The latest ridiculous indictment of Donald Trump, this one in Georgia, has POTUS 45 in the dock with 18 others, many of whom are key figures in the state GOP [Trump and 18 allies charged in Georgia election meddling as former president faces 4th criminal case, by Kate Brumback and Eric Tucker, Associated Press, August 15, 2023]. Incredibly, Georgia is a state controlled by Republicans at the executive and legislative level. They could curtail this farce. But they have done nothing. Gov. Brian Kemp, who treacherously won election as an immigration patriot, now embodies a GOP Establishment that wants to sidestep Trumpism. But also at stake: free speech, and the right to challenge election results without being charged with a crime.
The latest indictment comes from Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis, black prosecutor. Her office demonstrated its incompetence in the indictment’s rollout: A clerk accidentally published it online before it was ready. The DA’s office insisted the leak was “fiction,” but the clerk later admitted the mistake, saying she had meant to hit “save” rather than “send.” The error doesn’t add gravitas to Willis’ work [‘I am human:’ Fulton clerk explains mishap over charges accidentally posted before Trump indictment, by Tom Jones, WSB, August 15, 2023].
The 41-count indictment is a joke [Former President Donald Trump’s fourth indictment, annotated, CNN, August 15, 2023]. Much of the “evidence” of “wrongdoing” is tweets and statements questioning the election and calling for peaceful protests. A conviction on those grounds would effectively criminalize free speech—and even seeking legal advice.
Many of those charged simply advised Trump and his campaign as lawyers. But apparently, it’s now a crime to give legal advice to “bad people.” This will come as a shock to those who believe, apparently naively, that even murderers and pedophiles deserve legal representation.
The most ridiculous charge: the one under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which implies the then-president behaved like a mobster for simply disputing the election results [Fulton County’s Bogus Trump Indictment Is Democrats’ Latest Attempt To Criminalize Free Speech, by Shawn Fleetwood, The Federalist, August 15, 2023].
The Georgia case is so ridiculous that even some Establishment conservatives have criticized it, albeit mutedly. The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board claimed the RICO charge makes the whole indictment less credible, noting the use of tweets as evidence makes it look ridiculous. Yet the Wall Street Journal edit pagers still emphasize that Trump’s behavior was “awful” [Indictment Four: Trump as Racketeer, August 15, 2023].
National Review’s take was similar. “District Attorney Fani Willis is a blue-city arch-partisan who has used the investigation as a political fund-raising tool,” NR’s editors declared [The Georgia Indictment Is Serious, but It Also Overreaches, by The Editors, August 15, 2023]. Still, the NR “girly men” insisted the Georgia charges were “serious,” and that Trump actually deserved impeachment over his actions following the 2020 election.
This weaselly approach inspires no confidence that these Conservatism Inc. critics are sincere. They essentially say that the indictment is bad but not the worst thing in the world. They won’t be particularly distressed if Trump and his allies are found guilty.
Still, those voices sound better than what we have heard from Georgia’s Republican leadership. Kemp used the indictment to attack Trump. “The 2020 election in Georgia was not stolen,” Kemp posted on X. “For nearly three years now, anyone with evidence of fraud has failed to come forward—under oath—and prove anything in a court of law. Our elections in Georgia are secure, accessible, and fair and will continue to be as long as I am governor.” He added: “The future of our country is at stake in 2024 and that must be our focus.”
Nothing in that statement slammed political prosecutions or showed support for colleagues charged with bogus crimes. He just declared that the election was not stolen, strongly implying he had no problem with the prosecution.
Other important Georgia Republicans explicitly supported the indictment. Former Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan said the charges should be a “pivot point” for the party to force Trump out of the 2024 race. He testified against Trump before the grand jury [Former Georgia Lt. Gov. says Trump’s 4th indictment is a ’pivot point’ for the GOP, by Destinee Adams and Leila Fadel, NPR, August 16, 2023].
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who also testified against Trump, said “the most basic principles of a strong democracy are accountability and respect for the Constitution and rule of law. You either have it, or you don’t.” Apparently, Raffensperger thinks Fani Willis is just standing up for the Constitution and the rule of law [Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger breaks silence following Trump’s FOURTH indictment, by Emily Goodin, Daily Mail, August 16, 2023].
