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Various legal strategies are being used by the 19 defendants in the Georgia case

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

In the Georgia racketeering case centering on attempts to overturn that state's 2020 presidential election results, 19 defendants means 19 different legal strategies. The last few days have seen major developments in two Atlanta courtrooms, with some defendants looking for speedy trials, while others are seeking to move their case to federal court. Helping us to make sense of it all is Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler, who's been covering the case. Good morning, Stephen.

STEPHEN FOWLER, BYLINE: Hey there.

RASCOE: So we just saw the release of a special grand jury's recommendations of criminal charges stemming from the 2020 election. And I would imagine there are some interesting tidbits in there.

FOWLER: Absolutely. After the 2020 election and Trump's push to overturn it, the Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis, asked for a special purpose grand jury. The special purpose included subpoenaing documents, hearing from nearly 80 witnesses and making recommendations of who should be charged. But this group that met for eight months couldn't actually indict anyone themselves. So earlier this year, we saw only part of this report released because the judge had due process concerns for people being named without charges being filed. Now we see why. The special purpose grand jury recommended the district attorney explore indictments against 39 people, which, as you'll notice, is twice as many that were actually charged.

RASCOE: But some of the people mentioned in the report include current South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and both of Georgia's former senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Do we know why they weren't charged as a part of this case?

FOWLER: Well, Ayesha, Graham called Georgia's secretary of state asking about absentee ballots and potentially tossing some out. And Perdue and Loeffler made plenty of false claims about Georgia's election, but it's not clear they did anything illegal. Others named in the report but not charged took immunity deals, like many of Georgia's so-called alternate Republican electors. The bottom line is it's up to the district attorney to determine who to charge, considering all of these factors, including how it fits into this overall racketeering narrative and what they felt is most likely to actually lead to a conviction.

RASCOE: What do we need to know now?

FOWLER: Well, amidst a fire hose of filings and a heck of a lot of hearings, two developments stand out. One, the district attorney's office says any trial with any combination of people will take at least four months each, plus jury selection, and require over 150 witnesses. That's because of the nature of Georgia's racketeering act and where the district attorney's office is going to present the entire buffet of evidence to show why these specific courses were illegal. Down the street in federal court, a judge ruled former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows can't have his case tried in federal court because the things he did - like participate in a call with Georgia's secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, and Donald Trump - they weren't in the scope of his official duties.

RASCOE: What's next?

FOWLER: Short term, Ayesha, we're waiting on the Fulton County judge to set the trial schedule for the rest of the defendants, including this long-shot proposal that all 19 could go to trial in about six weeks. Now, Mark Meadows has appealed his denial, which is going to inform how four other people's attempts to move their case to federal court will play out. It's going to be an uphill battle, given this ruling and especially if Donald Trump tries that method himself later. Now, long term, we've got 19 people, two courtrooms, constant motion, not counting any likely appeals and potential deals. And of course, we've got to consider the interplay with the 2024 presidential election calendar.

RASCOE: That's Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler. Thanks so much for speaking with us today.

FOWLER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Stephen Fowler is the Producer/Back-Up Host for All Things Considered and a creative storyteller hailing from McDonough, Georgia. He graduated from Emory University with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. The program combined the best parts of journalism, marketing, digital media and music into a thesis on the rise of the internet rapper via the intersectionality of social media and hip-hop. He served as the first-ever Executive Digital Editor of The Emory Wheel, where he helped lead the paper into a modern digital era.
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