Opinion If the GOP can’t get rid of Trump, maybe Georgia’s prosecutors can


HR King
May 29, 2001
By Jennifer Rubin
Columnist |
November 14, 2022 at 7:45 a.m. EST

Despite dragging his party to defeat in the midterms, former president Donald Trump is expected to announce his 2024 presidential campaign this week. This would not only obliterate the GOP’s chance to win the runoff election for Georgia’s U.S. Senate seat, but also threaten his party’s prospects two years from now.

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But Republicans will likely learn in the near future that Trump’s latest political humiliation is the least of his worries. He remains in grave legal peril on multiple fronts, and no criminal investigation is a greater threat to him than the one being conducted by Fani Willis, the district attorney for Fulton County, Ga.
Willis is teeing up a strong criminal case against Trump for his attempt to pressure Georgia election officials to overturn the state’s 2020 results. She has been calling the former president’s cronies to testify before a grand jury and is successfully beating back specious challenges to subpoenas from key figures — including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey O. Graham.

A voluminous new report from the Brookings Institution provides a legal road map for the potential prosecution of Trump. The report debunks defenses that Trump will likely deploy and underscores the real possibility that his closest associates might flip in the case, given how many might face criminal liability.

The report sums up the damning facts in the case:
[Trump] and those around him, including his chief of staff and others, made multiple attempts to intervene and overturn the state’s election results. His personal attorneys testified falsely in the state legislature. His campaign pursued a plan to organize false electors that included a bogus slate in Georgia. Trump attempted to replace his own attorney general to seek the unlawful intervention of the Georgia legislature. . . .
Most notably, on Saturday, January 2, 2021, Trump placed a call to Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Trump urged and ultimately threatened Raffensperger to reverse the election outcome — including a demand that Raffensperger “find 11,780 votes” that could be deemed fraudulent and tossed out. That number was exactly one more vote than the margin of Joe Biden’s 11,779-vote victory in the state. If Raffensperger’s office complied with his request, Trump would be named the winner of the state’s presidential election, and presumably could use that development to seek a broader unraveling of the certified election results in other states confirming his defeat.
Trump’s call to Raffensperger is by no means the only action he took demonstrating his intentions. Indeed, the evidence presented in the Brookings report should remove any reasonable doubt the former president was out to steal the election. This includes:
  • Trump’s repeated attempts to discredit the results, even before the election began and despite multiple investigations that found no evidence of fraud.
  • Calls that Trump made, not only to Georgia officials, but to election officials in multiple states to devise slates of phony electors.
  • Trump’s desperate ploy to have the Justice Department send out letters to states falsely indicating there was evidence of fraud.
  • Trump’s attempt to fire then-acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen when he refused to send out such letters.
  • Trump’s enlistment of lawyers, including John Eastman and Cleta Mitchell, to work out a scheme to negate Georgia’s valid, certified electoral slates of electors.
  • Trump’s decision to send his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to falsely testify at a Georgia hearing about already-refuted conspiracy theories. The Brookings report also notes that “Trump’s team continued to pressure Georgia legislators throughout the month of December, with Giuliani meeting again with the Georgia State Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Dec. 30, 2020.”
  • Trump’s attempt to enlist Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel to help his efforts in Georgia.
  • Trump’s refusal to heed pleas from Georgia officials that his bogus allegations were putting election workers and state officials at risk of violence.
Much of these details emerged during hearings conducted by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. Altogether, the evidence against Trump that would be introduced to a trial jury would be staggering.

The Brookings report then applies several Georgia criminal laws to the facts:
These include four principal relevant criminal statutes: 1) solicitation to commit election fraud, Ga. Code Ann. § 21-2-604(a); 2) intentional interference with performance of election duties, Ga. Code Ann. § 21-2-597; 3) interference with primaries and elections, Ga. Code Ann. § 21-2-566; and 4) conspiracy to commit election fraud, Ga. Code Ann. § 21-2-603.
Reading through the report’s compilation of law and facts, it is clear not only that a district attorney could bring such a case against Trump, but also that it is virtually inconceivable that one would refuse to do so. As Norman Eisen, one of the report’s authors and a former co-counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during Trump’s first impeachment, tells me, “We are no longer a democracy if an ex-president can get away with conduct that would lead anyone else to be charged.” While Eisen notes that there might be some exonerating evidence that has yet to come to light, he adds “what [evidence] is known is so strong that charges against Trump are likely.”
Republicans still loyal to Trump who think the former president would be able to evade prosecution should reconsider. The Brookings report analyzes a list of defenses that Trump is likely to make, including “assertions of immunity by virtue of his status as a former president; claims that his conduct was protected by the First Amendment; accusations of selective or retaliatory prosecution; and an insistence that his conduct is shielded from liability because he truly believed his own claims of widespread election fraud.” None of these arguments, the report’s authors conclude, would have any merit.

The report is a sobering reminder of the extent to which a would-be authoritarian would go to retain power illegally. As Eisen tells me, “election denial is a danger to the republic, and unless the election denier-in-chief is charged for his past conduct that appears to have crossed the line to criminality, the threat will persist.”
And so it comes back to Republicans. After torpedoing arguably their best opportunity to
win control of both the House and Senate, Trump is demanding that his party ignore his political failures as well as the exceedingly strong chance he will be indicted in the weeks ahead. Given that Republicans have never shown the nerve to abandon Trump, they might owe a debt of gratitude to Willis should she issue an indictment.
Leave it to a courageous woman to do what hordes of sniveling Republican politicians, donors and insiders cannot: hold Trump accountable.


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