Trump pleads not guilty, waives arraignment in Georgia 2020 election interference case

By: - August 31, 2023 4:46 pm

Former President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to 13 felony counts and waived his arraignment in Fulton County Superior Court in Georgia. He is shown here arriving Aug. 24 in Atlanta for booking at the Fulton County Jail. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump entered a not guilty plea on Thursday in Fulton County Superior Court on 13 felony counts that charge him with racketeering for attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

In the court filing on Thursday, Trump also voluntarily waived his right to an arraignment hearing scheduled for Wednesday in which a judge was set to formally read the charges against the ex-president in open court.

Additionally, Trump’s lawyers requested that his case be tried separately from that of his co-defendants who request a speedy trial in the case being prosecuted under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, a broad law used to prosecute criminal organizations.

Former Trump lawyer and defendant Kenneth Chesebro’s trial is now scheduled for Oct. 23. Attorney Sidney Powell, who made appearances in Georgia after the 2020 election to spread false claims of widespread voter fraud, has also requested a speedy trial.

Trump’s newest lawyer, Steven Sadow, wrote in Thursday’s motion that allowing him only two months to prepare a defense would be unfair in a case involving 19 other defendants and 41 different criminal charges.

Booking photos from the Fulton County conspiracy case charging Donald Trump and allies with trying to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results. Top row, from left Jeffrey Clark, Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis, Michael Roman, Ray Smith, David Shafer, Sen. Shawn Still. Center row, from left, Mark Meadows, Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump, John Eastman, Kenneth Chesebro. Bottom row from left, Robert Cheeley, Harrison Floyd, Stephen Lee, Scott Hall, Misty Hampton, Cathleen Latham, Trevian Kutti. (Photos from Fulton County Sheriff’s Office)

A grand jury on Aug. 14 indicted 19 defendants on multiple felony counts, including Trump and his former personal attorneys Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, as well as ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and several false electoral college voters, including freshman Georgia state Sen. Shawn Still, a Norcross Republican, and David Shafer, a former Georgia Republican Party chairman and state legislator.

Trump has continued to complain that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is politically motivated,  accusing the elected-Democratic prosecutor of grandstanding and unfairly targeting him and his supporters for claiming the presidential election was rigged in Georgia and several other states.

Willis has defended her decisions in the case as an unbiased prosecution of concerted efforts to disrupt the election processes in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and five other states.

According to the Fulton indictment, Trump and a number of other co-defendants were involved in a coordinated effort to appoint illegitimate Republican electors in Georgia to sign false Electoral College certificates in his favor to overturn President Joe Biden’s narrow win in the state in 2020. The indictment also alleges Trump and others attempted to influence government officials to overturn election results that were confirmed by multiple recounts and by state and federal election and law enforcement agencies.

In the 98-page indictment, Fulton prosecutors also accuse Trump and supporters of spreading unfounded allegations of massive voter fraud, which led to a breach of the state’s electronic voting system in Coffee County in January 2021.

Election interference case to be livestreamed

A court order was filed by Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee on Thursday allowing the county’s YouTube channel to livestream the case’s hearings and trials.

A high-profile case against the leading Republican presidential candidate and a number of Trump’s allies is expected to attract a large number of viewers online in the coming weeks and months.

McAfee’s order also allows for the media to have electronic devices in the courtroom, such as cell phones and laptops, as long as they are not used to record the proceedings. Those devices were banned from a federal courtroom where Meadows appeared earlier this week in a bid to move his case from Fulton County’s jurisdiction.

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap is a reporter for the Georgia Recorder. He has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade.