Georgia’s RICO Indictment Seeks to Tell Full Story of Trump-GOP Election Subversion

Interview with Jonah Minkoff-Zern, co-director of Public Citizen’s Democracy Campaign, conducted by Scott Harris

After more than two years of investigation, Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis filed a 41-count indictment on Aug. 14 against Donald Trump and 18 of his allies alleging a criminal enterprise to subvert Georgia’s 2020 presidential election results. The charges are being brought under Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO.  One of the most widely known pieces of evidence in the case is Trump’s Jan. 2, 2021 recorded call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pressuring him to “find 11,780 votes,” that would have given the twice impeached president an illicit victory in the state’s election.

In contrast to Special Counsel Jack Smith’s more narrow federal indictment of Trump, District Attorney Willis is the first to prosecute many of the key GOP operatives involved in Trump’s multi-pronged conspiracy to launch a coup defying the will of voters in the 2020 presidential election. The trial, whenever it happens, will likely be televised and if Trump and his co-defendants are found guilty, they won’t be eligible for a pardon until five years after they serve any prison sentence received.

One threat to Trump’s prosecution on the horizon is an effort by several Georgia GOP legislators to sanction District Attorney Willis under a new state law passed in May that creates a state commission with the power to sanction or oust prosecutors. Donald Trump’s bond in Georgia has been set at $200,000 and he’s been ordered to stop sending threatening social media messages to judges, prosecutors and witnesses as he awaits trial. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Jonah Minkoff-Zern, co-director of Public Citizen’s Democracy Campaign, who discusses the breadth of the Georgia indictment and the story it tells of a broad conspiracy to subvert U.S. democracy.

JONAH MINKOFF-ZEN: So I think the breadth of what she’s talking about here in bringing up the RICO charges is impressive, that she is looking at all the different pieces and how they fit together. So the charges that that Jack Smith brings are a different set of charges that focus on the federal action. So they range from his actions, including pressuring state legislators, but then go on to talk about his attempt to use the DOJ (Department of Justice) to issue a false report saying that these fraudulent claims are true. Pressuring Vice President Pence to stop Congress from certifying the election results. And then instigating the violent insurrection on Jan. 6. So that’s what Jack Smith’s indictments talk about.

Fani Willis’ talk about the machinery of all these pieces that range from co-conspirators, ranging from people in the Oval Office to low-level Georgia functionaries. People like the Coffee County election administrators who are part of this large conspiracy to overturn the legitimate outcome of the election.

And I think what really strikes home to me in reading and talking about these indictments and looking at it is this wasn’t one action. It wasn’t Trump calling up his people to riot and violently attack our Capitol on Jan. 6. It was a series of predetermined malicious actions by him and a whole large pool of co-conspirators to overturn the outcome of our election — an insurrection against our government and against our democracy, a really dangerous action by someone who is violating his oath of office to uphold our Constitution.

SCOTT HARRIS: I did want to ask you about a Georgia law that was recently passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in Georgia. It allowed a commission to remove prosecutors from office.

And there was a lot of concern about this early on because Fani Willis could be in the crosshairs of a Republican legislature that is in thrall to Donald Trump. She could be removed potentially if this commission were to convene. How much of a concern do you have that the Republicans in Georgia could do their best to sabotage this case?

JONAH MINKOFF-ZEN: I haven’t heard and I don’t believe that there’s a real threat of sabotage of this case moving forward through her removal through that process. And I apologize if I’m missing that could happen in a way that would undermine the ability to move forward the case. But I do think what that issue really gets at is just driving fear into democratically-elected legislators, like in Georgia and like in Florida, where DeSantis has moved forward to remove prosecutors as part of the whole MAGA movement’s ability, desire, passion to undermine our democracy.

I think DeSantis is doing this in part to build his campaign to show that he is someone who’s part of the MAGA movement. And that really is a dangerous thing, that this doesn’t just stop at Trump — that there is a whole movement of MAGA Republicans who are willing to do anything to threaten our democracy in order to advance their extreme agenda and their extreme agenda of attacking our freedoms in other ways, like our freedoms to choose our reproductive rights or our freedoms to address gun violence or our freedoms to have access to health care and Social Security and Medicare.

Those are freedoms that are under attack by this movement. They’re looking to advance their wealth and the power of a small group of white male, wealthy people to return to a day to Make America Great Again, as they would say, a movement to do that at the expense of the rest of us, at the expense of building a true multiracial, multi-generational democracy.

And I think that it gets kind of at the root of our power, too, that we as a movement, what we’re fighting for is that multiracial, multi-generational democracy that our country really can start to realize. And I think that’s what scares them. And that’s our power here, is that if our movement is successful, that’s what we get.

And I think the Biden administration represents that Biden is appointing and putting into positions of power a really wide array of diverse people who are moving forward justice, who are moving forward climate justice, who are moving forward an economic justice system that counters Reaganomics, where he looks at the rights of all Americans and the abilities of all Americans to see that to succeed economically as a way of advancing our nation.

So the anti-democratic movement that the MAGA movement represents, that’s under trial here in Georgia and by the DOJ and in New York. That movement is against our movement for justice.

Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Jonah Minkoff-Zern (17:02) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.

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