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The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper
Trump and the Georgia Conspiracy. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired September 02, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE WHOLE STORY. I'm Anderson Cooper.
Former President Donald Trump has now been criminally indicted in Georgia for allegedly trying to overturn the election in that state in 2020. This is now his fourth indictment. The Fulton County district attorney also charged 18 co-defendants along with the former president including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, John Eastman and others.
Trump is accused of being the head of a criminal enterprise and racketeering is one of the 13 charges against him.
Tonight we take a close look at exactly what Mr. Trump and his allies did in Georgia in the weeks after the election. CNN's Sara Murray lays out details about the investigation into the former president and the most serious charges he's now facing.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news in to CNN this hour. Prosecutors in Georgia have opened a criminal investigation.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: -- criminal investigation into former President Trump. Why? Because of his January phone call to the Georgia secretary of state.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- focus on the president's attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia general election.
GEOFF DUNCAN (R), FORMER GEORGIA LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Donald Trump got beat by Joe Biden handily.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's no way we lost Georgia. That was a rigged election.
DUNCAN: He went on a war path like a scolded child to do anything he possibly could to overturn that election.
TRUMP: They defrauded us out of a win in Georgia. And we're not going to forget it.
DUNCAN: I underestimated his willingness to push the envelope as far as he did, to just boldface lie again and again and again.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three months after the election, the district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, Fani Willis, officially opened an investigation into former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the state's presidential election results.
FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: This is a criminal investigation. We're not here playing a game. I plan to use the power of the law because I sit here in this jurisdiction. It's my responsibility.
TAMAR HALLERMAN, SENIOR REPORTER, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Fani Willis is known as a prosecutor's prosecutor. She's known as a tough cookie who's a real preparer. As she likes to say, I don't like to try things skinny. I don't like to be in a courtroom unprepared.
MURRAY: It's in that vein that Willis requested a special purpose grand jury to assist in her investigation.
ROBERT JAMES, FORMER DEKALB COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Special purpose grand juries are very -- they're very rare in Georgia.
MURRAY: Robert James is one of the few district attorneys who has overseen a special purpose grand jury in Georgia.
JAMES: Their own powers are much broader than a regular grand jury.
MURRAY: While a special purpose grand jury doesn't issue indictments, it can be a useful tool for a prosecutor.
MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: The D.A. wanted it because she wanted to use the powers to subpoena people, to get evidence, documentary evidence that she wouldn't otherwise have access to. Special purpose grand jury would get her more information about specific details of the allegations that she was investigating.
MURRAY: A special purpose grand jury was empaneled in May 2022. And after nearly seven months and 75 witnesses, they authored a report in December 2022 recommending indictments. The sprawling case has involved some of the biggest names in the Trump orbit as well as some local and state level politicians, many of which you may have never even heard of.
District Attorney Willis was considering charges under Georgia's Racketeer, Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, referred to as RICO.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: In practical terms, racketeering is a very power tool for prosecutors because it enables you to charge a group of people all together and it enables you as a prosecutor to show the jury the full extent of this group.
LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST AND ANCHOR: It's normally used for the mob, the mafia, organized crime units. The unusual thing about it is you don't actually have to have specific instructions from one person or the next in like a normal conspiracy. It can be as long as you're a part of this whole enterprise and you got a common goal, what one is doing in furtherance might impact everyone else.
MURRAY: And this entire investigation stems back to a single phone call.
MARK MEADOWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: OK. All right. Mr. President, everybody is on the line. And just so this is Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, just so we all are aware.
MURRAY: To this day, Trump says he did nothing wrong.
TRUMP: Nobody found anything wrong with that perfect call.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Major breaking news this hour.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Inside a stunning new pressure campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president heard pressuring Georgia's secretary of state to overturn his defeat there.
HALLERMAN: They're all airing snippets of this extraordinary leaked phone conversation between then President Donald Trump and Brad Raffensperger.
MURRAY: Brad Raffensperger is the secretary of state in Georgia, and one of the few Republicans who publicly stood up against Trump's conspiracy theories and claims of election fraud after losing the 2020 presidential election.
TRUMP: OK. Thank you very much. Hello, Brad and Ryan, and everybody. We appreciate the time and the call.
MURRAY: Trump was joined by a number of advisers, including Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and conservative attorney Cleta Mitchell.
TRUMP: If we can just go over some of the numbers I think it's pretty clear that we won. We won very substantially in Georgia.
