Donald Trump is being charged with racketeering in the US state of Georgia.

What is racketeering? How serious are the charges? And why has Trump been accused of this crime?

Let’s discuss these important questions in today’s episode of Thinking in English!

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  • Charges (plural n) – Formal accusations of wrongdoing, often leading to legal action.
    • Trump is facing charges including racketeering.
  • Legal case (n) – A matter that involves legal proceedings, typically in a court of law.
    • Out of Trump’s many legal cases, the one in Georgia may be the most serious.
  • Influence (v) – The power to affect or change something, often related to manipulation.
    • He is accused of trying to influence election officials after losing the 2020 election
  • Insurrection (n) – A violent uprising against authority or government.
    • Trump may also be charged for his involvement in the July 6th insurrection.
  • Criminal organisation (n) – A group engaged in unlawful activities, typically with a structured hierarchy.
    • Trump and his allies have been accused of forming a criminal organisation.
  • Racket (n) – A systematic scheme that carries out various criminal actions.
    • The key charges suggest they were running a racket trying to influence election results illegally.
  • Prosecutors (n) – Legal officials responsible for bringing criminal charges against individuals.
    • After months of investigations, prosecutors finally decided to charge the individuals involved.
  • Election interference (n) – Efforts to manipulate or influence election outcomes.
    • If found guilty of election interference, Trump could spend time in jail!

Trump is Being Arrested?

Former US President Donald Trump has been charged by the state of Georgia with attempting to interfere in the results of the 2020 election!

The investigation was launched in February 2021, and after 2 years has decided there is enough evidence to prosecute Trump and 18 of his allies.

Trump has until August 25th to surrender to the state of Georgia. He will be processed by the state’s legal system, have his picture taken (known as a mugshot), and then likely be released on bail until his trial.

Georgia is accusing Trump of being part of a criminal organisation that sought to overturn the 2020 election result in Georgia. The charges against the group include racketeering – a serious crime which falls under the RICO laws which were designed to prosecute mafia groups.

This is what I want to explain to all of you today. If you follow this news story, you will hear terms like racketeering a lot over the next few months. What is racketeering? What is RICO? And how much trouble is Trump actually in?

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What is Trump Accused of Doing?

Before we get into the latest racketeering charges, we should point out that Donald Trump is not just being accused in one legal case.

He has faced a series of legal challenges and charges in recent years. Most of these accusations are related to his activities and conduct during and after his presidency.

I even did an episode a year ago discussing four potential cases against Trump – since then many of these turned into real and serious legal charges (and there are probably some new things too).


New York Investigations

In New York, there have been a number of different investigations into Trump and his businesses.

First Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. conducted a criminal investigation into Trump’s financial records, focusing on allegations of tax fraud and tax evasion.

Similarly, the New York Attorney General Letitia James initiated a civil investigation into the Trump Organization’s business practices.


Federal Investigations

There have also been a number of federal investigations into Trump. As you may know, the US government is split into different levels – and this also applies to laws. Federal law is basically the national law, the laws made by the politicians in Washington DC and the President.

During his time as President, Trump faced investigations into the Obstruction of Justice. This looked at Trump’s involvement in interfering with an investigation into Russian influence in US politics. He wasn’t charged, but the report was critical of him.

He was also accused of paying Hush Money (or money to make someone stop speaking publicly) to women who had affairs with him. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to this charge.

And at the moment there is still a chance that Trump will be formally charged for his role in the July 6th insurrection, in which his supporters stormed the Capitol building after losing the 2020 election.


Impeachment Trials

In fact, Trump was impeached twice as President due to his actions. Impeachment is a political process in which the US House of Representatives “charges” a President with breaking rules or illegal actions, and then a trial is held in the US Senate.

First, he was impeached in 2019 over accusations of obstruction of Congress and Abuse of Power. He tried to make Ukraine investigate Joe Biden and Biden’s son, who at the time was his main rival in the upcoming election. He was acquitted by the Senate.

And then after the July 6th insurrection, Trump was once again impeached, and then acquitted.

Trump’s Charges in Georgia

Clearly, Trump is a controversial figure. But perhaps the charges in the US State of Georgia are the most serious out of all that he is facing.

In Georgia, he has been charged with multiple offenses, related to his alleged involvement in an effort to change the results of the state’s 2020 presidential election.

During that election, Trump and his associates allegedly attempted to undermine or subvert the election results.

You may remember the confusion and anger after the results were announced.


Trump and his legal team contested the 2020 election results in multiple states, including Georgia, by making allegations of widespread voter fraud and irregularities. Trump and some of his supporters claimed that the election was “stolen” from him and sought to challenge the results.

Most of these challenges were legal and fair. But in some cases there may have been illegal actions carried out by Trump’s team. Georgia is accusing Trump, and his associates, of engaging in such illegal activities.

There are a number of charges against Trump in Georgia.

