The indictment of Donald Trump and 18 allies for election subversion in Georgia is “a nuclear bomb where a bullet would have been appropriate”, a Republican member of the House judiciary committee said.
“It is a Rico charge primarily,” Ken Buck of Colorado told MSNBC, referring to racketeering law under which Trump and others are charged.
“And in my view as a former federal prosecutor and state prosecutor, the federal indictment [against Trump for election subversion, on four counts] could have been a Rico indictment. They didn’t choose to go the Rico route and I think properly so.
“Rico was meant to cover mafia cases, it was meant to cover international drug organisations.”
The Georgia charge, Buck said, was “really a nuclear bomb where a bullet would have been appropriate and I think the the scope of this charge is really something that should have been done at the federal level if it was going to be done at all.”
The district attorney of Fulton county, Fani Willis, obtained the 98-page indictment on Monday. Trump faces 13 counts over his attempt to reverse his defeat by Joe Biden in Georgia in 2020. Charges against allies including Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman and Sidney Powell make it the widest-ranging such indictment yet filed.
Trump claims political persecution, as he does in all cases against him, a roster now running to 91 criminal charges (also covering hush-money payments and retention of classified information), a defamation case centered on a rape claim and cases involving his business affairs.
Despite such unprecedented legal jeopardy, Trump dominates Republican polling, leading by around 40 points, seeming set to face Biden again next year even while a succession of trials are held. If elected, Trump could not pardon himself in Georgia or in the case over payments to a porn star, which was filed in New York.
Republicans in Congress and in the presidential race have mostly stayed firmly behind Trump. Buck is a conservative known to be more independent than many. He told MSNBC: “I think there’s a lot to be concerned about. Anytime a grand jury brings charges, you’ve got to be very concerned.
“I think that some of these cases are more likely to be successful. I think the case involving the classified documents is a case that has fairly straightforward elements to it. And if in fact, the facts that are alleged are true, that’s a very difficult case to defend.”
Echoing defenses floated by Trump’s lawyers – and rejected by experts – Buck added: “I think these other cases involve speech and really the president’s mental state and to say that he knew he had lost the election is going to be very difficult to prove.
“There were people around him who said that he lost. There are people around him who said that he didn’t lose, that the election was stolen. And I think to show his mental state in both the federal election case as well as this election case, is going to be very difficult.”
Buck said his constituents were split, many believing Trump was “being treated unfairly”. In Congress, he said, it was “difficult” being a Republican when “the news is constantly about Donald Trump and these indictments and his actions during a time of the election and until and after 6 January 2021”, the day Trump incited the deadly Capitol riot.
“And so I think that it is difficult to break through that noise right now and try to get a positive message.”
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