On Monday night, a grand jury in Fulton county, Georgia, delivered a 41-count, 98-page felony indictment. Donald Trump and the names of 18 co-defendants litter its pages. Prosecutors allege that Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, John Eastman, Sidney Powell and a passel of lackeys illegally interfered with the 2020 election and violated Georgia’s anti-racketeering statute.
Trump helmed a “criminal enterprise”, the indictment alleges. He now stands in the shoes of a purported mob boss. Said differently, the likely 2024 Republican presidential nominee personifies the spirit of Tony Soprano.
In hindsight, the so-called “perfect” phone call was anything but that. His request that Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, “find 11,780 votes” has returned to haunt him.
“On or about the 2nd day of January 2021, DONALD JOHN TRUMP and MARK RANDALL MEADOWS committed the felony offense of SOLICITATION OF VIOLATION OF OATH BY PUBLIC OFFICER,” Count 1 of the indictment contends. The duo had unlawfully solicited Raffensperger “to engage in conduct constituting the felony offense of Violation of Oath by Public Officer ….”
Meanwhile, Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor turned Trump consigliere, allegedly peddled lie after lie to state legislators. According to the indictment, Giuliani repeatedly “made false statements concerning fraud in the November 3, 2020, presidential election”. In June 2021, a New York court suspended his law license. Facing a raft of investigations, he seeks to sell his Manhattan apartment for $6.5m.
The 45th president’s rhetorical attacks on witnesses, prosecutors and the court pose a potential legal headache here. Earlier in the day, Trump trashed Jeff Duncan, Georgia’s Republican former lieutenant governor, who was among the last witnesses to testify before the grand jury. Georgia law authorizes bail only where the defendant poses “no significant risk of intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing the administration of justice”.
“Trump was the worst candidate ever, in the history of our party,” Duncan remarked as he left Monday might. “We are going to have to pivot from there.” Maybe, but not before the 2024 election.
Georgia joins Michigan in charging Republican activists in connection with efforts to allegedly subvert the 2020 election. Last month, Dana Nessel, Michigan’s Democratic attorney general, announced the indictment of 16 Republicans who she said falsely stated that they were Michigan’s “duly elected and qualified electors” for president and vice president.
The message of the insurrection lives. On Saturday, Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida told Trump and Iowa Republicans that “only through force do we make any change…” Days earlier, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene laughed about the idea of executing her political rivals. Last week, the FBI fatally shot an armed Utah man who had threatened Joe Biden. Violence lurks.
Seven in 10 Republicans view the Biden presidency as seriously tainted or illegitimate. That perception will further solidify. Merrick Garland, the US attorney general, recently announced that a special counsel would investigate Hunter Biden, the president’s wayward son. Garland had expanded the remit of David Weiss, the Trump-appointed US attorney in charge of the prosecution of Hunter Biden.
At the same time, a filing by the US Department of Justice revealed that the government and the younger Biden’s legal team had reached an impasse. Practically speaking, the likelihood of both Trump and Hunter standing trial is no longer speculative.
For Biden and the Democrats this is a “Houston, we have a problem” moment. Given Hunter’s apparent attraction to drugs, guns, money and sex, his trial would possess the trappings of a circus and soap opera, complete with a readily digestible narrative.
But it doesn’t end there. A trial stands to shine a spotlight on Biden Inc and the ways that the president’s family seems to have cashed in on the Biden name during Joe Biden’s time in public life. Beyond that, and equally worrisome for Democrats, is the possibility that the trial might amplify the president’s silence, if not acquiescence or more, in his family’s financial endeavors.
On the one hand, Biden as a senator was among the poorer members of the august body. “I entered as one of the poorest men in Congress, left one of the poorest men in government – in Congress and as vice president,” he said during a 2020 debate. On the other hand, Biden managed to live well, or at least well enough.
From October onward, Trump faces a blizzard of litigation. The Iowa caucus coincides with another E Jean Carroll defamation trial. Fani Willis, the Fulton county prosecutor, wants her case to go to trial in the next six months, with all 19 defendants in the same courtroom.
Trump’s extensive legal woes burden his campaign. By the numbers, roughly 30 cents out of every one-dollar contribution helps keep him free and his battery of lawyers sated. Yet his earlier indictments fueled a fundraising spurt and a rise in the polls. Small donors are fine with paying for Trump’s legal team. In contrast, Ron DeSantis is in retrograde, changing his campaign team more often than his socks.
Against this backdrop, the Fulton county indictment is best viewed as a potentially surmountable and televised obstacle for Trump and his minions.
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