand how this could have happened," Morgan Cloud, a law professor at Emory University, told The Washington Post. "She's a smart person and a good lawyer, and to have engaged in the kind of misconduct alleged here, it's just inexplicable to me."

Catch up quick: Trump is facing 13 counts in the Georgia case related to his alleged efforts to subvert 2020 election results.

  • A total of 19 co-defendants, including Trump, were charged in the case, three of whom accepted plea deals.

Zoom out: Trump is facing a total of 91 criminal counts in four different jurisdictions.

Go deeper: Trump's lawyers have multiple reasons for hope right now

Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect the ruling in Trump's New York civil fraud trial.

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