Trump pleads not guilty in Georgia election interference case

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ATLANTAFormer President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty Thursday in the Georgia criminal case accusing him of racketeering and conspiracy in connection with the effort to overturn the 2020 election, according to court documents.

Trump’s lawyers submitted the plea in writing and notified the court that he will not appear in person for the scheduled arraignment next week, which is allowed under Georgia law.

The former president said in the court filing Thursday that he had discussed the charges in the indictment with his attorney, "and I fully understand the nature of the offenses charged and my right to appear at arraignment." He added that he "freely and voluntarily" waived his right to be present at his arraignment and to have it read to him in open court.

Trump, who's running for president again, had been scheduled to be arraigned on the charges at 9:30 a.m. ET next Wednesday.

Separately on Thursday, Trump's attorneys filed a motion to sever his case from those of his co-defendants who have demanded a speedy trial and who have scheduled a trial date for Oct. 23. Only Kenneth Chesebro, one of the 18 co-defendants, has a trial set for that date.

Later Thursday, former Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis entered a plea of not guilty and filed a waiver appearance for next week's arraignment.

Trump was charged with felony racketeering and numerous conspiracy counts as part of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ sweeping investigation into the effort by him and his allies to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia, a battleground state.

The former president's co-defendants are expected to be arraigned Wednesday, including his former lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who is scheduled to be arraigned at 9:45 a.m. The arraignments of the remaining co-defendants will continue at 15-minute intervals.

Other defendants who have waived their arraignment appearances and pleaded not guilty include: Ray Smith, an attorney who represented Trump in Georgia cases related to the 2020 election; former Trump attorney Sidney Powell; and Chicago-based publicist Trevian Kutti.

Trump and his co-defendants, who also face racketeering and other charges, were booked at the Fulton County Jail last week.

Trump was released from custody after he surrendered to authorities under conditions agreed upon, including a $200,000 bond. The conditions also prohibit him from doing anything a judge could interpret as an effort to intimidate co-defendants or witnesses or “otherwise obstruct the administration of justice.”

A trial date has not yet been set. Willis has proposed March 4, but the trial in the federal election interference case has since been set for that date in Washington, D.C. — one day before Super Tuesday in the Republican presidential primaries.

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