MURRAY: At the time of the election, Gabriel Sterling was the voting system's implementation manager.
GABRIEL STERLING (R), CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, GEORGE SECRETARY OF STATE'S OFFICE: I was kind of irritated I wasn't on that call. And then I heard the call the next day. I'm like, I'm so thankful I was not on that call. It was an hour of which 55 minutes the president spoke. And it was the greatest hits of all the stuff that we have been debunking for two months.
Giving oxygen to this continued disinformation is leading to a continuing erosion of people's belief in our elections.
MURRAY (voice-over): Trump appeared to threaten the secretary of state.
TRUMP: You know what they did. And you're not reporting it. That's a -- you know, that's a criminal offense. And you know you can't let that happen. That's a big risk to you.
COATES: This is a really important charge. Solicitation just means you are asking someone to do something. Well, somebody who has sworn an oath of office to serve and protect or uphold the law or represent their constituents, if you were trying to get them and pressure them to do something that would actually be in violation of their oath or even the law, then you may have committed this very crime.
MURRAY: And then there's this.
TRUMP: I just want to find 11,780 votes which is one more than we have because we won the state.
MURRAY: 11,780. The exact number of votes Trump needed to win Georgia.
(On-camera): How are you taking this in?
BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R), GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: There weren't the votes to find. We had checked out all the allegations. So we knew that we had the right results.
MURRAY (voice-over): Raffensperger refused to budge.
RAFFENSPERGER: Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong.
MURRAY: By this time point Raffensperger had overseen three separate ballot counts, conducted many other reviews of the process and investigated more than 250 claims of voter fraud. The fact remained. Trump had lost the state of Georgia.
RAFFENSPERGER: All I knew is we had to, you know, lean into the law and into the facts. And we had both on our side.
HALLERMAN: Then President Donald Trump made phone calls to a handful of elected officials in Georgia in the aftermath of the 2020 elections. He called Frances Watson, who was then an investigator in the Secretary of State's Office.
TRUMP: The people of Georgia are so angry at what happened to me. They know I won. I won by hundreds of thousands of votes. It wasn't close. Whatever you can do, Frances, it would be -- it's a great thing. It's an important thing for the country.
HALLERMAN: The former president called Attorney General Chris Carr in December 2020 asking him basically not to get involved as Texas was fighting Georgia's election results at the Supreme Court.
MURRAY: Trump also made phone calls to officials requesting a special session of the legislature so Georgia legislators could appoint their own electors instead of the ones for Biden the voters had selected. He called the former speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives. HALLERMAN: David Ralston, a Republican.
MURRAY: And the governor.
HALLERMAN: He made at least two phone calls to Governor Kemp.
MURRAY: Both refused to call for a special legislative session.
DUNCAN: There was a very orchestrated, calculated process going on around us in Georgia trying to get us to change our minds and put pressure on us.
TRUMP: So far we haven't been able to find the people with the courage to do the right thing.
MURRAY: This is Trump just hours after Governor Brian Kemp declined his request.
TRUMP: Your governor could stop it very easily if he knew what the hell he was doing. He could stop it very easily.
DUNCAN: Donald Trump was intimately involved in every process around trying to overturn this election. I mean, this was a granular ground game of epic proportion. This was somebody obsessed with overturning that election at all costs.
MURRAY: Up next.
JEN JORDAN (D), FORMER GEORGIA DEMOCRATIC STATE SENATOR: Why are you flying down from D.C. on December 3rd to the Georgia state capital for some nothing subcommittee hearing?
MURRAY: Rudy Giuliani hijacks the Georgia legislature.
(On-camera): So he lied?
MURRAY (voice-over): For Jen Jordan, December 3rd, 2020, began as she expected. The then Georgia Democratic state senator made her way downtown to the capital for a meeting.
JORDAN: It was a government oversight meeting to talk about what happened in the elections and the issues. And it ended up being a pretty straightforward committee hearing.
RYAN GERMANY, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE'S OFFICE: We have not seen anything that would suggest widespread fraud or widespread problems.
JORDAN: Here I am thinking, OK, great. We've answered some of these conspiracies. We've dealt with the issues. It felt like an adult committee hearing. So I went to my office. And then I almost immediately get a text. Somebody was, like, you've got to get over to the Capitol. Something is going on.
WILLIAM LIGON (R), FORMER GEORGIA STATE SENATOR: Called the subcommittee of the judiciary to order.
