Georgia on his mind?

Keeping score of all the criminal charges against serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) is not easy because there are so many of them. As of now, he has been indicted in four different jurisdictions (Washington DC, Manhattan, Miami, and Atlanta) by three different prosecutors (Jack Smith, Alvin Bragg, and Fani Willis) for a total of 91 criminal counts. SSAT has managed to evade consequences for his actions for all his life, mainly by lying, not putting down anything is writing, using verbal commands to get other people to do his bidding, and then buying their silence or threatening them.

But it seems unlikely that SSAT can sweep the board and be acquitted on all the 91 charges and he faces the real threat of going to prison. His best bet is to try and win back the presidency. If he does so, he can use the presidential pardon process to try to pardon himself. Whether he can do so is an untested issue and will surely be challenged in the courts. But even if it is found that he can, that can only be done for the federal offenses that have been brought by Smith. What he is more likely to do if he becomes president is to order his attorney general to drop the federal cases and you can be sure that he will only appoint an AG who will agree in advance to do that. That and any self-pardon should be impeachable offenses but the unprincipled Republicans in congress will do no such thing.

When it comes to the state prosecutions, New York has a Democratic governor who is unlikely to pardon SSAT but the consensus is that the Manhattan indictments are the weakest of of them and he may be able to get off.

It is the Georgia indictments that are likely to be the most problematic. While the governor of Georgia Brian Kemp is a Republican, he did not support SSAT’s claims of the election being stolen and he repeated that yesterday. Even if SSAT and his supporters try to pressure Kemp to do so, his hands are tied by Georgia law that has taken the pardon power away from the governor.

Second, because this indictment does not involve federal crimes, Trump can’t try to evade the law with a self-pardon, either lodged in a drawer for safekeeping before he left office (a disturbing possibility that would presumably spark a major court fight) or issued if he is elected for another term (in that event he wouldn’t need a pardon—he could just shut down the DOJ probe). In Georgia, Trump can’t even rely on a Republican governor to wave a magic wand and issue a pardon. Georgia is one of only a handful of states that assigns the power to a special panel, the Board of Pardons and Paroles, whose members are appointed by the governor but serve staggered, seven-year terms. Pardons are only available post-conviction and after a defendant has served five years of his sentence. [My italics-MS]

There is thus a very good chance that Trump will go to jail at some point. Even if he wins four more years in the White House, that will not stop this state criminal trial or the execution of a sentence, which, if he were re-elected to the presidency, he could presumably be forced to serve after his term ends.

The RICO charge that was brought in Georgia carries a minimum five-year prison sentence upon conviction.

The original federal RICO statute was designed to make mob bosses accountable for crimes they ordered someone else to do, by letting prosecutors brand the entire organization as an ongoing criminal enterprise. After the federal law was passed, 33 states followed suit with their own versions. Since then, the applications of Georgia’s RICO law have expanded beyond traditional organized criminal networks. 

Building unorthodox Georgia RICO cases just happens to be Willis’ signature move. Before she was elected Fulton County’s top local prosecutor in early 2021, Willis was best known for leading a racketeering case against 12 public school teachers in Atlanta accused of falsifying their students’ scores on standardized tests to improve their schools’ standing. At the time, she argued that the teachers violated Georgia’s RICO law by using the school system, a “legitimate enterprise,” to engage in widespread cheating. Eleven educators were convicted.

So Georgia poses the biggest threat to SSAT. What should be alarming to him is that the district attorney Fani Willis has a reputation for thoroughness.

Willis has urged patience from the beginning of her investigation and is fond of saying she doesn’t try “skinny cases,” meaning she likes to have lots of evidence. And Rucker, her former colleague, said he’s not surprised the investigation has stretched on so long, saying the two of them worked every day for almost two years to prepare for the school cheating case.

While she’s likely to let her hand-picked group of prosecutors handle the trial, there’s no question she’s calling the shots, Rucker said. With a case of this magnitude, she would have required those on her team to gather and digest an enormous amount of information and would have grilled them to make sure there were no holes, he said.