It is alleged that he made false statements to officials and politicians in the state. In other words, they lied to officials as part of their efforts to challenge election results.

As well as making false statements, they are accused of filing false documents and forgeries, attempting to influence officials, and even impersonating officials. All of these were attempts to lie and use incorrect or misleading information to challenge the democratic elections.

However, the main and most serious charge against Trump is that he engaged in a racketeering conspiracy.  Trump, and 18 others, have been accused under the state of Georgia’s RICO laws.

What is racketeering? And what is a RICO law?

What is Racketeering?

Racketeering is a legal term that refers to a pattern of illegal activity, typically associated with organised criminals or enterprises.

These enterprises can take various forms, such as organised crime families (like the mafia), street gangs, corrupt businesses, or even corrupt government officials. Laws on racketeering aim to target not only the individuals directly committing crimes but also those who are part of the larger criminal organisation.

Racketeering involves the operation of a “racket,” which is a scheme engaging in various criminal activities systematically. In fact, racketeering encompasses a wide range of illegal actions.

It includes crimes like extortion, money laundering, bribery, drug trafficking, fraud, obstruction of justice, and even murder for hire. These activities are often interconnected.

The law being used to charge Trump and his associates in Georgia is known as a RICO law.

What is RICO?

RICO, which stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, is a significant law within the United States. It was introduced at the national level in 1970 to combat organised crime, specifically targeting the mafia.

At the time, the mafia was incredibly powerful and influential, especially in areas like New York and in industries like construction. They operated through a complicated network of individuals, groups, and businesses – meaning that the leaders of the group were often not directly involved in many of the illegal activities.

The main purpose of the RICO act was to provide the police, FBI and prosecutors with a powerful legal tool to destroy criminal organizations by targeting not just individual criminal acts but also the entire corrupt enterprise behind them.

Prosecutors do not always have to prove that every defendant directly participated in criminal activity. Instead, they need to establish that each defendant was part of the larger criminal organization and knowingly contributed to its criminal activities, even if indirectly.


While the RICO act is a federal, or national, law in the US, many US states have passed their own version of the law, often with variations and more powers. It is also no longer limited to organised crime, meaning it can be applied to other forms of large criminal enterpise. It has been used in cases of corporate fraud, political corruption, financial crimes, and now election interference.

This is the allegations against Trump in Georgia. That he created a criminal enterprise involving a number of different organisations and businesses, which worked together to influence the election results.  

Importantly, RICO laws allow prosecutors to not only target the criminal organization but also individual members, even if they did not directly commit specific crimes.

In the case of Trump, while he may not have directly committed forgeries or lied to officials, he can still be charged as the leader of the organisation.

Convictions under RICO laws come with significant penalties. Those found guilty can face substantial prison sentences, ranging from 5 to 20 years for each count, depending on the severity of the crimes involved. RICO can also take money and assets from individuals and organisations involved in crime.

However, RICO cases tend to be challenging due to the need to prove both the existence of a criminal enterprise and a pattern of criminal activity. These cases often involve multiple defendants and extensive investigations.

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How Much Trouble is Trump in?

So, how much trouble is Trump actually in? Could he actually end up in jail?

Possibly! The charges in Georgia are the most serious so far. In total, and along with 18 others, he faces 41 different charges related to racketeering and electoral interference.

If found guilty on all, or any, of these charges, he could definitely be sent to prison. Trump claims that he could face 561 years in jail… and previous cases prosecuted under RICO laws have received long jail sentences.

Trump’s legal defence is that he is innocent and that the charges are politically motivated.

He has also been using the case in Georgia as a tool in his campaign for re-election in 2024. Trump’s legal issues and election campaign are completely connected.

He is using the charges to motivate his supporters, using their donations to pay for his legal fees, and has promised to continue running for president even if he is in prison.

While in previous years Trump’s legal problems have actually boosted his popularity, this time may be different. Especially if he is involved in a long and complicated legal case.

Perhaps more concerning for Trump are the 18 others charged alongside him. While Trump is independently wealthy, and has his supporter’s money, many of the others accused are going to struggle to pay their legal bills. They may be tempted to switch sides and give information.

And Trump does also face all of the other criminal and civil cases I mentioned at the beginning of the episode.

So is Trump in trouble? Yes.

Final Thought

Today I’ve tried to define and explain two key concepts to understanding former President Donald Trump’s latest criminal cases – racketeering and RICO.

These are two terms you will likely hear a lot over the next months, maybe even years. And as a result of these cases, Trump will be facing a lengthy court case and maybe even time in prison.

What do you think? Will Trump be found guilty?

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By Tom Wilkinson

Host and founder of Thinking in English, Tom is committed to providing quality and interesting content to all English learners. Previously a research student at a top Japanese university and with a background in English teaching, political research, and Asian languages, Tom is now working fulltime on bettering Thinking in English!

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