Playbook: Trump’s midnight pain from Georgia

Playbook: Trump’s midnight pain from Georgia

With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross

NEVER TOO EARLY — The first Republican presidential debate is still eight days away but the field for the second GOP debate is already taking shape, Zach Montellaro and Steven Shepard report this morning: DONALD TRUMP and RON DeSANTIS have already qualified for the Sept. 27 event, along with VIVEK RAMASWAMY, NIKKI HALEY, TIM SCOTT and CHRIS CHRISTIE after today’s Morning Consult poll pushed each of those candidates over the RNC’s 3% polling threshold.

LATE-NIGHT INDICT — For the fourth time in as many months, Trump was criminally charged late last night by a state grand jury in Fulton County, Ga., for “knowingly and willfully join[ing] a conspiracy to change the outcome of the election” in his favor in 2020.

Beyond the fact of Trump’s indictment on multiple charges, the comparisons to his other prosecutions — in state court in Manhattan, and in federal court in Florida and D.C. — end there.

The 98-page charging document from Fulton County DA FANI WILLIS lays out the most wide-reaching case yet — accusing the former president of sitting atop of a criminal racketeering enterprise that began before votes were even counted and continued for months after Trump had left office. Read the indictment

Trump had help from 18 other named co-defendants, the indictment alleges, along with another 30 unnamed co-conspirators. Some of those charged alongside Trump have long since become household names, such as former White House Chief of Staff MARK MEADOWS, former Trump lawyers RUDY GIULIANI, JOHN EASTMAN, JENNA ELLIS and SIDNEY POWELL, as well as former top DOJ official JEFFREY CLARK.

Many others — including Georgia state party officials and political operatives, some of whom served as “fake” alternative electors — are not. More on the defendants from Erica Orden and Kyle Cheney

They together face 41 criminal counts as part of a alleged criminal conspiracy that included (1) Trump’s calls to state officials, including the recorded call to Secretary of State BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, (2) false statements made to the Georgia legislature, (3) the harassment of election workers and (4) the creation of “fake electors” slate.

Trump himself is charged with 13 of those counts, including violating Georgia’s racketeering act, conspiring to impersonate a public officer, and soliciting a public officer to violate their oath.

THE NEXT STEPS … At a news conference held shortly after the charges were filed, Willis said she was “giving the defendants the opportunity to voluntarily surrender” no later than noon on Aug. 25 — a week from Friday.

That raises the prospect of a rolling spectacle outside the Atlanta courthouse over the next 10 days as defendant after defendant traipses in and out for booking and arraignment — with Trump’s appearance, like his previous three, certain to become the biggest show of them all.

As for a trial date? “I don’t have any desire to be first or last,” Willis said last night, when asked whether her prosecution should be prioritized. “We do want to move this case along, so we will be asking for a proposed order that occurs a trial date within the next six months.”

Willis is known as an ambitious and fast-moving prosecutor and a specialist in racketeering cases, having overseen 10 other such indictments since taking office in 2021. More on Willis from the AJC’s Tamar Hallerman

Two things to note about Georgia law: Any conviction under Georgia’s racketeering statute is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence, Willis said last night, meaning almost certain jail time. And neither the president nor Georgia’s governor has pardon power — it’s up to a five-person state panel.

Oh, and one more thing: Court proceedings in the state can be televised.

THE REACTION … The Trump campaign issued a long statement before the indictment was even released, calling it “the latest coordinated strike by a biased prosecutor in an overwhelmingly Democrat jurisdiction” and blasting Willis as a “rabid partisan” who has “strategically stalled her investigation to try and maximally interfere with the 2024 presidential race and damage the dominant Trump campaign.”

Trump personally weighed in with a 1:28 a.m. post on Truth Social that hit the same notes, calling Willis “an out of control and very corrupt District Attorney who campaigned and raised money on, ‘I will get Trump’” and raising questions about a filing snafu that saw a list of charges uploaded to the court’s online docket system before the grand jury had voted: “Sounds Rigged to me!”

Some other notable reactions …

  • “It’s just the next chapter in a book of lies with the purpose of framing President Donald Trump and anyone willing to take on the ruling regime,” Giuliani said on X, formerly known as Twitter. “The real criminals here are the people who have brought this case forward both directly and indirectly.”
  • “As someone who’s running for President against Trump, I’d volunteer to write the amicus brief to the court myself: prosecutors should not be deciding U.S. presidential elections, and if they’re so overzealous that they commit constitutional violations, then the cases should be thrown out & they should be held accountable,” Ramaswamy said on X. More rival reax via Kelly Garrity
  • “Justice should be blind, but Biden has weaponized government against his leading political opponent to interfere in the 2024 election. Now a radical DA in Georgia is following Biden’s lead by attacking President Trump and using it to fundraise her political career,” House Speaker KEVIN McCARTHY said on X.
  • “The actions taken by the Fulton County District Attorney, along with other state and federal prosecutors, reaffirms the shared belief that in America no one, not even the president, is above the law,” Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER and House Minority Leader HAKEEM JEFFRIES said in a joint statement.
  • “I don’t feel any satisfaction. I feel great, profound sadness that we have a former president who has been indicted for so many charges that went right to the heart of whether or not our democracy would survive,” HILLARY CLINTON said on “The Rachel Maddow Show” last night.
  • “Rudolph Giuliani catching a RICO charge. What a world,” observed MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.