MURRAY: Unbeknownst to Jordan, her Republican colleague, then State Senator William Ligon, convened another separate special committee to look into questions of election fraud.
LIGON: These complaints deserve full investigation.
HALLERMAN: And his committee ended up playing host to Rudy Giuliani and many of these election deniers related to the Trump campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I bless you.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I bless you, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't give up.
GIULIANI: I'm not giving up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never give up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love you, Rudy.
GIULIANI: Distinguished members of the committee, thank you very much for giving us this hearing. I represent President Trump along with Jenna Ellis.
COATES: Rudy Giuliani is in a lot of hot water. This is not someone who may be able to feign they weren't aware of the law. This is somebody who really had been known for RICO prosecutions as a top prosecutor in New York.
MURRAY: Rudy Giuliani wasn't the only surprise appearance.
JORDAN: The news media were not the usual characters. People like the "Epic Times," Newsmax, OAN, all of these various news outlets that had a very particular view. And it was incredibly troubling. What really triggered serious alarm bells is when the tweet went out from the then president.
MURRAY: President Trump fired off this tweet to his millions of followers ahead of the hearing, directing them to One America News Network to watch what would unfold at the Georgia capital.
(On-camera): What did that tell you about who the audience was for this production?
JORDAN: They were Trump supporters who needed to be fed this conspiracy and be shown that there was evidence.
MURRAY (voice-over): As the lieutenant governor at the time, Geoff Duncan served as the president of the Georgia Senate.
DUNCAN: Those weren't official meetings. I didn't sanction those. They wanted a special session because that added one layer of authenticity to their conspiracy theories.
MURRAY: Perhaps the most egregious allegations came in the form of a video. The Trump team presented what they claimed was evidence of fraud from election night ballot tabulating at the State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta. It purported to show a number of nefarious moments, including sending election observers home to secretly count ballots.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four people stay behind and continue counting and tabulating well into the night.
MURRAY: They claimed election workers were pulling out suitcases of hidden ballots after others were sent home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once everyone is gone, coast is clear, they are going to pull ballots out from underneath a table.
MURRAY: And scanning ballots multiple times.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many ballots went through those machines in those two hours when there was no one there to supervise? We believe that could easily be and probably and certainly beyond the margin of victory.
JORDAN: The story she told was just chilling in terms of look at what they're doing. Video doesn't lie.
GIULIANI: And when you look at what you saw on the video, which to me was a smoking gun.
JORDAN: The problem was that the video had been selectively edited.
STERLING: They found their magical suitcase full of ballots. What I'm looking at, I'm like that's a ballot carrier. Those were sealed ballot carriers, which is a normal thing you'd have in elections. They intentionally misled the state Senate in order to keep pushing this narrative and try to get the election thrown out.
MURRAY (on-camera): So he lied?
STERLING: Yes. I mean, they never backed off from it.
MURRAY (voice-over): The FBI and the Department of Justice also got involved in chasing the allegation. Both came to the same conclusion as the Secretary of State's Office.
BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: My opinion then and my opinion now is that the election was not stolen by fraud.
MURRAY: There was no illegal activity by the election workers. JORDAN: There has to be a villain or the enemy. And in this hearing in
particular, the villain really was the election workers in Fulton County.
GIULIANI: There's more than ample evidence to conclude that this election was a sham.
MURRAY: Once that video was made public and misrepresented as evidence of fraud, two of the women counting ballots, Ruby Freeman, and her daughter, Shaye Moss, were doxed. Their faces, names, addresses, phone numbers shared online. A motley crew emerged phoning Freeman and showing up at her home. Stephen Lee, a pastor from suburban Chicago, parked outside Freeman's house until she dialed 911.
STEPHEN LEE, PASTOR FROM CHICAGO: Yes. My name is Steve Lee. And I'm a pastor. And I'm also working with some folks who are trying to help Ruby out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
LEE: OK. And also get some truth of what's going on. It would be nice if I could talk to her.
RUBY FREEMAN, FORMER GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: I don't talk to nobody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. So you don't want to talk to him? No? OK.
FREEMAN: Yes, I'm not interested. I have a pastor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Yes, ma'am.
MURRAY: Almost three weeks later, Trevian Kutti, a publicist who had previously done work for R. Kelly and Kanye West, also showed up in Georgia. Freeman agreed to talk to Kutti at a police precinct. According to court documents, Kutti allegedly pressured Freeman.
