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Notes on The Indictment of 19 Republicans For Attempting To Overthrow An American Presidential Election in Georgia
The attempt to overturn the 2020 election was a Republican Party wide effort
In my recent post, Notes on Trump’s Insurrection Indictment, I wrote:
I think the central question now that Trump has been indicted is how many other Republicans were part of this illegal conspiracy to overturn the election, and how many of them will get prosecuted in the coming years. The repeated use of “conspiracy” in the initial charges must have sent shock waves through Republican circles on Tuesday as it meant that all of a sudden dozens, perhaps hundreds, of leading Republicans here in Washington and across the US, now had potential legal exposure in this emerging case.
We know related charges have already been brought in Michigan, and more are likely to be brought in Georgia. Recall that in January 6th Committee testimony, the RNC Chair Romney McDaniel admitted, on camera, that she and the RNC played a role in this conspiracy to commit perhaps the most serious crime one can commit in a democracy - the overturning of an election.
We know the DOJ has already successfully prosecuted over 1,000 people for their role in the effort to overturn the election. The next 100-200 charged could be prominent Republicans across the US and in battleground states. For the effort to overturn the election was backed by the Republican Party itself, and Republican leaders in Washington (Lindsay Graham, etc) and across the US. This is serious stuff.
The Watergate prosecutions went on for years after Nixon resigned. Could these prosecutions for trying to overturn an election last for years here in DC and across the country? Certainly feels like that’s more likely today.
While the special prosecutor only charged Trump, he is attempting to establish that Trump helped lead a vast conspiracy to overturn the election, one that involved hundreds of prominent Republicans across the US.
The special prosecutor is working to establish at the Federal level the existence of a conspiracy. This is what Fani Willis did with this charge of conspiracy last night, according to Norm Eisen and Lee Copeland in the NYTimes today:
When Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis filed criminal charges against former President Donald Trump and over a dozen of his allies for their attempt to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election results, she did something ingenious.
In contrast to Special Counsel Jack Smith’s latest laser-focused federal indictment of Mr. Trump, Ms. Willis charges a wide range of conspirators from the Oval Office to low-level Georgia G.O.P. functionaries and is the first to plumb the full depths, through a state-focused bathyscope, of the conspiracy.
Her case also provides other important complements to the federal matter: Unlike Mr. Smith’s case, which will almost certainly not be broadcast because of federal standards, hers will almost certainly be televised, and should Mr. Trump or another Republican win the White House, Ms. Willis’s case cannot be immediately pardoned away. It offers transparency and accountability insurance. As Ms. Willis said in her news conference Monday night, “The state’s role in this process is essential to the functioning of our democracy.”
But the indictment stands out above all because Georgia offers uniquely compelling evidence of election interference — and a set of state criminal statutes tailor-made for the sprawling, loosely organized wrongdoing that Mr. Trump and his co-conspirators are accused of engaging in. It is a reminder of the genius of American federalism: When our democracy is threatened, states have an indispensable part to play in protecting it.
At 98 pages, Ms. Willis’s indictment is more than twice the size of Mr. Smith’s indictment in his Jan. 6 case and contains 19 defendants to his one. The indictment charges 41 counts (to Mr. Smith’s four), among them Georgia election crimes like solicitation of violation of oath by public officer (for Mr. Trump’s infamous demand to Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to just “find 11,780 votes”) as well as state offenses like forgery and conspiracy to commit forgery (for those fabricating the fake electoral certificates) and conspiracy to commit computer trespass (for defendants allegedly unlawfully accessing election machines in Coffee County to attempt to prove that votes were stolen).
The large cast of defendants populates a complete conspiracy chain of command and features the famous (Mr. Trump, his chief of staff Mark Meadows and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani), the infamous (the Trump attorneys John Eastman, Ken Chesebro and Jeffrey Clark) and the unknown (including Georgia state false electors and local Trump campaign allies without whom the plot would have stalled).
Ms. Willis ties them all together by levying one charge against Mr. Trump and each of the 18 other defendants under Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, or RICO, accusing Mr. Trump and his co-conspirators of functioning as a criminal gang.
American law has long recognized through the crime of conspiracy that combinations of criminals are more dangerous than lone wolves. RICO is conspiracy on steroids, providing for stiffer penalties and other advantages like bringing multiple loosely connected conspiracies under one umbrella.
Georgia has one of the most capacious RICO statutes in the country. The state’s Legislature enacted it specifically to “apply to an interrelated pattern of criminal activity” and mandated courts to “liberally construe” it to protect the state and its citizens from harm. Under the law, prosecutors can charge a sprawling criminal enterprise that even includes individuals who may not have known “of the others’ existence,” as one court put it.
Georgia RICO has become Ms. Willis’s signature. She applied it in earlier cases like the Atlanta teacher cheating scandal, in which educators engaged in a wide-ranging scheme to inflate scores on standardized tests, and the prosecution of the rapper Young Thug, in which he co-founded a street gang that was accused of committing almost 200 criminal acts.
In using RICO, Ms. Willis accuses Mr. Trump of functioning like a gang leader overseeing a theft ring, except instead of stealing cash or cars, he and his allies are accused of attempting to purloin the Georgia presidential election results.
Agree with this tweet from former Republican Stuart Stevens:
We have a long road ahead of us to ensure these treasonous criminals are brought to justice, and that our democracy is firmly protected from future assaults. But something important has changed in recent weeks. We are no longer talking just about what Donald Trump did. We are now coming to understand that the vast conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election was a party-wide Republican effort, involving hundreds of prominent Republicans across the US, including the RNC Chair. We need to be calling it now “The Republican Party’s effort to overturn the election” and not just limit it to Trump, or “Trump and his allies.”
These crimes against our democracy are the most serious political crimes in American history, and all efforts to downplay, minimize, wish them away - “locker room talk” - are a betrayal of our democracy and democracies all across the world. Our collective understanding now of what it means to be a “Republican” will soon be:
Lincoln - freed the slaves, saved the Union
Reagan - helped end Communism, ensured freedom and democracy prevailed
Trump/GOP Leaders Across the US - tried, unsuccessfully for now, to end American democracy and establish a fascist dictatorship
It is why we are here at Hopium, why we do our work each day. The fascist threat remains, and our work isn’t done.