Fulton county prosecutors do not intend to offer plea deals to Donald Trump and at least two high-level co-defendants charged in connection with their efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia, according to two people familiar with the matter, preferring instead to force them to trial.
The individuals seen as ineligible include Trump, his former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Aside from those three, the Fulton county district attorney Fani Willis has opened plea talks or has left open the possibility of talks with the remaining co-defendants in the hope that they ultimately decide to become cooperating witnesses against the former president, the people said.
The previously unreported decision has not been communicated formally and could still change, for instance, if prosecutors shift strategy. But it signals who prosecutors consider their main targets, and how they want to wield the power of Georgia’s racketeering statute to their advantage.
A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office declined to comment.
Trump and 18 co-defendants in August originally pleaded not guilty to a sprawling indictment that charged them with violating the Rico statute in seeking to reverse his 2020 election defeat in the state, including by advancing fake Trump electors and breaching voting machines.
In the weeks that followed, prosecutors reached plea deals in quick succession with the former Trump lawyers Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis and Kenneth Chesebro – who all gave “proffer” statements that were damaging to Trump to some degree – as well as the local bail bondsman Scott Hall.
The plea deals underscore the strategy that Willis has refined over successive Rico prosecutions: extending offers to lower-level defendants in which they plead guilty to key crimes and incriminate higher-level defendants in the conspiracy pyramid.
As the figure at the top of the alleged conspiracy, Trump was always unlikely to get a deal. But the inclusion of Meadows and Giuliani on that list, at least for now, provides the clearest roadmap to date of how prosecutors intend to take the case to trial.
The preference for the district attorney’s office remains to flip as many of the Trump co-defendants as possible, one of the people said, and prosecutors have asked the Fulton county superior court judge Scott McAfee to set the final deadline for plea deals as far back as June 2024.
At least some of the remaining co-defendants are likely to reach plea deals should they fall short in their pre-trial attempts to extricate themselves from Trump, including trying to have their individual cases transferred to federal court, or have their individual charges dismissed outright.
The prosecutors on the Trump case appear convinced that they are close to gaining more cooperating witnesses. In recent weeks, one of the people said, prosecutors privately advised the judge to delay setting a trial date because some co-defendants may soon plead out, one of the people said.
On Monday, former Trump lawyer and co-defendant John Eastman asked the judge to allow him to go to trial separately from the former president, and earlier than the August 2024 trial date proposed by prosecutors. Eastman also asked for the final plea deal deadline to be moved forward.
The court filing from Eastman reflected the apparent trepidation among a growing number of Trump allies charged in Fulton county about standing trial alongside Trump as a major Rico ringleader, a prospect widely seen as detrimental to anyone other than Trump.
In a statement, Trump’s lawyer Steve Sadow suggested the former president was uninterested in reaching a deal. “Any comment by the Fulton county district attorney’s office offering ‘deals’ to President Trump is laughable because we wouldn’t accept anything except dismissal,” Sadow said.
But the lack of a plea deal would be a blow to Meadows. The Guardian previously reported that the former Trump White House chief of staff has been “in the market” for a deal in Georgia after he managed to evade charges in the federal 2020 election subversion case in Washington after testifying under limited-use immunity.
It was unclear why prosecutors are opposed to negotiating with Meadows, though the fact that he only testified in Washington after being ordered by a court suggested he might only be a reluctant witness. Reached by phone on Monday, Meadows’s local counsel declined to comment.
The lawyers for Giuliani, meanwhile, have long said he never expected a plea deal offer. Giuliani’s associates have also suggested he wanted to remain loyal to Trump, who is scheduled to host a dinner at Mar-a-Lago in December to raise money to pay for his compounding legal debts.