It’s not exactly news — at least not to anyone remotely familiar with the difference between the truth and a lie — that Donald Trump and his sordid, quasi-comical gang of third-raters tried mightily to undermine and overturn the 2020 presidential election.
But it is news when a prosecutor makes the criminal case so dramatically and so directly and, mostly, so on point.
In the fourth indictment brought against Trump in just four months, the former guy has finally been charged with racketeering — a term first used in a legal context during Prohibition to describe the activities of, say, Al Capone and friends — for attempting to organize what amounted to a hit on democracy. I’d say it fits perfectly.
In other words, when you read the 92-page Georgia indictment — here’s the New York Times’ annotated copy — you should read it as if Trump was (OK, allegedly) no better than a mob boss, if one who managed to hide in plain sight behind the presidential seal.
Trump was directly charged, along with Rudy and Jenna and Sidney and Mark Meadows and John Eastman and the rest, with leading a “criminal enterprise” in the state of Georgia and elsewhere across the country. The case against Trump, 18 charged co-conspirators and 30 more unindicted co-conspirators is being brought under Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, familiarly known as RICO.
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The Georgia law, as presented by Fulton County DA Fani Willis, is based directly on the federal law, which is often used to combat organized crime. You may remember that back when Rudy Giuliani was still in his right mind, he first won fame as a federal prosecutor bringing racketeering cases against the New York mafia’s so-called “Five Families.” Among those he won convictions against were Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, Anthony “Tony Ducks” Corallo and Carmine “Junior” Persico.
Now, Willis is taking the case to Donald “Orange Donnie” Trump and his hapless henchpeople, charging them with “false statements and writings, impersonating a public officer, forgery, filing false documents, influencing witnesses, computer theft, computer trespass, computer invasion of privacy, conspiracy to defraud the state, acts involving theft and perjury.”
Nixon and his plumbers could have only gazed in admiration and, I’d guess, envy.
For others, the view might not be quite so rosy. How much closer to seditious activity do you get than Trump and his team encouraging phony electors to turn in phony certificates and deliver them to the Archivist of the United States? That got Trump and others a charge of forgery and racketeering.
How much more absurd does it get than — note to Tina Peters — actively breaching a voting machine in Georgia’s Coffee County, with direct evidence that the order came from on high?
How much crueler does it get than Trump and team harassing and intimidating an entirely innocent election worker, Ruby Freeman, as well as her daughter — Trump charging that Freeman was a “professional scammer” and “hustler” in his infamous call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Giuliani comparing her to a drug dealer in front of the Georgia legislature? I’ll tell you how much crueler. Because of Trump and Giuliani, Freeman’s life has been under threat.
When special counsel Jack Smith charged Trump — and six unnamed co-conspirators — with a federal charge of attempting to overturn the election, the indictment was sleek and neat and meant to bring Trump to account as directly as possible. Fani Willis’ charge is meant — just as the U.S. House January 6 hearings were meant — to expose the entire crooked enterprise.
It’s not clear how or when these charges will eventually meet the light of day. There are many hurdles yet to be overcome, not least that this is a case brought by a local prosecutor in what amounts to a national conspiracy. But for all the Never Trumpers and anti-Trumpers and anyone who knows the difference between weaponizing the law and enforcing the law, this prosecution is the stuff that dreams are made of.
When trying this as a RICO case, Willis can bring in various charges related to the criminal enterprise of not only trying to overturn the Georgia election results but also related cases in other states, particularly those in which the Trump team was involved in putting together slates of fake electors in order to scuttle the Jan. 6 election certification process.
There were 41 charges brought against Trump and the gang, with 13 counts brought directly against the former president. (He tied Rudy for the most counts.) Among the charges against Trump is the big one, the one that led to this prosecution — his “perfect” call insisting that Raffensperger “find 11,780 votes,” just enough to have given the state, won fairly by Joe Biden, to Trump. It was one of many calls Trump made, but this one had the advantage of having been recorded.
That vote-finding charge alone likely makes the case against Trump and could actually send him to prison, which isn’t to say that the Georgia case doesn’t have some issues. One is that Trump’s team will almost certainly attempt to make it a federal case — that’s literally, not figuratively — which would mean, were Trump to be elected, he could quash it. It could also take the case out of Atlanta, where the jury pool is heavily Democratic.
And since it’s the fourth of four indictments, since RICO cases are generally complex, and since there are 19 named defendants, Willis’ case would almost certainly be the last one heard, meaning any trial would be unlikely to come until after the election. If Trump were president again, he could argue again that a case can’t be brought against a president while in office.
There’s another problem, which several people have brought up, as to whether a local DA should be bringing a case against a president at all. I mean, you could imagine a small-town, right-wing Georgia prosecutor inventing charges against Biden at this very moment. That does seem like a legitimate concern.
But more concerning, at least for Trump, is that he’s now facing four cases and a total of — doing the math here — 91 counts. Those include counts from the hush money case, the purloined classified documents case, the federal election subversion case and now Georgia’s RICO case.
Meanwhile, even as he faces crushing legal bills and growing legal vulnerability, Trump contents himself with crying that, uh, Crooked Joe Biden is persecuting him while lashing out at various judges, prosecutors and witnesses, daring anyone to charge him with contempt for his contemptuous behavior.
At some point, you’d think that even for Trump, there must be limits. But people have been waiting eight years to find one. Whether a fourth case against Trump makes a bit of difference to his supporters, I have no idea. All we know is that so far Trump’s runaway GOP primary poll numbers have seemed to grow with each indictment.
This charge is different. For the first time really, we have a case that attempts to come close to the enormity of Trump’s crimes against democracy. That doesn’t mean it will make a difference. It does mean, at least, that it’s on record, for now and, if there’s any justice, for always.
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