TREVIAN KUTTI, PUBLICIST: We have probably 48 hours in which to move you.
MURRAY: Offering her protection if she would confess to engaging in election fraud. Even though Freeman had done nothing wrong.
KUTTI: I cannot say what specifically will take place. I just know that it will disrupt your freedom. You are a loose end for a party that needs to tidy up.
HONIG: One of the most specific and powerful allegations in the indictment is this claim that various defendants tried to intimidate and harass these election workers and tried to get them then to change their story as part of a coverup. That to me is one of the pieces of conduct here that a jury can most readily understand and say, OK, that's a crime.
MURRAY: Freeman and Moss later testified in front of the January 6th Committee about vile, racist threats they received.
SHAYE MOSS, FORMER GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: This turned my life upside down.
I don't want to go anywhere. I second guess everything that I do. It has affected my life in a major way. In every way. All because of lies.
MURRAY: Giuliani has conceded as part of a civil lawsuit that he made defamatory statements about the two election workers. Nearly every other Georgia election official who stood up to the lies received similar threats.
RAFFENSPERGER: The texts, personal cell number was doxed. Personal e- mails were doxed.
MURRAY (on-camera): But it wasn't just you. It was your family members?
RAFFENSPERGER: Yes. My wife mostly. And she got the more vile, you know, personal kind of stuff.
DUNCAN: State patrol and heightened security and bomb sniffing dogs. And there was a Web site that formed that put a picture of my house and my address and my name and my kids' names.
JORDAN: You should go to jail. You are Judas. You're a traitor. You've committed treason.
MURRAY (voice-over): The December 3rd hearing would bring even more chaos to the state in the aftermath of the election when a then little-known attorney appeared.
(On-camera): What do you remember about John Eastman's presentation that day?
JORDAN: I thought it was ridiculous.
JOHN EASTMAN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: These significant statutory violations are in my view more than enough.
HALLERMAN: He saw it as the duty of the legislature to step in basically throw out the will of Georgia voters, and for the legislature to convene a special session and appoint their own Republican alternate electors.
EASTMAN: I don't think it's just your authority to do that but quite frankly I think you have a duty to do that, to protect the integrity of the election here in Georgia.
JORDAN: He didn't have a clue what he was talking about. I'm like, he's wrong.
COATES: Part of what he is accused of doing is trying to persuade members of the legislative branch in Georgia using false information, using outright lies to try to get them to act against the interests of the people and the voters of Georgia. It's a very serious charge.
MURRAY (voice-over): The December 3rd hearing wouldn't be the only appearance by Giuliani and other Trump allies in the Peach State. Giuliani appeared at two other hearings in front of the Georgia legislature, in December 2020, where he continued to push the debugged claims of fraud.
GIULIANI: There are 10 ways to demonstrate that this election was stolen, that the votes were phony, that there were a lot of them dead people, felons, phony ballots.
MURRAY: And at the last hearing where Giuliani appeared on December 30th, the Senate subcommittee that State Senator William Ligon chaired released a report with their findings. The first stating, quote, "The November 3rd, 2020 election was chaotic and the results cannot be trusted."
HALLERMAN: That basically regurgitated a lot of those conspiracy theories and half truths about the vote count in Georgia without actually investigating any of those claims. And that report, in turn, ended up being cited by the Trump campaign and many others in their pushes to invalidate election results elsewhere.
MURRAY (on-camera): So the report comes out. What kind of weight did that carry?
JORDAN: It had none. But again, that really wasn't the point.
MURRAY (voice-over): The day after the indictment was released, Giuliani appeared on WABC Radio.
GIULIANI: I woke up this morning more excited than I have in weeks. We're going to beat these fascists into the ground.
MURRAY: Coming up.
(On-camera): So you follow him.
(Voice-over): A secret meeting at the capitol.
(Voice-over): A secret meeting at the capital.
GEORGE CHIDI, JOURNALIST: They absolutely were trying to hide something.
COATES: The indictment lays bare the secrecy involved in this scheme.
MURRAY: This scheme played out here, inside the Georgia state capitol on December 14th, 2020, and is the subject of more than a dozen charges listed in the Georgia indictment.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Stop the steal! CHIDI: I'm driving by the capital because I'd heard there might be
something going on. And as I turn the corner, I see this big black -- I thought it was an SUV. It was an armored personnel carrier. And Alex Jones out of the cupola, at the top, you know, like a dime store Mussolini, just exhorting people like, don't let them take this away from you, ah, off in the distance.
