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Trump has now been indicted for a fourth time, in Georgia. Here's how we got here


What does the fourth indictment of Donald Trump cover that the other three did not? There is some overlap with a federal indictment for Trump's effort to stay in office after his election defeat in 2020. But this indictment in Fulton County, Ga., focuses on Trump's effort to flip that state, along with the efforts of 18 other defendants identified by District Attorney Fani Willis. WABE's Sam Gringlas tells us the story of how it happened.

SAM GRINGLAS, BYLINE: This investigation was spurred in part by a phone call.


DONALD TRUMP: OK, thank you very much. Hello, Brad and Ryan and everybody. We appreciate the time and the call.

GRINGLAS: On the other end of a crackly phone line, then-President Trump had a clear message for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.


TRUMP: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have.

GRINGLAS: Raffensperger refused. It was January 2, four days before Congress was set to certify Joe Biden as president-elect and two months since Biden carried Georgia in the 2020 election.


WOLF BLITZER: President-elect Biden the winner in Georgia.

DAVID CHALIAN: No Democrat has won this since 1992.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: Once a ruby red state.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: But tonight, Georgia remains at the center of the American political universe.

GRINGLAS: In the days after that election, Trump and his allies doubled down on a lie that the election had been rigged. And in December, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani came to Georgia to convince lawmakers at the state Capitol to take action.


RUDY GIULIANI: There's more than ample evidence to conclude that this election was a sham.

GRINGLAS: Ten days later, Georgia's electors also met at the Capitol.


STACEY ABRAMS: I am pleased to announce that Joseph R. Biden has received 16 votes for president of the United States.


GRINGLAS: One floor below, 16 Republicans were gathering behind closed doors. It was an effort organized by the Trump campaign to gather a fake slate of electors. The participants say they were told this was just in case Trump's legal challenges prevailed. But campaign staffer Robert Sinners later described it as a last-ditch, potentially illegal plan to keep Trump in office.


ROBERT SINNERS: I'm angry. No one really cared if people were potentially putting themselves in jeopardy.

GRINGLAS: As the fake elector plan came together at the state Capitol, a new Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis, took office a few blocks away.


FANI WILLIS: And no matter if you were at the state Capitol or the slums, you will be held accountable if you commit a crime in my community.

GRINGLAS: The next day, Trump made that fateful phone call to Georgia's secretary of state. Four days later, a violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol in Washington. And a year after that, Willis asked a judge for a special grand jury to investigate whether crimes had been committed in Georgia.


ROBERT MCBURNEY: Without further ado, those potential grand jurors, who are now going to become grand jurors when I administer the oath, are No. 1, 2, 3...

GRINGLAS: For months, those 26 jurors conducted their probe, mostly in secret. But by summer, some of the same witnesses were called to testify in Washington. In front of a congressional panel, they described what happened in Georgia.


BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: Every single allegation, we checked. We ran down the rabbit trail to make sure that our numbers were accurate.

GRINGLAS: That's Secretary of State Raffensperger. He described how election officials made clear to Trump that his claims had no merit. But investigators outlined how Rudy Giuliani spent weeks amplifying a video that supposedly showed Fulton County election workers Shaye Moss and her mom, Ruby Freeman, interfering with the vote count.


GIULIANI: Quite obviously surreptitiously passing around USB ports as if they're vials of heroin or cocaine.


ADAM SCHIFF: What was your mom actually handing you on that video?

SHAYE MOSS: A ginger mint.

GRINGLAS: But Giuliani, Trump and others continued to spread the lies anyway. Moss and Freeman said they received death threats.


MOSS: Saying things like be glad it's 2020 and not 1920.


RUBY FREEMAN: He targeted me, Lady Ruby, a small business owner, a mother, a proud American citizen who stand up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of the pandemic.

GRINGLAS: Giuliani and others say they stand by the claims they made. Committee investigators also detailed the thinking behind the fake elector plot in Georgia and other states, quoting an email from Trump lawyer John Eastman.


CASEY LUCIER: Quote, "the fact that we have multiple slates of electors demonstrates the uncertainty of either. That should be enough."

GRINGLAS: Around the same time, in Fulton County, Willis was busy asking for subpoenas. Over eight months, the special grand jury heard from 75 witnesses.


KATE BOLDUAN: The special grand jury in Fulton County, Ga., has completed its investigation now into Trump's efforts...

GRINGLAS: The jury's recommendations were not made public, but Trump's lawyers moved to throw out the whole investigation, calling it a witch hunt. Willis pushed ahead, asking a grand jury to bring charges. And in the end, that small panel of citizens in Fulton County, Ga., agreed.

For NPR News, I'm Sam Gringlas in Atlanta. 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.

Sam Gringlas is a journalist at NPR's All Things Considered. In 2020, he helped cover the presidential election with NPR's Washington Desk and has also reported for NPR's business desk covering the workforce. He's produced and reported with NPR from across the country, as well as China and Mexico, covering topics like politics, trade, the environment, immigration and breaking news. He started as an intern at All Things Considered after graduating with a public policy degree from the University of Michigan, where he was the managing news editor at The Michigan Daily. He's a native Michigander.