Fani Willis Lowers The Boom On Donald Trump In Massive Indictment

Fani Willis Lowers The Boom On Donald Trump In Massive Indictment

This is special edition of TPM’s Morning Memo entirely devoted to Donald Trump’s indictment in Georgia. As the song goes: “He was in a bind ’cause he was way behind/And he was willin’ to make a deal.” Sign up for the email version.

Good Morning!

The action in Atlanta came a day earlier than expected.

After a marathon session Monday, a Georgia grand jury returned a monster 41-felony-count, 97-page indictment against a total of 19 defendants, including former President Donald Trump; Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, John Eastman, Kenneth Chesebro, and Jenna Ellis; and Trump DOJ official Jeff Clark.

It was a strange day of uncertainty and expectation, with moment-by-moment reporting from the Fulton County courthouse. The duty judge would poke his head into the courtroom of waiting reporters to do check-ins. Grand jury witnesses scheduled to testify today made public that they had been called in a day early and offered regular updates as to where they stood in the line of witnesses paraded before the grand jury. The presentation of the indictment to the duty judge was televised live. Reporters were taking photographs from the inside of the clerk of court’s office as they waited an agonizing couple of hours for the paperwork to be processed and the indictment made public.

The day was punctuated by what appeared to be the accidental posting then quick takedown from the clerk’s website of a document seemingly related to the case that listed Trump as a defendant. That sparked an initial round of excitement and panic, then confusion. The clerk’s office later issued a statement calling the document “fictitious.” But it remained unclear exactly what had happened and why.

As the drama stretched deep into the evening, it became increasingly clear that District Attorney Fani Will was pushing to finish the indictment the same day. The duty judge kept the courtroom open late to accept the indictment, should it come. It finally did, just before 9 p.m. ET. The indictment became public just before 11 p.m. ET.

Watch Fani Willis

Shortly after the indictment became public late Monday night, Atlanta DA Fani Willis spoke to the press:

“The grand jury issued arrest warrants for those who are charged. I am giving the defendants the opportunity to voluntarily surrender no later than noon on Friday the 25th day of August, 2023”pic.twitter.com/3HylSALOIg

— The Messenger (@TheMessenger) August 15, 2023

Great Breakdown

It’s easy to get lost in big sweeping indictments like this one, so breaking down the structure can help you absorb it. This is spot on:

The basic structure here: 1 count of RICO applied to all 19 defendants. 161 overt acts, of which DA has to prove only 2, in furtherance of the conspiracy. 40 of those are crimes, and those are charged separately, re only those defendants who committed them as counts 2-41.

— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) August 15, 2023

The structure, including the overarching RICO count, is actually tight and focused, even if the overt acts alleged and the geographic and temporal reach of the indictment is sweeping.

The Counts

Typically I would outline each of the counts by defendant, but it’s too unwieldy this time. I would just refer you to the first four pages of the indictment, which breaks it down succinctly.

To be clear though, the overall thrust of the indictment is familiar. It tells the story we already know of the election interference effort in Georgia. But it is broad and all-encompassing, reaching into overt acts committed in other states and mirroring much of what we know about the national-level conspiracy to subvert the 2020 election.

This is not the narrow focused Jan. 6 indictment only of Trump with which Special Counsel Jack Smith started. This is whole enchilada, or close to it, but with a Georgia-specific angle.

All About Trump

The former president is mentioned 193 times in the indictment. And then there’s this gem:

12 of the 161 overt acts listed in the RICO portion of the indictment are Trump tweets

— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) August 15, 2023

The Alleged Conspiracy Stretched Into September 2022

The indictment charges that the conspiracy began on Nov. 4, 2020, the day after the election, and didn’t end until Sept. 15, 2022, when Georgia lawyer Robert Cheeley allegedly committed perjury in front of the special grand jury.

Nice To See You Again

Five of the six unindicted and unnamed co-conspirators in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s Jan. 6 indictment of Trump are actually indicted in the Georgia case. The identity of the sixth co-conspirator remains a bit of a mystery.

One BIG Trial

Fani Willis announced that she plans to try all of the defendants together.

What Comes Next?

The 19 defendants have until noon, Friday, August 25 to voluntarily surrender. Willis said she would be seeking a trial date of about six months out.

A Brand-New Judge

The Trump indictment has been randomly assigned to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, a former prosecutor and state inspector general appointed to the bench by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and sworn in this past … February.

Let Me Be Earnest For A Moment

Among the most striking moments of the last 24 hours:

  • The former president indicted for the fourth time this year, the second for trying to stay in power unlawfully. And of course there were two impeachments tied to his effort to unlawfully remain in power.
  • A Black woman DA surrounded by a diverse staff in a plurality-Black county bringing down a rancid racist like Trump, whose Big Lie was drenched in racial grievance and stereotyping. Never forget Ruby Freeman.
  • The power of the state to deprive a citizen of their liberty still comes down to a plodding, bureaucratic, paper-pushing process of making things official, memorializing formal acts, and doing so in a public way. I mean all of that in the best possible way. The fact that much it was televised (and that this trial will be televised) is a bonus.

Ironies Abound

I really wouldn’t be sad if someone offered a prize for the best rendition of “Rudy Giuliani brought down by RICO charges brought by a Black DA.”

I GET the irony. I just want to read about it in detail over and over.

— emptywheel (@emptywheel) August 15, 2023

Behold

Memory Lane

The above AJC front page is a far cry from this 2007 glamour shot at an event for the long-since-defunct glossy mag Atlanta Peach:

Donald Trump during Peach Magazine One Year Anniversary Party – April 13, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. (Photo by Ben Rose/WireImage)

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