Donald Trump was indicted for the fourth time this year on Monday evening – just hours after a Georgia court mistakenly released a docket outlining 13 charges against the former president in relation to alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election result in the Peach State.
The indictment of Trump and 18 others comes after a nearly two and a half year probe by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. Despite the amount of time it took her to prepare her case, she apparently now wants to expedite the process. During a press conference on Monday, she said she would try all 19 defendants together and would seek a trial date within the next six months.
On Tuesday’s show, Megyn was joined by lawyers Dave Aronberg, state attorney for Palm Beach County, FL, and Mike Davis, founder and president of the Article III Project, to discuss whether or not the Georgia trial could happen before the 2024 election, why Willis actually has time on her side, and if Trump will be found guilty.
Willis’ investigation into the 2024 GOP hopeful and his team was triggered by a phone call then-President Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and others on January 2, 2021, in which he discussed the need to “find 11,780 votes.” That figure would have been enough to secure his victory in the state over Joe Biden, though that part of the call did not end up figuring prominently into the 98-page indictment.
Trump is facing 13 counts, including a violation of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The statute is typically used to target the mob, though Willis is alleging Trump and his co-conspirators – including attorney Rudy Giuliani and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows – were part of a criminal scheme to steal the 2020 election. The charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison if convicted.
Additionally, the former president is being charged with solicitation of violation of an oath by a public officer and several conspiracies, like conspiracy to commit the impersonation of a public officer, conspiracy to commit forgery, conspiracy to commit false statements, and conspiracy to commit filing false documents.
The 13 counts brings Trump’s grand total to 91 across four different cases in both federal and state courts. On the federal level, Special Counsel Jack Smith brought four charges earlier this month in connection with January 6 and election interference. In June, he indicted Trump on 40 counts for the alleged mishandling of classified documents in Florida.
The former president’s first indictment came down in March 2023 when Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records related to alleged hush money payments paid to porn star Stormy Daniels. Like Georgia, that is a state case.
There has been speculation as to the timing of the indictments and whether or not any of the prosecutors are trying to get Trump in court before the 2024 presidential election. Willis seemingly admitted so much on Monday with her “six month” remark, but Aaronberg called the timeline “aspirational.”
A look at relatively similar cases in Georgia seems to prove as much. Willis is a self-described “fan of RICO” and has used the statute to bring charges against gangs, teachers who conspired to change test scores, and more. The Atlanta public school case, for example, took eight months to try, on top of a six-week jury selection period. Megyn noted that there is currently another criminal RICO case with 17 defendants in Georgia state court that was filed in May 2022, began jury selection on January 2, 2023, and is still piecing the jury together eight months later. “There is no way this case gets tried in six months,” she said.
There could be one way for Willis to speed up the process, Aronberg said, though it would require Willis to go back on her word. “The only chance is if they somehow separate Donald Trump,” he shared. “Jack Smith did that on purpose [in the January 6 case] and he’s going to get his trial sooner than later, but she indicted 19 people – so don’t expect this to go anytime soon.”
But Aronberg said the timing is much less important in this case than it is in the federal prosecutions against Trump. “[Willis] has the luxury of time on her side,” he explained. “Unlike Jack Smith… she does not have to worry about a future Department of Justice just dumping this case because they have no control over state cases.” That’s not all. “The future president cannot pardon anyone here, and the governor of Georgia cannot pardon anyone for these crimes,” he added.
The same reasons that Willis has time on her side are also some of the reasons this case could prove problematic for the former president. “The Jack Smith stuff does feel like election interference to me, but this one feels more like ‘I want Donald Trump in jail,’” Megyn said. “The odds are good, I think, that [Willis] will get a conviction in Georgia… and if she does convict him there’s a mandatory five year sentence on the RICO count alone.”
Davis believes there are some legal challenges Trump can pursue. “President Trump should file a motion to dismiss this case and bring up two different legal arguments that I think are compelling,” he said. The first deals with presidential immunity. “This is the enforcement of federal election laws, the Electoral Count Act of 1887,” David explained. “If you look at the case law, you can’t bring civil cases against a president for exercising his official duties at the outer bounds, so why could you bring criminal cases against the president for exercising his official duties at the outer bounds?” The second argument relies on the First Amendment. “Alternatively, if he’s acting within his personal capacity, you can say that there’s a First Amendment problem here,” he added.
Even so, Davis agreed that there are an array of factors working against Trump. “It’s not going to be as bad as [Washington] DC or New York with a Democrat prosecutor, Democrat Judge, and Democratic jury,” he said. “But it’s obvious you have a Democratic prosecutor… a Democratic jury… [and] if they can get past the legal challenges of this case, then I think there’s a very good chance that the jury is going to find him guilty and the judge will convict him.”
You can check out Megyn’s full analysis with Aronberg and Davis by tuning in to episode 608 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.