MURRAY: George Chidi is a Democrat and a local Georgia journalist who reports on politics and crime in his blog, "The Atlanta Objective." He covered the far-right groups that descended on the Georgia capital for Stop the Steal rallies after the 2020 election.
CHIDI: And this -- like they'd filled the stairs and they're talking about taking over the capitol.
Then I started to think, all right, what exactly are you going to do?
There was a conversation that was happening in right-wing spaces about disrupting the electoral count. So I went to the capitol on December 14th.
LAUREL M. LEE, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF STATE: If you would please complete your ballots.
MURRAY: December 14th was the date that the state's electors all across the country would meet to certify their vote. That day, Trump narrowed in on Georgia. Could have been easy, he tweeted to the state governor. Now we have to do it the hard way. Prosecutors say this Trump tweet and 11 others contributed to the conspiracy to overturn Georgia's election results.
HONIG: While the tweets themselves standing alone in isolation are not necessarily criminal, the argument the prosecutors will make is this is evidence of the scheme. This is evidence of his intent that he was planning for a long time.
CHIDI: I thought maybe the Three Percent militia or some other group were going to show up and do something stupid. And I wanted to bear witness.
MURRAY (on-camera): So did you see any of those types when you got to the Georgia state capitol?
CHIDI: I didn't.
MURRAY (voice-over): What Chidi did see was a conservative activist who he recognized from his reporting.
CHIDI: Hey, why are you here? He didn't make eye contact with me. And he went into a room in the capitol. I'm looking around at who else is seeing this. Like, hey, does anybody know what's going on in that room?
MURRAY: Room 216 at the Georgia state capitol, just one floor below where the Democratic electors were meeting to certify the Georgia vote for President-elect Biden.
(On-camera): So you followed him?
CHIDI: I followed him.
MURRAY: Did you go into the room?
CHIDI: I went into the room. Then I walked in the door. Hey, what's going on here? What are you doing? Like what, we're having a meeting, and there was a woman's voice. I'm looking around and I've got the thing going. And then she says, "He's got a camera going." And then another fellow comes and just sort of hustles me out. I said, but what is this meeting? And she says it's an education meeting.
MURRAY: So they told you it was an education meeting.
CHIDI: Yes. They all but frog marched me out of the room.
CHIDI: And then they posted somebody out in front to make sure that nobody else went in.
MURRAY: So were you convinced it was an education meeting?
CHIDI: I was convinced it was exactly what I thought it was.
MURRAY (voice-over): And what he thought turned out to be right. A group of Republican shadow electors gathered to sign an illegitimate certification for President Trump.
HALLERMAN: Many of the Republicans who served as alternate electors that mid-December day were high up figures in the state party.
MURRAY: Georgia Republicans who served as fake electors were labeled targets in the Fulton County investigation, though some were later granted immunity.
JORDAN: At the head of the table was David Shafer who was the current chair of the GOP in Georgia.
MURRAY: Shafer played a key role in organizing Georgia's fake slate of electors by securing a room and convening them at the capitol. According to the indictment, Shafer sent a text message to another co- conspirator before the meeting. Listen, tell them to go straight to room 216 to avoid drawing attention to what we are doing, he wrote.
COATES: The fact that they were trying to evade detection maybe demonstrates to you that they knew what they were doing was wrong, and according to the allegations in the indictment, criminal.
MURRAY: Shafer also served as one of the fake electors.
HALLERMAN: Afterwards he said he had acted in response to what the Trump campaign had told him. DAVID SHAFER, FORMER MEMBER, GEORGIA STATE SENATE: Because the
president's lawsuit contesting the Georgia election has not been decided or even heard, we held this meeting to preserve his rights. Had we not held the meeting, then his lawsuit would effectively be mooted.
MURRAY: Shafer's attorneys said he broke no laws and was following legal advice when he cast a, quote, "contingent ballot for Trump."
CHIDI: I've never been thrown out of, you know, a meeting in a public legislative space. That's unheard of. You know, I wasn't being disruptive. They didn't have a good reason to do it. There are no such things as secret meetings at the state capitol. Like that's just not how things work. I think they absolutely were trying to hide something, at least at first.