THE FALLOUT … There’s nothing that suggests that Trump’s political fortunes will change drastically during the pending Republican primary because of this indictment. His rivals have largely defended him, with some promising to pardon him if he’s found guilty on the federal charges.

NYT’s Peter Baker puts it in perspective: “The nation once recoiled at presidential candidates caught driving under the influence or swiping lines in a speech without credit. Now one of the two major parties has not ruled out a front-runner charged with conspiring to subvert democracy, endangering national security, obstructing justice and falsifying records of hush money to a pornographic film star. …

“The notion that a rap sheet with multiple felonies would not be automatically disqualifying would have stunned the 44 presidents who came before him, including the Republicans.”

Good Tuesday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.

GREENE WITH ENVY — Rep. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-Ga.) has recently suffered a series of bruising headlines, with her ouster from the Freedom Caucus and her well-documented blow-up with Rep. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-Colo.), among others. Things got so bad at one point that even STEVE BANNON called for a primary challenge.

But in many ways, she’s stronger than ever: “No substantive primary challenge has materialized. And the backlash to her ties to [Speaker McCarthy] hasn’t led to any clear vulnerabilities in her deep red district,” Brittany Gibson writes this morning. “Greene’s ability to insulate her right flank may be a testament to just how irrefutable her brand of conservatism has become. But it also underscores how the party’s base and its establishment have become intermingled.”



PREPARING FOR BATTLE — White House officials are leaning into a fight over debt reduction, believing Biden has the upper hand in a long-running political battle that has for a while favored Republicans. “In a memo to Democratic allies, it recounts cost-cutting measures Biden proposed in his March budget, such as enacting a 25 percent minimum tax on the wealthiest Americans, hiking the corporate tax rate to 28 percent and allowing Medicare to negotiate additional drug prices,” Jennifer Haberkorn reports.

White House officials are “eager to contrast Biden’s proposals with GOP measures such as cuts to Medicare and Social Security, the elimination of Medicare’s new price negotiation authority and the Republican Study Committee tax plan,” Jen writes.

BIDEN’S MAUI RESPONSE QUESTIONED — The White House is defending Biden’s response to the Maui wildfire, as the president has yet to publicly address the devastation while the death toll keeps rising — though he did declare an emergency and order federal funds for the state late last week.

“White House aides noted that he has been receiving updates on the response efforts from federal and state officials,” WaPo’s Meryl Kornfield writes. And White House press secretary KARINE JEAN-PIERRE promised that the public would soon “hear from the president.”

Still, it — and not Trump’s indictment — is the top story on the front page of this morning’s NY Post.

The latest from Maui: “Death toll in Lahaina wildfire rises to 99 as hundreds remain unaccounted for,” by Hawaii News Now

Happening today: “Biden heads to battleground Wisconsin to talk about the economy a week before GOP debate,” by AP’s Fatima Hussein

WHAT THEY’RE READING IN MICHIGAN — “Biden urges Detroit automakers, union to forge deal as deadline looms,” by WaPo’s Jeanne Whalen: “Automakers should ‘take every possible step’ to avoid closing plants and keep jobs in their existing manufacturing communities when they need to retool, Biden said in a statement. They should also pay wages that can support a family and honor workers’ right to organize, he added.“


SHUTDOWN WATCH — McCarthy said on a call with House Republicans yesterday evening that a short-term spending measure will likely be necessary to avert a shutdown, The Hill’s Emily Brooks and Mychael Schnell report.

“McCarthy said he does not want the CR to be jammed at the end of the year or stretch into the December holidays, the sources added. But a CR likely won’t come easily. Some members of the party’s right flank have stressed they will only vote for bills that set funding at fiscal 2022 levels, and a CR would keep spending the same as in fiscal 2023.”

2024 WATCH

MARK YOUR CALENDAR — Nevada has set a Feb. 8, 2024, date for the GOP presidential caucuses, jumping ahead of South Carolina for the first time in an open race since 1988, our colleague Steve Shepard writes. Nevada will now slot in right after Iowa (which has selected Jan. 15 for its caucuses) and New Hampshire (which is expected to set a late January date for its primary).

QUIET AS A MOUSE — “DeSantis: ‘We’ve basically moved on’ from Disney’s lawsuit,” by Kelly Garrity


NO LABELS, MORE PROBLEMS — A Black former employee of No Labels is suing the centrist political organization claiming she was discriminated against because of her race and retaliated against for reporting the alleged discrimination, Daniel Lippman scooped. “The group … admitted some descriptions of the plaintiff’s time with the group in its answer to the lawsuit, but denied the allegation that it engaged in racial discrimination or retaliation.”

