The evidence is powerful

Is the long arm of the law finally reaching out to grab Trump by the shoulder?

Even as Donald Trump prepares to dial up his campaign to take back the White House, the former US president’s political and personal fate may already have been decided by the secret workings of a grand jury in Georgia.

The 23-member panel, convened to consider whether Trump and others committed crimes in trying to overturn his defeat in Georgia when it appeared the state might decide the outcome of the entire 2020 presidential election, was dissolved on Monday after submitting its conclusions and asking that they be made public.

In November, the day before Trump announced he was again running for the White House, the Brookings Institution in Washington published a report that concluded he is “at substantial risk of prosecution” in Georgia including for improperly influencing government officials, forgery and criminal solicitation. The report said Trump may even be vulnerable to charges under anti-racketeering laws written to combat the mafia.

May be, but on the other hand, our apparently infinite capacity for finding reasons not to do anything about Trump may protect him yet again.

Norman Eisen, the lead author of the Brookings report and former White House special counsel for ethics and government reform, said he thinks charges against Trump are “highly likely”.

“The evidence is powerful and the law is very favourable to the prosecutors in Georgia,” he said. “I believe the [special grand jury] report very likely calls for the prosecution of Trump and his co-conspirators.”

Here’s hoping – and not just because it’s Trump, either, but also because we shouldn’t have an unwritten but still binding rule that guys like Trump (and Trump himself) can do whatever they want all the time with no consequences just because they are rich or famous or ex-presidents.

Willis launched her investigation into “a multistate, coordinated plan by the Trump campaign to influence the results” just weeks after the former president left office. The investigation initially focused on a tape recording of Trump pressuring Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to conjure nearly 12,000 votes out of thin air in order to overturn Joe Biden’s win.

Willis expanded the investigation as more evidence emerged of Trump and his allies attempting to manipulate the results, including the appointment of a sham slate of 16 electors to replace the state’s legitimate members of the electoral college. The fake electors included the chair of the Georgia Republican party, David Shafer, and Republican members of the state legislature who have been warned that they are at risk of prosecution.

No biggy, just a known crook doing everything he can think of to steal an election.

Special grand juries are rare in Georgia. Unlike the regular kind, they cannot indict. But they can sit for much longer and have wider powers to subpoena. Willis recognised that if she was to build a case against such a divisive political figure as Trump, and convince a jury in a criminal trial, the evidence would have to be rock solid, and that would take time and depth.

Willis used the grand jury’s powers to good effect. She called a parade of witness, including many of Trump’s closest allies and lawyers. Some fought their subpoenas including Senator Lindsey Graham who went all the way to the US supreme court in a failed attempt to avoid giving evidence.

Raffensperger was the star witness. Trump told him to find the votes; he told Trump the votes weren’t there to find.

Trump tried to claim that the vote had been rigged by alleging that ballot boxes were stuffed and other irregularities. Then the president said: “All of this stuff is very dangerous stuff when you talk about no criminality. I think it’s very dangerous for you to say that.”

Raffensperger saw that for what it was.

“I felt then – and still believe today – that this was a threat,” he wrote. “Others obviously thought so, too, because some of Trump’s more radical followers have responded as if it was their duty to carry out this threat.”

Raffensperger said he and his wife were subject to death threats.

Trump remains at liberty, free to threaten others.

Giuliani is likely to have been asked about false testimony he gave to Georgia legislators the month after the presidential election, including claims that voting machines were rigged and that thousands of teenagers below the voting age had cast ballots. A New York court suspended his licence to practice law last year over his “demonstrably false and misleading statements regarding the Georgia presidential election results”.

But he too is still at liberty, free to bribe and threaten and lie.

Those who have worked with Willis say she is unlikely to shy from prosecuting Trump if she deems it appropriate. She is known to be a fan of anti-racketeering laws, having used them to prosecute public school teachers who were part of a cheating scandal.

It’s seen as in some sense extreme to prosecute Trump, because he’s a former president, but the fact that he’s a former president is a compelling reason to prosecute him. His crimes are against all of us, on the planet as well as in this one country.

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