MURRAY: Shafer's attorney told CNN that his client did not try to keep things secret. But that claim is contradicted by an e-mail the fake electors received just 18 hours before they met at the capitol. The e- mail, sent by Robert Sinners, the Trump campaign's Election Day operations lead in Georgia at the time, asked for, quote, "complete secrecy and discretion."
HALLERMAN: He told them to conceal what they were going to do.
MURRAY: The e-mail instructed the fake electors to tell security guards they were attending a meeting with two then state senators, Brandon Beach and Burt Jones.
According to the author of the letter, he was directed to send it by Trump campaign lawyers and David Shafer.
MOORE: In a process that is probably one of the most public things that the government does, to get an e-mail from somebody saying keep all this secret and under the radar, there's probably no good motive behind it. And I think it's good evidence of intent.
MURRAY: Sinners now regrets his part in the fake elector scheme. In a deposition to the January 6th Committee, he expressed regret for his actions.
ROBERT SINNERS, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN STAFFER: We were just, you know, kind of useful idiots or rubes at that point. You know, a strong part of me really feels that it's just kind of as the road continued and it was failure, failure, failure that that got formulated as what we have on the table, let's just do it.
MURRAY: There was evidence of a larger plan orchestrated by a number of operatives in Trump's orbit outside of the state of Georgia. Much of that laid out from another investigation.
HALLERMAN: The January 6th Committee on Capitol Hill has really helped Fani Willis in her criminal investigation here. MURRAY: According to a final report from the January 6th Committee,
the motivation behind creating the slate of fake electors in Georgia and other states was to create enough chaos to persuade then Vice President Mike Pence to subvert the Constitution and throw out the 2020 election results on January 6th. The Fulton County prosecutors zeroed in on John Eastman's part in the plot.
HALLERMAN: They were very interested in his alleged role at the center of coming up with this scheme of appointing these Republican electors.
MURRAY: In e-mails listed in the indictment, the conservative attorney laid out the fake elector scheme to his co-conspirators. Eastman also made various unfounded claims of voter fraud when he pushed the plan to overturn Biden's victory to Georgia lawmakers. Prosecutors say Eastman knew some of the voter fraud information was not true when he submitted falsified court documents that challenged Georgia's vote.
EASTMAN: The constitutional power to decide on the method for choosing electors remains exclusively with the state legislatures.
MURRAY: Eastman's attorneys said his involvement was political, but not criminal.
New York attorney Kenneth Chesebro was also a focus due to his alleged role coordinating the plan and execution of the fake electors. As part of this plan, Chesebro sent an e-mail to Mike Roman, Trump's national campaign director, the day before the fake elector scheme. Chesebro wrote that Giuliani wants to keep this quiet until after all the voting is done, according to the indictment.
Chesebro's attorneys said he was asked by the Trump campaign to provide advice and was not privy to the private communications of other individuals that are cited in the indictment.
DUNCAN: There was legal structure to this. There was constitutional structure to this. There was logistics, there was secrecy. There is no doubt in my mind that this started in the Oval Office and worked its way outward.
MURRAY: Coming up, inside the plot to seize voting data.
ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Really a who's who of election deniers.
MURRAY: All caught on tape.
COHEN: They spent hours inside this restricted room in the elections office.
MURRAY: About 200 miles southeast of Metro Atlanta sits Coffee County. It's a rural area with a population of about 43,000. In the 2020 election, Donald Trump captured about 70 percent of the vote in this conservative county. It's also the site of a major data breach at the county's elections offices involving some of the most vocal conspiracy theorists in the Trump orbit.
COHEN: The story of Coffee County was really under the radar. There was this effort to gain access to voting systems specifically in Georgia. Trump wanted to find evidence of fraud, to find evidence that would support some of his baseless conspiracy theories that he was pushing. And the idea was once you get a copy of the voting system, then you can produce the evidence that there was widespread fraud.
MURRAY: Coffee County seen as a Trump friendly area became a target for those looking to access voting systems.
COHEN: January 7th, 2021 was the day that they finally were let in the front doors.
MURRAY: And it was all caught on tape.
HALLERMAN: Technicians from the data services firm Sullivan-Strickler were let in to the elections office by Cathy Latham who at the time was the chairwoman of the Republican Party in Coffee County and who a couple of weeks earlier had served as one of the 16 fake electors in Georgia.
MURRAY: Latham initially denied the election equipment had been accessed until security footage proved otherwise. And evidence now shows Latham communicated directly with the then election supervisor in Coffee County, Misty Hampton, about getting access to the office.
