The first count of Fani Willis’ indictment is for Violation of the Georgia RICO Act — that’s the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. All 19 defendants have been charged with racketeering, which has a minimum mandatory five year sentence. Willis and her team outline 161 alleged predicate acts, which they claim support the allegation that Trump’s corrupt organization was engaged in racketeering. The listed acts include encouraging state officials to violate their oaths of office, a plan to submit a slate of false electors, intimidating an election worker (Ruby Freeman), and the unlawful breaching of voting equipment in Coffee County.
To discuss this, we reached out to our old buddy, Greg Palast, who has been involved in the past with RICO cases.
Thom Hartmann: Greg…your thoughts on this?
Greg Palast: Well, first of all, when you say involved in RICO, not committing crimes, but charging people with them. In fact, by happenstance, I am here in the Osage Native Reservation, working on a 30-year old cold RICO case. Somehow there was an indictment against a guy named Charles Koch, but the indictment mysteriously went poof, and I’m here to investigate why.
Hartmann: Oh, interesting. Charles Koch, as in the Koch Brothers.
Palast: Yeah, that Charlie, who was about to be charged by a grand jury with a billion dollar theft of oil from the Indian Reservation here, from the Osage. So, I’m here checking that out right now. What happened with the old FBI investigators?
Hartmann: And this ties into Leo DiCaprio’s new movie, right?
Palast: Yes. What happened is, he has a fantastic film coming out called Killers of the Flower Moon about the killings of the Osage for their oil. That ends a hundred years ago. And the Osage have asked us and the DiCaprios to make another documentary about what’s happened to them in the hundred years since — in particular that the thefts continued by Koch Oil, stealing a billion dollars worth of oil from these people. This is where his political power, his political machine began, when he was able to literally… I’m telling you, he bought senators and bought a prosecutor so he could get out of the indictment. I don’t say that thing lightly.
And, by the way, I did also a big racketeering case in Georgia, which has a very tough racketeering law, against the Southern Company, also about 30 years ago. I know these laws well, and I can tell you, kudos to Fani Willis. She has what I consider a hammerlocked case on Agent Orange. But for all the numbers of counts, like over 140 criminal acts, you’ve got, several what’s called “predicate” crimes. But to understand what the core of the case is, it’s a bit abstruse, but the key part of the case is that Giuliani, with Sidney Powell and gang, created false electors.
You know, Thom, unfortunately in our Constitution we don’t get a chance to vote for president of the United States. All we can do is vote for these people called electors. In some states, they’re not even listed on the ballot. We don’t vote for Trump or Biden. We vote for an elector. And in the case of Georgia, if they had gotten real electors…instead they took a bunch of local schmucks — you know, your local butcher, head of the GOP in some town — and they had these people have a meeting. It was like a Jeunet play, if that’s too obscure. It was like a fake meeting of so called electors. It was self appointed people who signed under oath, submitted by Giuliani and gang with Trump’s encouragement and direct involvement — he was directly involved…
What they did was they signed documents saying I was elected as an elector and I vote for Donald Trump. Well, these people weren’t electors. No one elected them. It’s as if I said, hey, I’m a Mayor of Los Angeles. Well, when did you win? Well, I didn’t even run. Now, the thing is you’re putting it under oath. You’re sending this to the President, the Vice President, the National Archives…this is a massive, massive fraud. It’s a ridiculous fraud.
Ironically, the one thing is if Trump had simply convinced his Georgia electors, that is the electors he had on the ballot who were committed to vote for him, he actually might have gotten away with it.
Remember, this actually happened in the United States. No one knows history better than you do, Thom. In 1876, the Republicans were able to cut a deal with some Ku Klux Klan Democrats in the South.
Hartmann: Yep. The Tilden/Hayes election.
