Start your day with National Memo Newsletter
The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning
One of the great ironies – and there are more than a few – in the case in Georgia against Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants is the law being used against them: The Georgia RICO, or Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act. The original RICO Act, passed by Congress in 1970, was meant to make it easier for the Department of Justice to go after crimes committed by the Mafia and drug dealers. The first time the Georgia RICO law was used after it was passed in 1980 was in a prosecution of the so-called Dixie Mafia, a group of white criminals in the South who engaged in crimes of moving stolen goods and liquor and drug dealing.
The Georgia law was passed as a significant expansion of the federal RICO statute to make it even easier to prosecute criminals. The federal RICO Act requires that a criminal enterprise involve multiple individuals committing multiple criminal acts over a long period of time. In Georgia, the act can be used against a single person, and only two crimes need to be committed in relation to a larger criminal goal in order for the act to be used in a prosecution.
In Georgia and elsewhere – copycat laws have been passed all around the U.S. – RICO Acts were heralded and passed in big campaigns for law and order. Early targets of the RICO laws were street gangs, drug operations, and the traditional Italian-American Mafia. Republican politicians put their names on the legislation and campaigned as strong law and order candidates when they ran for office.
And now, irony of all ironies, some of those same Republican politicians find themselves indicted under the very criminal statute they were so proud of passing. The defendants at the top of the indictment ticket, so to speak, are well known Republicans – Trump, Mark Meadows, Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark – but down the ticket are Georgia Republicans who doubtlessly have described themselves as champions of law and order. David Shafer, charged with being a fake elector, is a former chairman of the Georgia Republican Party. Shawn Still, a state senator, is another fake elector. Cathleen Latham is a former chairperson of the Coffee County Republican Party charged with computer theft and being a fake elector in her county. Misty Hampton, a Republican and the election director in Coffee County, has been charged with computer theft and computer trespass.
Every defendant charged with racketeering in Georgia is, of course, a member of the Republican Party, which until recently, at least, was known as the party of law and order. Since the multiple indictments of Donald Trump, however, the Republican Party has taken a sudden pro-crime turn, with many Republicans, including Trump himself, calling for the defunding and dissolution of the Department of Justice and the FBI. In Georgia, former law and order Republicans in the state house of representatives and state senate recently passed a law giving state officials the power to remove from office district attorneys such as Fani Willis who were elected by the citizens of their jurisdictions. They can do this, for example, if a district attorney is prosecuting people who are friendly with them, uh, like fellow Republicans.
How’s that whole law and order thing working out for you, Republicans?
Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.
On September 28, House Republicans held their first impeachment inquiry hearing into an alleged yearslong bribery scandal involving President Joe Biden and his family, and right-wing media were divided on whether it landed.
While House Democrats emphasized throughout the hearing that the evidence presented was flimsy, misleading, or nonexistent, some conservative media figures mocked or criticized those claims. But others admitted they were dissatisfied with the witnesses presented or with the effort overall.
Some right-wing media say the hearing was a dud
- After the hearing concluded, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon said, “We didn’t bring our best.” Bannon complained, “If you're going to impeach a president of the United States, act like it's serious.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 9/28/23]
- Though supportive of impeachment and the supposed evidence behind the inquiry, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk complained the hearing was “taking too long. I mean, we’ve got people that are testifying that are saying, ‘We don’t know if we have the goods.’ This is exhausting.” Kirk later asked why Republicans are “wasting time with this impeachment inquiry. Why don’t they just go ahead with it?” [Salem Media Group, The Charlie Kirk Show, 9/28/23]
- Fox anchor Neil Cavuto followed the hearing with disappointment: “I don’t know what was achieved over these last six-plus hours.” He continued, “When you begin to trumpet what you have as the beginning of an explosive inquiry into the president of the United States to potentially remove him from office, you would think you’d bring your A game.” Cavuto said that much of the evidence presented was either misleading or cut out important context, such as “references to Biden in these remarks as if they were Joe Biden” while they actually referred to Hunter. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 9/28/23]
Others attempted to defend Republicans against claims that there is no evidence to impeach
- Conservative writer Stephen L. Miller mocked Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) asking law professor Jonathan Turley if he could present any “firsthand witness account of crimes committed by” Joe Biden. Miller wrote: “Mr. Turley, did you personally witness the president get handed a pillow sack with the word bribe written on it while dressed like the Hamburgler?” [Twitter, 9/28/23]
- Miranda Devine wrote that Democrats relied on “flawed” Washington Post reports during the hearing “because they have no defense for the damning evidence against Joe Biden.” [Twitter, 9/28/23]
- Fox contributor Mollie Hemingway also mocked Democrats and mainstream media. She wrote: “‘The successful and long-running international Trump real estate business made money despite our best efforts to destroy it so the wide ranging Biden family influence peddling and money laundering scheme is really nothing.’ -- corporate media and other Democrats.” [Twitter, 9/28/23]
- Devine mocked Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY) for introducing testimony from Hunter Biden’s former business partner Devin Archer, saying it “does immense damage to Joe Biden.” [Twitter, 9/28/23]
- Fox host Jesse Watters argued that the “Democrat strategy” is to “ignore the evidence and create a circus.” He claimed that “ridicule and repetition — that’s the plan to deflect from the sleaziest D.C. scandal of our lifetime,” adding that “the press is complicit.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 9/28/23]
- Fox host Sean Hannity claimed that the hearing “did not disappoint,” and even though “the mob and the media and all these Democrats” say “there’s no evidence,” there is “a mountain of evidence” that would “take us hours to play.” [Fox News, Hannity, 9/28/23]
- Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH), James Comer (R-KY), and Jason Smith (R-MO) appeared on Hannity to further present supposed evidence of Biden bribery schemes. According to Comer, “There is overwhelming evidence that Joe Biden was involved in all of these shady business schemes.” [Fox News, Hannity, 9/28/23; Media Matters, 9/29/23]
- Hannity argued that Biden is attacking former President Donald Trump “to distract from the mountain of evidence” that was presented at the hearing. He was referring to Biden’s recent criticism of the MAGA movement. [Fox News, Hannity, 9/28/23; Politico, 9/28/23]
- OutKick contributor Tomi Lahren claimed that “Democrats are actually very excited about the impeachment inquiry because the Republicans are doing the dirty work for them, and they are still grooming Gavin Newsom” to run for president in 2024 instead of Biden. [Fox News, Hannity, 9/28/23]
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.