COHEN: You see on the surveillance video they spent hours inside this restricted room in the elections office.
MURRAY: One of those inside the room, Paul Maggio, works for Sullivan- Strickler, the data firm hired to gain access to records.
Maggio was not indicted, and in a statement to CNN Sullivan-Strickler said the firm was directed by the attorneys that hired them to obtain access to certain data and distributed to certain individuals. And, quote, "The firm had no reason to believe these attorneys would ask or direct Sullivan-Strickler to do anything either improper or illegal."
COHEN: Ultimately they were able to basically take an entire copy of the voting system with the idea that it would be used to, you know, point to vulnerabilities, point to different issues with the voting machines themselves. And the plan was to use that as evidence of widespread voter fraud.
MURRAY: Another shocking twist in the story, the Coffee County data breach would remain secret for 20 months.
(On-camera): When did you guys learn that there was, you know, a potential breach involving Coffee County?
STERLING: About a year after it happened. And when we heard about this, at first it actually got sprung on us in a lawsuit.
MURRAY (voice-over): That lawsuit, which is unrelated to the 2020 election, was filed in 2017 after an independent coalition initially sued the secretary of state over the security of the Georgia voting system. The video of the data breach was one piece of evidence in that civil suit. But it revealed exactly what these Trump supporters were up to after he lost the state.
STERLING: They played a little snippet of an audio of one of the plaintiffs talking to a person claiming to have done this.
MURRAY: That person was Scott Hall, the man seen here in the surveillance footage. Hall is an Atlanta area bail bondsman who served as a poll watcher and according to the indictment has been looking into the election on behalf of the president.
SCOTT HALL, ATLANTA AREA BAIL BONDSMAN: I'm the guy that chartered the jet to go down to Coffee County to have them inspect all of those computers. They scanned all the equipment, imaged all the hard drives, and scanned every single ballot.
COHEN: Without that reporting on Scott Hall, we'd probably never know what we know now.
COATES: Can you imagine the idea of having tangible, from the proverbial horse's mouth information to present to a grand jury is invaluable. This goes a long way in the form of giving direct evidence as to what was planned, who was involved and what was intended.
MURRAY: And it gave Fani Willis and the Fulton County D.A.'s Office the evidence it needed to charge Hall and Misty Hampton, Coffee County's elections supervisor, with conspiracy and violating Georgia's RICO Act.
(On-camera): Did you have any sense this was tied to maybe other operatives in the Trump campaign, that it was anything beyond sort of lower-level people in Coffee County?
RAFFENSPERGER: Not initially. But there were allegations. And as you dig down deep, more is revealed.
MURRAY (voice-over): That revelation came Monday when the Fulton County D.A.'s Office charged Cathy Latham with 11 crimes ranging from impersonating a public officer to conspiracy. But more importantly, it connected the dots between Coffee County and the White House.
HALLERMAN: Sidney Powell was the one who ended up commissioning the services of Sullivan-Strickler.
COHEN: Her involvement is really what exposes the broader Trump team's involvement in Coffee County.
MURRAY: Powell advocated seizing voting machines with an executive order from Trump at an explosive White House meeting in December 2020.
COHEN: Another idea that was pitched during that meeting was raised by Rudy Giuliani, and he thought that they could coerce or convince local election officials to voluntarily give their investigators access to voting systems.
MURRAY: In other words, exactly what happened in Coffee County on January 7th, 2021.
STERLING: I think when you start with the president of the United States saying the election was stolen, nothing is surprising to me.
MURRAY: Despite searching for evidence that would back up their theories of election fraud, there is no indication there were any voting irregularities discovered during the data breach. And to this day, we don't know where the data lives and how exactly the Trump supporters planned to use it.
Up next --
MOORE: We are about to have the David and Goliath fight.
MURRAY: The extraordinary challenges of trying to indict a former president.
STERLING: If they indict him and they can't convict it, it will be an exoneration.
MURRAY: After nine weeks of countless misleading comments, half- truths, and flat-out lies, a violent, deadly insurrection exploded at the nation's Capitol.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's over.
MURRAY: In the midst of the riot, then lieutenant governor of Georgia, Geoff Duncan, begged residents of his state involved to stand down.
DUNCAN: I want to speak directly to Georgians. Every Georgian that can hear my voice. Put down your differences.
Put down your partisanship.