Palast: The Tilden Hayes election. There they got the Vice President and the Congress, basically got the Congress — as they wanted Mike Pence to do — to simply reject the Democratic electors, which they could do under our Constitution, unfortunately. But, this didn’t happen that way. You didn’t have Trump’s Georgia electors say, we won the election, so count our votes. Those people said, no, we don’t want anything to do with this. Sorry, our guy lost. So, instead, they found these poor people to commit these crimes. Often, they were lulled into it by saying, you know, this is legal. After all, Giuliani was a US federal prosecutor. He’s supposed to know the law, and he’s reassuring these people that this is all quite kosher and legal. Well, he was a US prosecutor. He knows damn well you actually have to be elected to office to claim that office.
Hartmann: Yeah. Well, he also used the RICO statues extensively when he was the prosecutor in New York.
Palast: I worked with Giuliani on a RICO case, so I know he knows the RICO law. If they want me to come and testify that Giuliani knows the RICO law, Fani, I’ll send you my schedule…
Hartmann: Is there anything you haven’t done, Greg?
Palast: You live long enough…
Hartmann: I guess…
Palast: So, that’s really the core of the RICO indictment. Now, why do they throw in this other stuff? A lot of it is so you can make it read like a novel. A jury isn’t going to be interested in, oh, well, they weren’t exactly the proper electors according to the Article Two of the Constitution… You want to tell a story about this conspiracy. And the reason why you need to tell this long story is that, in order to get a conviction for RICO, you need something called an enterprise. That is like the MOB.
Originally the RICO law, Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, [was intended to] go after the Mob and gangs. And so you have to show that this is a mob, that these are gangsters working in coordination. That’s called the enterprise.
Hartmann: And the essence of this is to get the chief mobster. It’s not to necessarily get the hitman off the street, although it very often does that. The main thing is to get the spider at the center of the web.
Palast: Right The point is that laws before, you’d have hit men go out and, you know, Vinny the Chin always got away with it. He says, I don’t know, all I said was, gee, what if an accident happened to that poor guy? So, they would throw the hitman in prison, but they could never get Vinny the Chin. That’s what RICO was about was getting the mobster who ordered the hit. In this case, it’s an orange-tinted monster.
And it’s a lot easier case for Fani to do this… It’s a lot easier case, because the Jack Smith case, he makes an assertion, which is going to be kind of difficult to prove, that Donald Trump knew he had lost the election. Now that means that you’ve got to get a jury to somehow enter the yellow gelatinous mind that is Donald Trump and determine what was in his head. Willis does not have to do that. She just has to know that he was at the center of this action to get fake electors to submit his name.
Hartmann: Right, right.
Palast: Thank God that Mike Pence, of all people, stood up to it, because I’m afraid, with our Supreme Court, they might have gotten away with it.
Thom Hartmann is a progressive national and internationally syndicated talkshow host whose shows are available in over a half-billion homes worldwide. He's the New York Times bestselling, 4-times Project Censored Award winning author of 24 books in print in 17 languages on five continents. Leonardo DiCaprio was inspired by Thom's book "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight" to make the movie "The 11th Hour" (in which Thom appears), and Warner Brothers is making a movie starring DiCaprio and Robert De Niro from the book Thom co-authored with Lamar Waldron, "Legacy of Secrecy."
Talkers Magazine named Thom Hartmann as the 8th most important talk show host in America in 2011, 2012, and 2013 (10th the two previous years), and for three of the past five years the #1 most important progressive host, in their “Heavy Hundred” ranking. His radio show is syndicated on for-profit radio stations nationwide by Westwood One, on non-profit and community stations nationwide by Pacifica, across the entire North American continent on SiriusXM Satellite radio (The Progress, Channel 127), on cable systems nationwide by Cable Radio Network (CRN), on its own YouTube channel, via Livestream on its own Livestream channel, via subscription podcasts, worldwide through the US Armed Forces Network, and through the Thom Hartmann App in the App Store. The radio show is also simulcast as TV in realtime into nearly 40 million US and Canadian homes by the Free Speech TV Network on Dish Network, DirectTV, and cable TV systems nationwide.
He was born and grew up in Michigan, and retains strong ties to the Midwest, although he and Louise have lived in New Hampshire, Vermont, Georgia, Germany, and Oregon...and now live with a small menagerie in Portland, Oregon.