Trump considers waiving Georgia election case arraignment to avoid first televised court hearing

In each of Mr Trump’s other four criminal cases, he has appeared in person for his arraignments – however none of the appearances were broadcast

Rachel Sharp
Wednesday 30 August 2023 13:00 BST
Chris Christie uses Trump mugshot in new campaign ad

Donald Trump may avoid what would have been his first-ever televised court hearing as he is said to be considering waiving his right to arraignment in the Georgia 2020 election interference case.

Two sources told CBS News that the former president is mulling entering a plea on the charges and waiving his arraignment appearance slated for next week.

The arraignment for both Mr Trump and the 18 allies now charged as his co-defendants is currently scheduled to take place in Fulton County on 6 September.

The judge has already ruled that cameras are allowed in the courtroom, paving the way for a potentially historic moment where Mr Trump’s criminal court appearance will be broadcast live to the world for the very first time.

At least two of his co-defendants in the case – former Trump campaign attorneys Ray Smith and Sidney Powell – have already waived their arraignments and entered pleas of not guilty to all counts.

In each of Mr Trump’s other four criminal cases, he has appeared in person for his arraignments – however cameras were not allowed in the courtrooms in any of those cases.

The former president surrendered to Fulton County authorities on 24 August to face 13 charges in the sweeping RICO indictment.

He was booked into Fulton County Jail where he was fingerprinted and had his mug shot taken – marking another historic moment as the first current or former president to ever be captured in a booking photo.

His bond was set at $200,000 with him paying 10 percent in order to be released.

All of Mr Trump’s 18 co-defendants in the case also surrendered to Fulton County authorities ahead of the noon ET deadline on Friday 25 August.

All 19 of the defendants were charged with violating Georgia’s RICO statute.

The indictment accuses Mr Trump and his allies of orchestrating and running a criminal enterprise in Fulton County, Georgia, and elsewhere, to “accomplish the illegal goal of allowing Donald J. Trump to seize the presidential term of office, beginning on January 20, 2021”.

Donald Trump in mugshot (AFP)

“This criminal organization constituted an enterprise as that term is defined in O.C.G.A. § l6-14-3(3), that is, a group of individuals associated in fact. The Defendants and other members and associates of the enterprise had connections and relationships with one another and with the enterprise,” it reads.

The criminal organisation’s members and associates “engaged in various related criminal activities including, but not limited to, false statements and writings, impersonating a public officer, forgery, filing false documents, influencing witnesses, computer theft, computer trespass, computer invasion of privacy, conspiracy to defraud the state, acts involving theft, and perjury”.

The other co-defendants are former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, “Kraken” lawyer Sidney Powell, attorneys John Eastman, Kenneth Cheseboro, Jenna Ellis, Ray Smith III, and Robert Cheeley, former US Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark, former Trump campaign official Michael Roman, former state senator and the former chair of the Georgia Republican Party David Schafer, Georgia state senator Shawn Still, Lutheran pastor Stephen Lee, mixed martial artist Harrison Floyd, Kanye West’s former PR Trevian Kutti, former head of the Republican Party in Coffee County Cathleen Latham, Atlanta-area bail bondsman Scott Hall, and former election supervisor of Coffee County Misty Hampton.

DA Willis has spent more than two years investigating efforts by Mr Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 presidential election result in the crucial swing state.

The investigation came following the release of a 2 January 2021 phone call Mr Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger where he told him to “find” enough votes to change the outcome of the election in the state.

“All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Mr Trump is heard saying in the leaked phone call. “Because we won the state.”

Mr Biden won the state by less than 12,000 votes.

The investigation then expanded from that phone call to include a scheme whereby a group of fake Republican electors planned to falsely certify the results in Mr Trump’s favour instead of Mr Biden’s. The plot failed and the fake electors have since reached immunity deals with DA Willis’ office.

Ms Willis said she would like to try the defendants altogether and within the next six months.

In total, the former president is now facing 91 charges from four separate criminal cases.

On 1 August, he was hit with a federal indictment charging him with four counts over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the events leading up to the January 6 Capitol riot, following an investigation led by special counsel Jack Smith’s office.

This came after Mr Smith’s office charged Mr Trump in a separate indictment over his alleged mishandling of classified documents on leaving office.

Back in April, Mr Trump was charged for the first time with New York state charges following an investigation into hush money payments made prior to the 2016 election.

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