It’s become increasingly apparent that the state of Georgia is likely to be the first place Donald Trump faces serious repercussions for his actions to overturn the 2020 election results. With Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis announcing that charging decisions may come as soon as November or December 2022, it seems as if Georgia is on the cusp of indicting Trump for his attempts to defraud and disenfranchise the people of that state.
In the months ahead, Donald Trump will likely face accountability for various crimes in multiple jurisdictions, but the public evidence of his targeted bombardment of Georgia to try to overturn that state’s votes has made it clear that Georgia’s prosecutors have a distinct interest in indicting him there first and seeking accountability for the relentless bombardment of criminal activity in Georgia, a bombardment that no other state experienced to the same extent in the aftermath of the 2020 election.
In the weeks surrounding the 2020 presidential election, Trump became fixated on the state of Georgia. On Election Day 2020, even though votes were still being counted, and even though we now know that President Biden received over 11,000 more votes than Trump, Trump announced anyway that it was “clear that [he had] won Georgia,” and that there was no way Biden would catch up with him. The same night he tweeted, without basis, “We have claimed, for Electoral Vote purposes…the state of Georgia.” In the following days, he also alleged that military ballots in Georgia were “missing”. Those ballots were, in fact, counted along other absentee ballots at the State Farm Arena, where Trump later falsely claimed that poll workers illegally brought in “suitcases” full of fraudulent votes for Biden. Even though that claim was flatly debunked by the Justice Department as well as Georgia state officials, that malicious falsehood led to harassment and death threats against two Georgia women who worked the polls that evening, as well as Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his family.
Trump and his surrogates inundated Georgia residents and officials with disinformation. From the public evidence, it appears that Trump used surrogates, including attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, and John Eastman, to pressure the Georgia legislature to disregard the certified popular vote totals and take unlawful action so that he could claim the state’s 16 electoral votes. He sent White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on an unannounced visit to the state, attempting to pressure state election officials who were conducting an audit. Trump himself directly suggested that the lead investigator on that audit ignored lawful procedures, apparently soliciting him to commit election fraud.
There is public evidence that, when these efforts failed to achieve Trump’s desired goals, his team took the extraordinary and unlawful step of recruiting and organizing a group of Georgia residents to serve as fake electors. This group went on to sign and send so-called ‘certificates’ falsely claiming they were “duly elected and qualified” electors authorized to cast Georgia’s 16 Electoral College votes for Trump. All these activities took place even before Trump’s infamous call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pressuring him to “find” 11,780 votes, the exact number needed to flip the state’s vote tally.
These actions are not only far outside of the norm–truly inconceivable for any other candidate in any other race–but they are very likely criminal. In a new report co-written by experts from Brookings and CREW and other leading authorities, we explain how Georgia voters, and in particular Georgia voters of color in places like Fulton and DeKalb County, were uniquely targeted and central to Trump’s illegal plot to overturn the 2020 election and disenfranchise millions of voters. In the report, we show that Willis has a strong case in Georgia against Trump, his attorneys and potentially others, for solicitation of election fraud and conspiracy to commit election fraud, among other charges.
It has been widely reported that in addition to election-specific charges, Willis is also considering bringing charges against Trump under Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Of all the charges that we expect Willis may bring, this is arguably the most significant. The RICO statute recognizes that, if violations of individual criminal statutes by a single person are bad, a larger enterprise that repeatedly violates the law is worse and should be punished more severely.
RICO charges were originally conceived of to prosecute organized crime. RICO allows law enforcement agencies to pursue individuals orchestrating and ordering criminal activity in furtherance of criminal organizations like the mafia, even if they did not personally commit the crimes. Like the mob bosses of the past brought to justice through RICO charges, Trump appears to have personally choreographed a plan to overturn the election results in Georgia, and he appears to have had a team of people working to carry out his plans through deceit and pressure. Donald Trump is Al Capone in this scenario, and Giuliani, Eastman, and Meadows are his lieutenants.
The evidence in the public domain seems to clearly show an insidious pattern of criminal conduct which undermined democracy in Georgia and in America and came dangerously close to snuffing it out. For democracy to survive, that cannot go unpunished.