MURRAY: More than 20 Georgia residents would go on to face charges, stemming from their actions in Washington, D.C. on January 6th, according to a CNN tally.
DUNCAN: Donald Trump stopped caring about this country the moment he started lying about that election. The conspiracy theories that literally seeded the beginnings and endings of January 6th in my personal opinion was a direct attack against democracy itself.
MURRAY: The election lies and conspiracy theories may have reached their apex on January 6th, but even now, more than two years later, Donald Trump refuses to acknowledge the 2020 election results.
TRUMP: It was a rigged election. I ran twice, I won twice.
MURRAY: And still can't accept his loss in Georgia.
TRUMP: We have elections that were horrible. If you look at what happened in Atlanta, millions of votes, and all you have to do is take a look at government cameras.
MURRAY: Even as Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis indicted Donald Trump and 18 others named in a 41-count conspiracy to overturn Biden's 2020 victory.
WILLIS: Every individual charged in the indictment is charged with participation in a criminal enterprise in Fulton County, Georgia.
MURRAY: The Georgia indictment, Trump's fourth, only intensifies the already unprecedented moment in American history.
TRUMP: I consider it a badge, a great, great, beautiful badge of honor and courage because I'm being indicted for you.
MURRAY: District Attorney Fani Willis has said she wants to try all 19 defendants at the same time.
WILLIS: We will be asking for a trial date within the next six months.
COATES: It would be a story of legends to try 19 defendants in a case of this magnitude within six months.
JAMES: Here's the Armageddon scenario. Every one of them is going to have their own army and team of lawyers. And every one of them is going to be filing all of these motions. And you're going to have to respond to all of them. This is not going to be an easy win. I don't care how compelling or how strong your evidence is, how many tapes you have, how many witnesses you have.
MURRAY: And Trump isn't just a former president. He's also the leading Republican candidate for 2024.
HONIG: You have to find 12 people who aren't so passionate about Donald Trump that they're able to judge the case fairly and impartially based only on the facts and the law in the courtroom. So the fact that he's running for president really complicates everything here.
MURRAY: But his candidacy is a point he could try to use to his advantage in the courtroom.
(On-camera): If you're Donald Trump in this, how do you juggle the court dates, again, two, three, four indictments with campaigning for president of the United States?
MOORE: Yes. I think that's going to be a legitimate issue he brings up to the court. And while we all want to see some resolution, I don't think there's any question that he's got a good, credible case to make, that he shouldn't be forced now to have to try his case in the middle of a presidential primary.
MURRAY: What happens if he's re-elected president of the United States before these cases are decided?
MOORE: The question is the same as we got to at the end of his last term. And that is, does he have the authority to pardon himself?
COATES: We are again in uncharted territory of whether he'd be able to use that on himself if Trump were re-elected to the presidency. But at the state level, that is kind of untouchable for the president of the United States. You see federalism ensures that the states have certain rights and one of them, of course, would mean that the pardoning power of a president would not apply to the states or their convictions.
MURRAY (voice-over): We're nearly three years past the pressure campaigns, the harassment of public and private citizens, the coordinating of fake electors, the breach of election systems. And we still don't know, will Trump be convicted in Georgia?
TRUMP: They rigged the presidential election in 2020, and we're not going to allow them to rig the presidential election of 2024.
MURRAY (on-camera): Do you see any risk in moving forward with the indictment of the former president? I mean, are we setting any kind of a dangerous precedent?
JORDAN: I think we're setting a dangerous precedent if we don't move forward. If we don't hold him accountable, I think the risk is much more significant.
MURRAY: We saw former President Trump lie to the American people. We saw him gin up this outrage. Is it a remedy if he's charged with a crime in Georgia?
STERLING: If they indict him and they can't convict him, it will be an exoneration. Is that better or is that worse? I don't know.
WILLIS: What I could envision is that we actually live in a society where Lady Justice is blind and that it doesn't matter if you're rich, poor, black, white, Democrat or Republican, if you violated the law, you're going to be charged.
GRAPHICS: The Georgia defendants who have spoken out about the case have denied wrongdoing, and argued that the charges are politically motivated.
COOPER: The Fulton County district attorney has asked a judge to set a trial date for March 4th, 2024. Now it's unlikely that will hold but if it does, that would mean the former president's trial in Fulton County would begin just one day before the Super Tuesday primaries.
Thanks for watching THE WHOLE STORY.