Former U.S. president Donald Trump pleaded not guilty Thursday to allegations that he illegally tried to upend his 2020 election loss in the southern state of Georgia. He also waived his scheduled arraignment in the case that had been set for next week.
That means Trump, one of 19 defendants in the racketeering and election interference case, won't have to show up before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee for an initial court appearance in Atlanta in the coming days. No trial date has been set in the case, but it is likely to be months from now.
Several of Trump's co-defendants have also pleaded not guilty and waived their right to a formal arraignment.
Trump last week flew from his golf resort in New Jersey to Atlanta to surrender at the Fulton County Jail and be arrested and booked on 13 charges. While there, he was fingerprinted and became the first former president to have his mug shot taken.
Trump, the leading 2024 Republican presidential candidate, has since used the sullen, unsmiling photo of himself on T-shirts, coffee cups and other campaign paraphernalia to raise money. He has captioned the photo, "Never Surrender," even though he now has surrendered in four criminal cases he is facing.
Trump critics are also selling campaign bric-a-brac with the mug shot, captioning theirs with his inmate number, P01135809.
Trump and some of his supporters in Georgia have demanded the impeachment of the prosecutor in the case, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, an action that would have to be initiated in the Georgia state legislature.
But on Thursday, Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican who has long dismissed Trump’s claims that he won the 2020 vote in Georgia, rejected any impeachment effort against Willis, a Democrat.
“In Georgia, we will not be engaging in political theater that only inflames the emotions of the moment,” Kemp said at a news conference. “We’ll do what is right, we will uphold our oath as public servants, and it’s my belief that our state will be better off for it.”
The Georgia case centers on Trump's taped January 2021 phone call to state election officials asking them to "find" him 11,780 votes, one more than Democrat Joe Biden's margin of victory, so Trump could claim victory in the state.
In addition, Trump is accused to scheming to create a slate of 16 electors from Georgia claiming he won the state rather than the legitimate ones favoring Biden.
In the U.S., the presidency is not decided by the national popular vote but rather in the Electoral College, with 50 state-by-state elections in which the largest states hold the most sway in the Electoral College vote count to determine the presidential outcome.