“When she says stuff like, ‘We’re ready to go,’ that’s not being braggadocious,” Rucker said. “It’s her saying pretty much to anybody who’s interested, ‘Look, we’re ready.’”

SSAT will of course levy a barrage of insults against her, but she seems ready for it.

Trump stepped up his criticism of Willis in advance of the charges, calling the 52-year-old Black woman “a young woman, a young racist in Atlanta.”

Willis has long declined to comment on Trump’s insults. But with his campaign running a vicious attack ad last week, she emailed her staff to warn that it included “derogatory and false information” about her and instructed them not to react publicly.

“You may not comment in any way on the ad or any of the negativity that may be expressed against me, your colleagues, this office in coming days, weeks or months,” she wrote. “We have no personal feelings against those we investigate or prosecute and we should not express any. This is business, it will never be personal.”

Kim Wehle argues that the Georgia case is less abstract than some of the others, which may make it easier for jurors to wrap their minds around it.

The Georgia indictment, however, is different. It involves real people with respectable lives who suffered serious harm. In addition to the charges listed above, it includes Influencing Witnesses (as well as Criminal Attempt to Commit Influencing Witnesses). These charges relate to the heartbreaking story of two election workers, Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss.  According to the indictment, Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani labeled Freeman “a professional vote scammer and known political operative” who “stuffed the ballot boxes.” She and her daughter were accused by Trump and his operatives with being “responsible for fraudulently awarding at least 18,000 ballots to” Biden. Another co-defendant, Trevian Kutti, Kanye West’s ex-publicist, allegedly traveled to Freeman’s home and attempted to pressure her into admitting baseless fraud claims or face arrest within 48 hours.

If SSAT is convicted of any charge before the election, that would harm his chances, however much he may put a brave face on it and claim that it will help him, which is what they say whatever happens. Given all the hurdles he faces, SSAT’s best strategy may be to delay things as much as possible.


  1. Oggie: Mathom says

    SSAT has managed to evade consequences for his actions for all his life, mainly by lying, not putting down anything is writing, using verbal commands to get other people to do his bidding, and then buying their silence or threatening them.

    Which is exactly how the mafia operates. And other organized criminal gangs.
    And even disorganized criminal gangs (like everything having to do with Trump).
    Which is why RICO statutes were created.

  2. says

    Not Jack Kemp, former AFL quarterback, congressman, housing secretary and running mate to Bob Dole, but Brian Kemp is currently governor of Georgia. [I corrected it. Thanks! -Mano]

    I would say Trump’s approach of not putting things in writing fell by the wayside with the coming of social media--it’s all out there, as well as enough appearances on video for me to conclude he’s guilty of some things. Sometimes ego gets the better of people like that.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    If SSAT is convicted of any charge before the election, that would harm his chances

    Citation needed.

    I don’t say this flippantly. Consider all the things that came up before he was even President. Are memories really this short? Just ONE example: a month before the election, an audio tape was produced in which Trump could be heard boasting that because he’s famous, he can simply sexually assault women -- “grab ’em by the pussy” -- and “they let you do it”. In any rational world, that should have completely torpedoed his chances. Apparently it did reduce his support… But in case anyone’s forgotten, he still won that election.

    SSAT’s best strategy may be to delay things as much as possible

    It’s not “may be”, it’s “definitely”. He’s got nothing else at this point. That’s been the case all along. It will be very interesting to see if any of these pending cases concludes, or even reaches trial, before the election. It’s in the nature of the legal system to delay and delay and delay.

    Worst case scenario I can see now is he’s found guilty of something next October. The concept of being able to vote for a convicted criminal is the sort of thing I think would appeal to a large number of USAians. And I dread to even consider the prospect of what he’d do in office if he won under such circumstances. How would it even work? Would he automatically be released? Could be inaugurated in his cell? As ever with this clownshow, none of the usual rules apply.

  4. garnetstar says

    And now, did you see, the Republicans in the GA state legislature are proposing passing a law that will allow the governor to pardon Trump! They seem quite pessimistic about his chance of aquittal! But, passing the law would require a two-thirds vote in both houses and the vote of 60% of the voters of GA.

