Georgia (Election Law) On My Mind

I’ve spent a lot of time writing about Georgia in the last year. It became a factor in national politics for the first time since the Carter presidency. We all thrilled to Biden’s Peach State victory followed by those of Senators Warnock and Ossoff in January.

Georgia was also the focus of the Impeached Insult Comedian’s attempt to steal the election via “perfect” phone calls. Georgia was the swing state wherein power was entirely vested in Republicans; even Arizona has a Democratic secretary of state. Trump dispatched Rudy Giuliani to spread poisonous lies and brought wackadoodle Atlanta lawyer, Lin Wood, on board.

This post was also inspired by amateur lawyers on Twitter lamenting that Merrick Garland hasn’t done anything about the Georgia case. That’s true, but it’s not his case. It’s based on state law so it’s in the hands of recently elected Fulton County District Attorney, Fani Willis. Atlanta is the focus of MAGA complaints about the election, so that’s where the case belongs. Ms. Willis is the one who is moving slowly. Hopefully, slowly and methodically.

I feel a musical reference coming, Take a load off, Fani:

There’s an op-ed in the WaPo by some folks at the Brookings Institute who have taken a careful look at Georgia law and how it applies to the Former Guy’s “perfect” phone calls:

… the prospect of a state prosecutor filing charges against a former president for election crimes should not be considered lightly, but certain key facts weigh in favor of giving criminal charges the most serious consideration.

First, Trump is alleged to have attacked Georgia’s democracy, which belongs to all Georgians, and to have attempted to deny the will of the majority in voting for president, thus effectively attempting to disenfranchise millions of voters.

Second, in our federal system, it is the states and not the federal government that have principal responsibility for carrying out and policing the proper administration of presidential elections. That rule exists, in part, to prevent federal officials from manipulating the outcome of elections from the top. So the Constitution demands that Georgia stand up for itself against the encroachment of a manipulative president who sought to entrench himself in power.

Third, Trump’s likely defenses against criminal charges lack merit. Trump would no doubt claim immunity based on his status as president when he attacked the Georgia election outcome. But categorical immunity from prosecution is limited at most to sitting presidents, not former presidents — as Trump himself has conceded. Because he is no longer in the White House, he is out of luck. It’s true that there is additional, more targeted immunity for a former president for actions undertaken within the outer perimeter of his official duties. But that claim would fail because the Constitution and federal law assign no role to the president over counting or tabulating votes in Georgia, or certifying the election results. It would be a perversion of the president’s oath to “take care” that laws are faithfully executed to embrace an effort to subvert lawful election results.

Former President* Pennywise held a rally in the Peach State last weekend. He used a typical tactic: bragging about his attempts to subvert the election results. He somehow thinks that he cannot be charged with a crime if he talks about it publicly. As always, he’s wrong, wrong, wrong. Absent prosecutorial timidity, every time he shoots off his big bazoo, the chances of charges increase.

The most intriguing part of the article is this bit:

The report separately discusses the possibility that Trump could be charged under Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act statute. The term “RICO” may conjure up images of Mafia bosses, but the statute is much broader. If Trump committed a so-called pattern of predicate criminal acts — which may include many of the acts potentially chargeable in the statutes mentioned above — a RICO charge may be available if he did so either through an enterprise (like his campaign) or to gain control of an enterprise (like the presidency).

RICO charges would carry stiffer penalties than the other offenses that could be brought against Trump and his band of MAGA miscreants. There *was* a conspiracy involving Trump and Mark Meadows among others, after all.

Will it be enough for Georgia’s Little RICO statute to apply? Here’s what the authors say in their report:

Based on our assessment, we conclude that Trump’s multiple reported acts directed at Georgia could subject him to prosecution under the state’s RICO statute, subject of course to the further development of the case by Fulton County. Above, we have extensively discussed a number of Georgia state crimes for which Trump may be liable. A number of them are enumerated as available predicate offenses under the RICO statute: (1) false statements and writings; (2) solicitation of false statements and writings; (3) solicitation of false swearing; (4) influencing witnesses; and (5) solicitation of computer trespass (as a crime included in the 84 Georgia election officials to change the election results would foreseeably have involved their use of computers to delete or alter voting data, he may have committed solicitation of computer trespass.

This is a promising line of inquiry. The authors encourage District Attorney Willis to get off her Fani and investigate the veritable plethora of possible charges if she hasn’t already done so. I hope you appreciate my restraint in not making a Different Strokes joke at this point.

If you’d like to read the whole damn Brookings Institution report for yourselves, click here. Adding to pressure on Ms. Willis, it was uploaded by the dean of Georgia political writers, Greg Bluestein.

Let’s hope that this will not be the end of Little Rico. The last word goes to Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar:

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