One of the many criminal investigations of Donald Trump may have ramped up to another level this weekend. Specifically, the investigation into Trump's efforts to compel Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to commit election fraud in his favor.
Last month, Fani Willis, the newly elected district attorney in Fulton County — home to Atlanta — began a criminal investigation into the shakedown, including the infamous January 2 phone call. We expected that it would be a classic slow-motion strangulation — the only proper way to take down a former president, especially one with a cult-like following. Things have moved along enough for Willis to empanel a grand jury as part of the investigation. Now, she has brought in one of the nation's leading racketeering experts to assist in the investigation.
According to Reuters:
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has enlisted the help of Atlanta lawyer John Floyd, who wrote a national guide on prosecuting state racketeering cases. Floyd was hired recently to "provide help as needed" on matters involving racketeering, including the Trump investigation and other cases, said the source, who has direct knowledge of the situation.
The move bolsters the team investigating Trump as Willis prepares to issue subpoenas for evidence on whether the former president and his allies broke the law in their campaign to pressure state officials to reverse his Georgia election loss. Willis has said that her office would examine potential charges including "solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering" among other possible violations.
Floyd's book, RICO State by State: A Guide to Litigation Under the State Racketeering Statutes, outlines the complex legal requirements that prosecutors must meet in order to win a state racketeering case.
The significance? Georgia's version of RICO makes false statements to state officials a predicate act. According to several Georgia lawyers, Willis might be considering whether false statements Trump and his minions made to Raffensperger and other state officials fall under that law.
Willis has used this law before. She made her reputation as the lead prosecutor in the Atlanta testing scandal—with Floyd as a special prosecutor. She argued that the efforts to correct results on standardized tests amounted to a racketeering enterprise. It worked; all but one of the 12 teachers charged for their roles in the cheating were convicted. Floyd said that "as far as duration and complexity," this was one of the most intense cases he's ever worked. Well, it looks like he's jumped into a case that's going to be exponentially more intense.
Granted, this investigation is still very much in the early stages. But the fact that Willis is even thinking about teeing Trump and/or his acolytes up for racketeering at this point should have him and anyone else on hand for that now-infamous call crapping themselves. Mercer University Law School dean Cathy Cox — the last Democrat to hold the post now held by Raffensperger — put it simply.
"It's not a stretch to see where she's taking this," said Cathy Cox, the dean of Mercer University's law school in Macon, Georgia and a former Georgia secretary of state. "If Donald Trump engaged in two or more acts that involve false statements - that were made knowingly and willfully in an attempt to falsify material fact, like the election results - then you can piece together a violation of the racketeering act."
Racketeering, a felony in Georgia, can carry stiff penalties including up to 20 years in prison and a hefty fine. "There are not a lot of people who avoid serving prison time on a racketeering offense," said Cox.
Former federal prosecutor Kurt Kastorf noted that Trump presumably has a defense—he could argue that he really believed he'd been cheated out of Georgia's 15 electoral votes. Prosecutors would have to prove that Trump knew "that this asserted reason is insincere." Well, there's already ample evidence in the published record that shows Trump knew he'd lost. He knew as early as Nov. 7-8 that he was shooting his last legal bolt, and as early as Nov. 12 that there was no chance of reversing Biden's win in court.
The irony of this is freaking golden. We already know Trump can't handle strong women, especially strong women of color. And now two Black female prosecutors are breathing down his neck. Remember, New York state Attorney General Letitia James is helping shepherd another wide-ranging investigation into Trump.
It cannot be stated enough—barely a month into this investigation, and Willis is at least thinking about hitting Trump with the legal equivalent of napalm. Pass the popcorn.
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