    They sure are open about just being rulers, not representatives!

  5. birgerjohansson says

    Feralboy 12 @ 2
    I remember the late Bob Dole. He must have been the last Republican presidential candidate I could respect.
    The dude who picked Sarah Palin to be VP was nuts.
    Mitt Romney has a trace of moral backbone but endorses the same terrible policies as the Uruk-Hai that have taken over the Republican party.

    Generally, to get through to MAGA voters (and a jury), the simpler the better. There will of course be many who remain convinced he is innocent, but f☆¤ck them.

  6. jenorafeuer says

    In the short term, I think the Washington case is the most dangerous one for Trump. It’s narrow, focused, and deliberately didn’t indict a lot of the co-conspirators, practically encouraging them to backstab each other (which they’ve rather publicly been doing). It’s not only got a good chance of being completed before the election, it’s got charges that could actually disqualify Trump from holding public office.

    In the long term, though, I think this is the most dangerous case. With all the indictments and all the possible procedural delays that can be brought against it, I think the chances of it being completed before the election are slim. But Trump can’t get rid of it easily, and while it’s a complex case, one of the advantages of RICO is that it allows the prosecutors to pull a lot of things together into a single narrative, and people tend to respond better to narratives than to facts.

    The Washington case is a sniper shot: the Georgia case is an artillery barrage.

    It’s pretty much a guarantee that at least some of the people involved in the Georgia case are going to try to get it moved to a federal court, ostensibly due to some of the events taking place outside of Georgia but in reality so that Trump may have the ability to pardon anybody involved. Of course, the people running the case in Georgia know that as well.

    The New York case is a distraction at most. It’s the weakest case and the one with the least impact even if Trump loses; all it really means is that he’ll have to rely more on the PACs to do his campaign fundraising with less backup. Which he was already doing anyway.

    The Florida case is bad for him, but it’s unfortunately not ‘can stop him from running’ bad. It’s also almost yesterday’s news at this point, though that’s not going to be a constant thing, obviously.

  7. mikey says

    @5:”Mitt Romney has a trace of moral backbone but endorses the same terrible policies as the Uruk-Hai that have taken over the Republican party.” This is a sign of how far things have slid. Mitt Romney is a textbook cartoon villain- rich prep school bully whose public-sector job experience was as a corporate raider who destroyed companies for profit, and who as a politician says literally whatever he thinks his audience wants to hear at any given time.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    … four different jurisdictions (Washington DC, Manhattan, Miami, and Atlanta)…

    The Southern District of Florida includes Miami-Dade, but Trump’s Florida trial is presently scheduled for the small city of Fort Pierce (population about 48K).

    … the Georgia case is less abstract than some of the others, which may make it easier for jurors to wrap their minds around it.

    But it also involves 19 defendants, most of them busy little bad beavers indeed, and a kaleidoscope of kriminality. Anyone who thoroughly wraps their minds around all of it may emerge with permanent psychological damage -- even without factoring in the confusion (deliberate and otherwise) virtually guaranteed by the orders of the highly inexperienced and biased Judge Aileen “Loose” Cannon.

  9. Pierce R. Butler says

    Oops -- the part about Judge Cannon @ my # 8 belongs with the part about the Southern District of Florida. (The Georgia case judge seems, so far, a competent and experienced professional.)

    I predict we will all get utterly confused by the parallel demolition derby coming up, even before the Murdoch/Putin smoke-‘n’-mirrors operatives get into high gear.

  10. birgerjohansson says

    Mikey @ 7
    Excuse me for asking, are you the friend of the late Ed Brayton? (I realise it is a common name in the US).
    Pierce R. Butler @ 9
    I have been confused since SSAT came down that escalator in 2015. Are we all stuck inside an episode of South Park?

  11. birgerjohansson says

    Apart from the grim judicial system, there are probably few things to be cheerful about in Georgia -outside Atlanta and other major cities- during the current MAGA rule. Not fun belonging to a minority, especially in the rural parts.
    At least SSAT will have company with plenty of other White supremacists if he ends up behind bars

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