WHAT THE NRSC IS READING — “The GOP Senate candidate whose Trump ambassador stint is coming back to haunt him,” by Burgess Everett and Ally Mutnick: “Republican Senate hopeful JEFFREY GUNTER is learning a painful lesson: What happens in Reykjavik doesn’t always stay in Reykjavik. Gunter is touting his 18-month tenure as former President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Iceland in his Nevada primary bid. But his stint abroad also earned him plenty of enemies who don’t want to see a Senator Gunter. …

“A 2021 report by the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General found that Gunter had created a ‘threatening and intimidating environment’ at the embassy, and that his successors had to work to rebuild U.S.-Iceland relations after Gunter’s tenure. Bolstering those allegations, four Trump-era State Department officials said in interviews that the dermatologist performed his ambassadorial job poorly and tried to work from his California home during the pandemic, a critical period for U.S. diplomacy.”

RED LIGHT REDISTRICT — “Alabama Republicans defend not creating a second majority Black district in court,” by Zach Montellaro



“Trump asking to put on hold January 6 lawsuit because of criminal charges,” by CNN’s Katelyn Polantz: “The lawsuit accuses Trump of having responsibility for the death of Capitol Police Officer BRIAN SICKNICK and is at an early stage. But if it moves forward, ‘Forcing President Trump to defend this case while simultaneously defending a criminal prosecution based on related conduct would undoubtedly compromise either his right to defend himself in this case, his criminal defense, or both,’ his attorneys wrote in a filing on Monday.”

“Former Republican legal officials endorse special counsel’s speedy trial date proposal in Trump Jan. 6 case,” by CNN’s Jamie Gangel and Jack Forrest. Among the endorsers: ALBERTO GONZALES and J. MICHAEL LUTTIG.

“Judge overseeing Trump’s hush money case won’t recuse himself,” by Erica Orden in New York


EVAN GERSHKOVICH LATEST — “U.S. Ambassador Meets With Detained Wall Street Journal Reporter,” by WSJ’s Ann Simmons


DIPLOMATIC INGENUITY — “Washington can’t get a climate pact. Gavin Newsom just cut another one,” by Blanca Begert: “California’s role as a shadow climate negotiator is only becoming more important as geopolitical tensions rise.”

NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE — “Raid on Small Kansas Paper Swept Up Information on Police Chief,” by WSJ’s Shannon Najmabadi

NEW DETAILS — “Utah man accused of threatening president pointed gun at agents, FBI says,” by AP’s Sam Metz in Salt Lake City

MEGATREND — “More Americans Are Ending Up Homeless — at a Record Rate,” by WSJ’s Jon Kamp and Shannon Najmabadi: “The data so far this year are up roughly 11% from 2022, a sharp jump that would represent by far the biggest recorded increase since the government started tracking comparable numbers in 2007.”

Ronny Jackson cursed out a police officer in newly released bodycam footage.

Dan Goldman sold $37.1 million stocks and bonds in preparation for moving his assets into a blind trust.

MEDIA MOVE — Gabe Gutierrez is now a senior White House correspondent for NBC. He previously was a national correspondent based in New York.

TRANSITIONS — Olya Voytovich is now a comms adviser for USAID’s Bureau for Legislative and Public Affairs. She previously was press secretary for the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Dems. … Matt Harney is now executive director of the American Association of Settlement Consultants. He previously was executive director of the Ohio Osteopathic Association and president of the Ohio Osteopathic Foundation. … Erick Sanchez is joining Starts With Us as director of PR and integrated comms. He previously was principal at Quixotic LLC and is an Andrew Yang and Tim Ryan alum.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) … Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) … Melinda Gates … WaPo’s Leigh Ann CaldwellDevin O’Malley … former Justice Stephen Breyer … NBC’s Richard HudockMaggie MulvaneyAnnie WolfBart ReisingMeg JosephDara Cohen of Sen. Jacky Rosen’s (D-Nev.) office … Hannah Stone of Salem Strategies … Karen FinneyKevin HallPeggy BinzelSusanne SalkindJarrett LewisPatrick Gleason of Americans for Tax Reform … Mary Elizabeth TaylorElise LabottBilly Pitts … Dentons’ Eric TanenblattBrett Doyle … ABC’s Mariam Khan … former Reps. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.), Elaine Luria (D-Va.) and Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) … Christopher LoringZahava Urecki Slade BondJennifer Holdsworth Karp David Sherman Linda Ellerbee Allen Weisselberg … AP’s Juliet Linderman CC Jaeger of the Herald Group … Dynamic SRG’s Darren Rigger

Send Playbookers tips to [email protected] or text us at 202-556-3307. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike DeBonis, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Setota Hailemariam and Bethany Irvine.

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