If the recent federal indictment of Donald Trump on charges related to his attempt to subvert the 2020 presidential election was a streamlined surgical strike aimed at ensuring a clean case and a speedy trial of the former president before the 2024 election, Monday night’s Georgia indictment is the equivalent of a blitz. With 19 defendants and 41 charges, the heart of the indictment is a sprawling state racketeering charge that places Trump at the center of a vast conspiracy to lie to state officials, pressure election officials to change vote totals, turn in phony slates of fake electors to Congress, influence witness testimony, and gain access to voting machinery and software, all in an effort to turn Trump from an Electoral College loser into a second-term president. And although the action in the state complaint occurred primarily in Georgia, the indictment alleges that part of the conspiracy, which included the actions of his chief of staff and lawyers, spanned much of the continent, from Arizona to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin to Washington. The case will be messy and difficult to manage, especially given Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ stated intention to try all 19 defendants together.
But the biggest difference between the federal case and the state case isn’t the number of defendants or counts in the indictment. It’s about the central role that race is likely to play not in the federal case but in the state case, from the race of the prosecutor, to the focus on Black election worker Ruby Freeman, to the essential nature of the race-baiting bogus voter-fraud charges in Georgia that formed Trump’s basis for falsely claiming that he was the rightful winner.
First, expect Trump to attack Willis in especially harsh terms. It’s not as though Trump has treated Jack Smith, the special counsel in charge of the federal probe, kindly. He has called Smith “deranged” and a “lowlife prosecutor.”
But Trump has a record of being especially hostile toward Black women, from journalists, to Vice President Kamala Harris, to New York Attorney General Letitia James, whom Trump for no reason branded a “racist” after she brought tax charges against the Trump Organization. He recently said that Tanya Chutkan, the Jamaican-born U.S. district court judge hearing the federal election interference case, is “highly partisan” and “VERY UNFAIR & BIASED.” Indeed, even before the indictment was unsealed on Monday, Trump’s campaign was attacking Willis in personal terms, calling her a “radical Democrat” and “rabid partisan.”
Willis is especially a threat to Trump because he holds no power over her. Even if he becomes president again in 2024, he cannot stop her prosecution or attempt to pardon himself of state crimes. The best he could try to do is delay his prosecution until he is no longer president. In Georgia, the governor has no power to pardon either, so it is not as though Trump could appeal to someone over Willis’ head to get relief. And the RICO statute, which formed the basis for the indictment’s primary charge, carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. [Continue reading…]