15.04.2024

First Georgia codefendant turns on Trump and claims he was only following ex-president’s orders

The first codefendant in Donald Trump’s Georgia criminal case has shown signs of turning on him, claiming that he was only following the former president’s orders when he took part in the election interference plot.

David Shafer, the former chairman of the Georgia Republican Party and a longtime member of the Georgia state Senate, claimed in a court filing on Monday that he merely “acted at the direction of the incumbent President and other federal officials”.

“Attorneys for the President and Mr. Shafer specifically instructed Mr. Shafer, verbally and in writing, that the Republican electors’ meeting and casting their ballots on December 14, 2020 was consistent with counsels’ advice and was necessary to preserve the presidential election contest,” the filing states.

Mr Shafer is also seeking to have the criminal case moved to federal court.

His filing suggests that he – and potentially others – could turn on the former president in the case.

Mr Shafer is one of 19 defendants charged with running a criminal enterprise to keep Mr Trump in power at all costs.

He is charged with eight counts over his part in the scheme where he allegedly played a pivotal role in the fake electors plot in the state.

According to the indictment, Mr Shafer convened 16 fake electors in the Georgia state capitol on 14 December 2020 to sign a certificate falsely declaring Mr Trump as the winner of the state.

Mr Shafer surrendered to authorities on Georgia in the early hours of Wednesday morning to face charges.

Online jail records reveal that he was arrested on Wednesday 23 August by Fulton County Sheriff’s Office and was booked into Fulton County Jail. Cathy Latham was also booked.

They were both released from the jail in the early hours of Wednesday, records show.

He is one of four codefendants who have so far turned themselves into authorities.

Scott Hall, a former bail bondsman in Atlanta, was the first co-defendant to surrender on Tuesday.

Attorney John Eastman then also surrendered the same day.

Mr Trump and his 18 co-defendants have each been given a deadline of midday on Friday 25 August to surrender to authorities in Fulton County and be arrested on the charges.

On Monday, the former president claimed in a post on his Truth Social platform that he will turn himself in on Thursday.

“Can you believe it? I’ll be going to Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday to be ARRESTED by a Radical Left District Attorney, Fani Willis, who is overseeing one of the greatest Murder and Violent Crime DISASTERS in American History,” he fumed.

“In my case, the trip to Atlanta is not for “Murder,” but for making a PERFECT PHONE CALL! She campaigned, and is continuing to campaign, and raise money on, this WITCH HUNT.

“This is in strict coordination with Crooked Joe Biden’s DOJ. It is all about ELECTION INTERFERENCE!”

Mr Trump’s bond has been set at $200,000 – an amount agreed upon by his attorneys but which he also railed against on Monday night.

In another Truth Social post, he claimed that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis insisted on the $200,000 bond to because she fears he will “fly far away, maybe to Russia, Russia, Russia, share a gold domed suite with Vladimir, never to be seen or heard from again”.

Mr Trump’s arrest in his fourth criminal case will come just hours after the first Republican presidential debate gets under way in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Wednesday evening.

Eight candidates – all hoping to beat the former president to secure the GOP nomination – have passed the threshold to take part.

Mr Trump, meanwhile, has refused to take part in the event hosted by Fox News.

He is instead believed to be taking part in a rival, but pre-recorded, interview with ousted Fox News personality Tucker Carlson.

Both events are likely to be overshadowed by Mr Trump’s looming arrest.

On 14 August, a grand jury in Fulton County returned an indictment charging the former president and 18 of his staunchest allies over their efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in the state.

“Defendant Donald John Trump lost the United States presidential election held on November 3, 2020,” the indictment reads.

“One of the states he lost was Georgia. Trump and the other Defendants charged in this Indictment refused to accept that Trump lost, and they knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump.

“That conspiracy contained a common plan and purpose to commit two or more acts of racketeering activity in Fulton County, Georgia, elsewhere in the State of Georgia, and in other states.”

Charged under Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute, the 19 defendants are accused of running a criminal enterprise with the goal of ensuring that Mr Trump remained in power at all costs.

The RICO statute is a Richard Nixon-era racketeering law originally passed to prosecute organised crime groups and mafia crime syndicates.

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”.

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”.

In the sweeping indictment, Mr Trump was charged with 13 criminal counts: violating RICO’s statute, conspiracy to impersonate a public officer, two counts of conspiracy to commit forgery, two counts of conspiracy to make false statements under oath, two counts of conspiracy to file false documents, two counts of solicitation of a public officer, filing false documents, conspiracy to solicit false statements, and making false statements.

The other co-defendants include former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani – who was also hit with 13 charges – former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, “Kraken” lawyer Sidney Powell and Kanye West’s former publicist Trevian Kutti – face fewer charges.

In total, Mr Trump is facing a combined 91 charges across two state and two federal cases and the prospect of the remainder of his life behind bars.

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