All this was said despite the fact that Willis is targeting senior GA GOP officials.
But even worse, at least by Prosecutor Willis’ lights, as a state senator Jones tweeted support for a special legislative session to name Trump the winner. However, Willis couldn’t charge him, a judge ruled, because she’d held a fundraiser for Jones’s Democratic opponent in 2022, an obvious conflict of interest [Special prosecutor will examine actions of Georgia’s lieutenant governor in Trump election meddling, by Jeff Amy, Associated Press, August 15, 2023].
It seems unlikely Kemp will lift a finger for his own lieutenant governor, or anyone else. He’s too eager to cleanse the GOP of Trumpism to do that.
Of course, Kemp cannot unilaterally pardon anyone he wants. Only the state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles can do that. State law requires an applicant for a pardon to have served his sentence and demonstrated good conduct for at least five years before he can receive one.
But that could change if two-thirds of the state General Assembly OKs a ballot referendum to revise the state constitution.
Trump supporters support such a measure, which would allow the Parole Board to pardon long before that required time and/or give the governor direct pardon power. But advisers for Kemp and the Georgia House Speaker have dismissed that idea and claimed it would be bad politics. It’s also unclear if Kemp would pardon Trump even if he had the power [Top Georgia Republicans dismiss pro-Trump calls to change pardon rules, by Greg Bluestein, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 17, 2023].
Nevertheless, the state legislature could also remove Willis as district attorney. Georgia passed a law this year to allow the creation of commissions to investigate and remove district attorneys who abuse their power. This would allow Kemp to call a special session to kickstart this process. State Senator Colton Moore has called on the governor to do so [Georgia senator wants session to review Fulton DA’s actions in Trump indictment, Atlanta News First, August 17, 2023].
Reports say that too is unlikely because Kemp doesn’t want to interfere with the prosecution. If a majority of GOP legislators called for a special session, that would pressure the governor. But that hasn’t happened yet [Calls for Georgia Leaders to Stymie Trump Prosecution Fall Flat, So Far, by Rick Rojas, New York Times, August 17, 2023].
So by all appearances, the Georgia Republican Establishment will allow Trump and his allies to go to trial. And GOP leaders probably won’t seek dismissal of any convictions that could result.
The rich thing is, Kemp owes his political career to Trump. In 2018, Trump endorsed him, ensuring he became the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee. Kemp campaigned as a Trumpist, promising to personally deport illegal aliens with his pickup truck.
But he’s changed since then. He has done nothing on immigration as governor. He’s even eliminated an enforcement review board to monitor how well Georgia keeps out illegals [Kemp’s immigration policy could complicate bid for second term, by Greg Bluestein, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 6, 2021].
Instead, he has settled in as a Business First Republican who focuses on more capital investment in the state.
Even though Kemp won his first term as a Trumpist, he now wants to purge Trump and his ilk from the party. He and his allies want a “respectable” GOP that keeps taxes low—and nothing else.
This is why Kemp and other Establishment Republicans secretly love the indictments.
They know they can’t get rid of Trump on their own, despite their best efforts. The former president remains dominant in the GOP primary polls, numbers rising with every indictment.
Those Republicans who attack him face the wrath of the base. No amount of condemnations will persuade GOP voters to abandon Trump. The only hope to get rid of him is imprisonment.
People like Kemp are secretly rooting for Willis and Special Counsel Jack Smith to succeed. With Trump in jail, they believe, they can finally return the GOP to its old self.
My view: the base won’t forget this betrayal. MAGA Republicans will be madder than ever. They will think Trump was imprisoned for threatening the system. It will radicalize them to an extent that they would never vote for a Business First GOP.
That anger must be brought to bear on Georgia party leaders right now. If only for their own survival, they must stand up against these political prosecutions on principle, no matter how much they dislike Trump and his backers.
Because Willis and her communist allies won’t stop with Trump.
If they succeed on these charges, Kemp, his GOP Establishment cronies, and anyone else who tweets something about an election, or offers legal advice to challenge one, will be next.
Washington Watcher II [Email him] is an anonymous DC insider.