Former President Donald Trump has agreed to turn himself in to authorities in Georgia on Thursday to face 13 felony charges related to his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. His bail is set at $200,000. Trump has now been indicted four times this year, even as he continues to dominate the Republican field for the 2024 presidential nomination. In Atlanta, we speak with independent journalist George Chidi, who helped expose the Trump campaign after witnessing a secret meeting of Republican operatives at the state Capitol in 2020. The gathering was part of a scheme to use fake electors to claim the state’s Electoral College votes for Trump despite his loss to Joe Biden. Chidi was recently subpoenaed to testify before the Fulton County grand jury in the Trump investigation but did not end up testifying. We also speak to Chidi about Atlanta’s efforts to build the massive Cop City police training complex.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: George, I’d like to turn to the big headline of the week, obviously, in Atlanta, and even across the nation, the RICO indictments of President Trump and others for the false — the alleged false elector plot. Could you talk about how you came upon this group of fake Republican electors in 2020? Where were you? And what happened at that meeting?
GEORGE CHIDI: Sure. The first thing I want to say is that I take objection to the characterization of what I did as “stumbling” upon fake electors. I was in a room with probably a dozen other journalists, and I noticed that one of the people we will describe as a fake elector was in the halls, and I questioned why he was there. When he went into a room in the Capitol on December 14th, 2020, I realized something was happening in that room. So I took out a camera. I started a Facebook Live. I walked in, and I started asking questions and was summarily thrown out. But before I was, I asked what kind of meeting was happening, and I was told it was an education meeting. And plainly, it was not an education meeting.
I was told later by David Shafer, the Georgia Republican Party leader here, that they had to submit electors in order to maintain their legal case in front of the courts. That has come into legal question at this point. It is the reason why we’re looking at this investigation. It is the reason, in part, that Donald Trump is going to have to walk through that jail on Thursday. The fact that I was lied to became legally important, or so I am told, which is why I was subpoenaed. And I testified in front of the special purpose grand jury one year ago. I was called last Monday to testify, but it turned out it was unnecessary. And frankly, I think that’s a good thing.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And have you been able to tell, of the people that you saw in that meeting, which of them have been indicted, or were any of them indicted in the group?
GEORGE CHIDI: Yeah, several of them have been indicted. The one that I’m focused on is Cathy Latham. So, the woman in the front of a picture that I’ve actually posted — and it’s been up for three years on Twitter — is Cathy Latham. She is the chairwoman of the Coffee County Republican Party. She was one of the electors, who would have been an elector if the Republicans had won Georgia. I’m reasonably certain she is the one who lied to me and said that that was an education meeting. And she’s also all over the video of Donald Trump’s crew basically taking apart the voting machines in Coffee County. That is central to this investigation, because that act of election interference, like, exposed software, that made things subject to manipulation perhaps later. That may be the most dangerous act of — you know, that you can look at in this indictment.
AMY GOODMAN: George, if you can — as we wrap up this section on President Trump and what he’s being charged with and going into the Fulton County Jail, what’s expected to happen? You just described the most horrific conditions inside this jail. What are we going to know when he walks in? What will he experience?
GEORGE CHIDI: So, I’m just scratching the surface of how bad it is in there. But I don’t think he’s going to experience any of that. He’ll be processed on the first floor in a relatively clean and safe environment. They’re going to lock down the entire area around the jail as soon as he arrives. Nobody gets in or out, not press, not visitors, no one. I don’t expect him to be there more than five minutes. But he will have a mugshot taken. He’ll be weighed. There will be a medical processing. The sheriff has pledged that he will be treated like anybody else, in this regard, that has to be processed into the jail. But he’s not going to experience any of it.
And I find it fascinating that in this moment, when you have a former president who might have to set foot in a jail as a prisoner, that suddenly we care about the conditions of that jail — not you, of course. You worry about this sort of thing because you are decent and kind. But the rest of the world is waking up to this, and I’m gratified to see it.
AMY GOODMAN: George, I also want to ask you about grassroots efforts in Atlanta to block the construction of Cop City, that massive $90 million police training complex, what will be the largest in the country, organizers planning on submitting over 100,000 signatures to force a ballot referendum on the project, but activists put off submitting the signatures, apparently, on Monday — we’re trying to piece all this together — after Atlanta city officials announced an intricate signature verifying process, that will cost a fortune. Stop Cop City activists have vowed to continue collecting signatures, as the judge granted them more time to turn them in. If you can talk about what’s going on here — you’ve covered it — also the number of protesters charged with domestic terrorism? And was the Fulton County DA, Fani Willis, involved with those charges, not to mention the bond group that was also charged?
GEORGE CHIDI: So, Fani Willis really isn’t involved in any of this. This is all coming out of Chris Carr’s office. That’s the attorney general here in Georgia. And the dynamic between the city of Atlanta and the state with regard to how they’re treating these protesters, these activists, is fascinating and deserves more attention.
A hundred and four thousand signatures, which is close to double the number of votes anybody elected in office in Atlanta has ever received. The mayor is on record saying that the signature match process that they’re planning to use, or I am told they’re planning to use, is racist. And the idea that they’re going to pull that out speaks to how committed the city is to seeing this police training center, Cop City, get built. I’m amazed at how much political capital they’ve burned on this, to be perfectly honest. Fact of the matter is, if they’ve got 104,000 signatures, their threshold is 58,000 signatures, give or take. I strongly suspect they’ll make it, unless there was something happening that isn’t immediately visible to us. I find the city’s move surprising.
AMY GOODMAN: And last question. We just have 30 seconds. And that is, when you were responding to the question of being subpoenaed — you were subpoenaed, but you, ultimately, though you waited, sitting there, to testify, you weren’t called — you said “fortunately,” you didn’t have to testify. Why?
GEORGE CHIDI: Journalists shouldn’t be getting into grand jury rooms. I am not an agent of the government. I am a critic of the government. It is necessary to be adversarial to some degree. My not having to testify on Monday, to some degree, preserves that ability to be adversarial. And, frankly, it makes my sources feel a lot better.
AMY GOODMAN: George Chidi, independent journalist in Atlanta, we’ll link to your recent piece, “The real behind the wall: A look inside the infamous, deadly Fulton County Jail.”
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