August 16, 2023

Trump Charged in Georgia

Donald Trump faced a new raft of felony charges on Tuesday after a Georgia grand jury used a law developed to take down organized crime gangs to charge the former U.S. president with trying to overturn his 2020 election defeat… The sprawling 98-page indictment listed 19 defendants and 41 criminal counts in all. All the defendants were charged with racketeering, which is used to target members of organized crime groups and carries a minimum penalty of 5 years in prison…

“Echoing his criticism of the many other investigations he faces, Trump called the indictment a political ‘witch hunt’ in a social media post and accused [Fulton County District Attorney Fani] Willis, an elected Democrat, of trying to sabotage his presidential comeback bid. He said he would release a report on Monday on ‘Presidential Election Fraud’ that would exonerate him.” Reuters

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From the Left

The left praises the indictment, arguing that it is necessary to hold Trump accountable for his actions.

“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…

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.”

Richard L. Hasen, Slate

“The case, at its core, is not about the defendants’ words but rather their actions. The evidence offered in the indictment shows an enterprise that pursued, from every angle, a subversion of the democratic process. Especially glaring among the allegations is the breach of election equipment in rural Coffee County, where electronic ballot markers and tabulation machines were tampered with as part of an ‘examination’ organized in part by pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell.”

Editorial Board, Washington Post

“Mr. Trump and his allies could not accept that an emerging multiracial coalition of voters across the state rejected him. Election deniers focused on Atlanta, a city whose Black residents total about half the population, as the place where Georgia’s election was purportedly stolen…

“The conspiracy to overturn Georgia’s presidential election results was replete with acts of intimidation by numerous people. Mr. Trump and Rudy Giuliani engaged in a full-scale harassment campaign against Fulton County election workers when they baselessly alleged that two individuals added fake votes to Mr. Biden’s tally. Mr. Trump threatened [Georgia secretary of state Brad] Raffensperger and a state employee with ‘a criminal offense’ if they declined to join his corruption, warning them they were taking ‘a big risk.’ A healthy democracy cannot tolerate this behavior.”

Anthony Michael Kreis, New York Times

“‘So what are we going to do here folks?’ Trump asked during the one-hour call [with Raffensperger]. ‘I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes.’ Trump still oversaw the Justice Department at the time and threatened Raffensperger with criminal charges if he failed to support the attempted coup…

“Trump isn’t being indicted for what he said. He’s being indicted for what he did. Sure, like any 77-year-old wandering alone and howling at the sky and storms like King Lear, Trump can say whatever he wants. But that doesn’t entitle him to do whatever he wants. His right to howl doesn’t empower him, under US laws, to then try to commit crimes…

“‘All conspiracies involve speech, and all fraud involves speech,’ Trump’s former attorney general, Bill Barr, observed in a recent CNN interview. ‘So, free speech doesn’t give you the right to engage in a fraudulent conspiracy.’”

Timothy L. O'Brien, Bloomberg

From the Right

The right is critical of the indictment, arguing that much of the behavior cited is not criminal.

The right is critical of the indictment, arguing that much of the behavior cited is not criminal.

Can Ms. Willis prove that Mr. Trump’s conduct was criminal, not delusional? ‘I didn’t lose the state, Brad,’ Mr. Trump said [on the call with Raffensperger]. ‘People have been saying that it was the highest vote ever. There was no way.’ He was bewildered that other Republicans hadn’t lost, while he had. ‘They had people in Georgia, for instance, that won, and I was way ahead of them,’ Mr. Trump told a state investigator on a December 2020 call. ‘They call it coat tails, right, and we pulled them across, and they say, ‘there’s no way I beat you by 15 points.’’

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“An often overlooked part of the First Amendment is the right of all Americans to ‘petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’ Trump certainly had a grievance: He believed (and still believes) the election was stolen from him because illegal votes were counted and the votes of some legal voters were not. Trying to persuade state officials to correct that is fully within that protected right under the First Amendment.”

Hans von Spakovsky, Daily Signal

“The indictment recites, with much repetition, the fact that Trump and his allies tried to persuade government officials in Georgia and other states to take actions that could result in the apparent election results being reversed…

“Taking legal steps to try to overturn the apparent result of an election is not illegal. That is what Al Gore did. It is what Stacey Abrams did. It is how Al Franken got into the Senate…

“There are only two small portions of the indictment that allege actual crimes. The first relates to some of the defendants gaining access to a voting machine, and also to some physical ballots, as part of their effort to find evidence of voter fraud. I assume that these actions were actually illegal as alleged in the indictment, but they are not particularly serious and hardly justify the grand conspiracy described in the indictment.”

John Hinderaker, Power Line Blog

Regarding the fake electors, “at that time, there was still a Trump lawsuit pending in Georgia… In the event that a court threw out Biden's victory, Trump would need a slate of electors to cast electoral votes for him. And by law, the electors had to have voted on Dec. 14. If Trump won the case and a state's results were thrown out and Trump had no electors, then the whole election challenge would be a waste…

“At the urging of lawyers working in tandem with the Trump campaign, Trump supporters in Georgia decided to choose electors on Dec. 14 on a contingency basis. That is, the electors would be selected, and if, at a later date, Trump prevailed in court and Biden's electors were disqualified, the Trump electors would be presented to Congress…

“[David Shafer, then head of the state Republican Party] publicly announced the Republicans' intention. He invited the press to cover the meeting at which ‘electors’ were chosen. He tweeted about it when it happened…

Shafer and the others did not claim to be the genuine electors. They explained at the time that the document they signed was a provisional slate. They did so on the advice of lawyers. They told the public precisely what they were doing. And now, Willis says that is a RICO violation, forgery, false statements, and impersonating a public officer.”

Byron York, Washington Examiner

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