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Right-wing media are using a clerical error at the Fulton County DA’s office to claim the indictment is proof of conspiracy against Trump’s 2024 reelection campaign

The Fulton County district website published an advanced copy of the indictment charges which they quickly deleted

As former President Donald Trump faces yet another indictment, his legal team and right-wing media grasp at straws to claim that the charges he is facing are illegitimate, including by claiming that a test sample indictment that was prematurely posted is proof that “Democrats are no longer trying to hide their corruption.”

  • On August 14, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis handed down a nearly 100-page indictment against Trump’s fake elector scheme.

    • The indictment detailed Trump and 18 other co-defendants' engagement “in a criminal racketeering enterprise to overturn Georgia’s presidential election result.” [The Associated Press, 8/15/23
    • The 41 indictment counts include Trump’s call with Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which Trump pressured him to overturn the results of the 2020 election in the state. The indictment also showed Trump’s alleged awareness of a fake electors scam wherein people “signed certificates saying Trump won Georgia and that they were official electors.” [USA Today, 8/14/23; NPR, 8/15/23]
    • A seemingly premature copy of the indictment was published on the Fulton County court’s website before the grand jury had finished deliberating, prompting Trump’s legal team and right-wing media to claim that the case has been rigged against Trump. [The Associated Press, 8/15/23]
  • Legal experts have largely chalked this incident up to a clerical error and have noted that the production of an advance draft isn’t unprecedented for big cases 

    • On Tuesday, the Fulton County Clerk of Courts released a statement on the clerical error, explaining that the premature publishing was a “sample working document” that was filled with charges that pre-exist in their software system in order to conduct a trial run of its official publishing. [Twitter/X, 8/15/23]
    • Georgia State University law professor Clark Cunningham addressed the posting, saying that it was likely a clerical error. Cunningham told The Associated Press that the charges listed could have been the ones prosecutors wanted to bring to the grand jury, saying, “It will not scuttle the case. Will his lawyers make a lot of noise about it? Yes, they will. Will Mr. Trump make a lot of noise about it? Yes, he will. I’m sure there will have to be an explanation for it.” [PBS, 8/14/23]
    • Law experts explained that it is not uncommon for clerks to “make advance preparations” in big cases with multiple defendants. Writing for Just Security, law professor Ryan Goodman, retired Ambassador Norman L. Eisen, and former U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee law clerk Joshua Kolb explained, “When a big case with multiple defendants is anticipated, clerks do sometimes make advance preparations based upon what will be presented to the grand jury, with the proviso that the draft may of course change depending on the grand jury outcome.” Eisen previously served as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during Trump’s impeachment proceedings. [Just Security, 8/14/23]
    • CNN legal analyst Elie Honig: “As a prosecutor, if you have a big indictment, a long indictment, there would be nothing at all abnormal about sending an advance copy.” Honig debunked the right-wing narrative about the posting being suspicious, explaining that there is nothing “illicit or irregular” about the charges getting posted early. [CNN, 8/14/23]
  • Right-wing media attempted to paint a clerical error as “corruption” and claimed that “the legal system is rigged”

    • Fox host Mark Levin claimed the clerical error is proof that Willis rigged the indictment’s charges. In his post, Levin stated, “Democrat Georgia DA knows her fix is in, which is why the charges were already in the computer system, but accidentally released earlier today.” [Twitter/X, 8/14/23]
    • Former Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle claimed that the indictment’s premature publication is proof of corruption from Democrats. In her post, Guilfoyle wrote, “The fix is in. Democrats are no longer trying to hide their corruption.” [Twitter/X, 8/14/23
    • Newsmax host Sebastian Gorka said in response to the initial posting of the indictment, “It’s all a set-up.” [Twitter/X, 8/14/23]
    • Fox guest and GOP pollster Lee Carter argued the indictment’s premature publication reinforces mistrust in the legal system. Carter also stated that, due to the overwhelming number of Republicans who believe Trump’s charges are politically motivated, “it’s going to be hard for anyone to hear anything beyond that or trust anything that they have to say because they are going to look at this and say, ‘It was predetermined. The legal system is rigged.’” [Fox News, Fox News @ Night, 8/14/23]
    • On Newsmax, Trump ally Alan Dershowitz claimed that the premature publication was “the first example of artificial intelligence making a Freudian slip.” He continued on to say, “The appearance of justice is so compromised when a website announces an indictment presumably before the grand jury voted.” [Twitter/X, 8/14/23]
    • Substack author @Amuse called the Fulton County district attorney’s office a “banana republic.” In their post, they continued, “The fix is in. This isn't about justice, it is about election interference.” [Twitter/X, 8/14/23]
    • Neo-Nazi collaborator Jack Posobiec alleged that the indictment had been “illegally leaked online before the jury even voted.” [Twitter/X, 8/14/23]
    • Conservative author James Nava claimed that the indictment was published “purely for political reasons.” Nava also called Willis “an overenthusiastic young academic DA” from “crime and corruption-filled Fulton County.” [Twitter/X, 8/14/23]
    • Americano Media’s Lucia Navarro speculated that the clerical error was evidence that Willis “URGED them [the grand jury] to charge Trump.” [Twitter/X, 8/14/23]