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Why Georgia DA Fani Willis is the biggest threat to Donald Trump
State racketeering statute, intended to entrap Democrats, could snare Trump

About a month ago, I would’ve said there’s no chance Donald Trump will be indicted, and I still think that you’re not gonna see that on a federal level. But Trump may yet see the inside of a prison cell, thanks to the efforts of Fani Willis, the first woman to hold the office of District Attorney in Fulton County, Georgia.

Because of the Georgia Republicans’ zeal to put Democrats like Stacey Abrams behind bars — Democrats who are guilty of registering hundreds of thousands of voters in Georgia — the state created its own racketeering laws, which make it a lot easier to prosecute people than under the federal RICO statute. Specifically, Georgia made interference in the election process count as a “predicate act”, which is a prerequisite for RICO prosecutions.

Ironically, this now leaves Trump open to a racketeering prosecution in Georgia, and a grand jury has been impaneled in Atlanta, which is looking into whether the former president and his cronies interfered with and tried to overturn the legal vote count in Georgia. Beyond the attempt to use a slate of phony electors to overturn Joe Biden’s win, the grand jury may also be investigating Trump’s role in instigating and organizing the violence that took place not only at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., but also before the January 6th insurrection at the Georgia State Capitol and Governor’s Mansion.

In the latest Election Crimes Bulletin, first broadcast on Pacifica Radio’s FlashPoints News on July 28, 2022, host Dennis Bernstein and I discuss the political and technical reasons why it’ll be easier to indict Trump for a racketeering crime in Georgia.

TRANSCRIPT

Bernstein: You are listening to the Election Crimes Bulletin on Pacifica Radio. Mr. Palast, welcome back. You’ve been spending some interesting time in Georgia, which is the frontline for the next election. What’s new?

Palast: Well, I hope that The Donald has better legal representation than he’s had so far, because his problem is in two words: Fani Willis.

Fani Willis is the District Attorney for Fulton County, which is most of the Atlanta, Georgia suburbs. And Fani Willis has now impaneled a grand jury which is looking into whether Donald Trump and cronies interfered with and tried to overturn the legal vote count in Georgia.

Now, we all know about the infamous call that Trump made to the Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger. He’s no big friend of mine, but he didn’t exactly want to go to prison, and he knew that the District Attorney would be sniffing around. This is a felony crime and the specific crime that they’re going after is RICO, which is the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. It was actually named after Caesar Enrico “Rico” Bandello [a gangster character from the film 1931 Little Caesar, who was referenced in a prologue for the 1954 rerelease of the 1932 film, The Public Enemy, which starred James Cagney] — so it’s the RICO Act. Originally it was meant for organized crime, to go after the mafia, that you’d create an enterprise called the mafia and you’d have commit several acts… This has been used against the Mongols gang here in California and other organized crime.

But then, a few decades ago, a guy named Greg Palast had this idea, like there’s all kinds of organized crime, including corporate organized crime. And I convinced the US Justice Department and Attorneys General in states to open up what was the biggest racketeering investigation at that time, and the first against corporate powers, the nuclear racketeering case against Long Island Lighting in New York, the builders of nuclear plants. We got a $4 billion verdict. So, I know a lot about RICO, because then I went down to Georgia, to open up a new racketeering case against Georgia Power [which is now the largest subsidiary of Southern Company] for everything from overcharging their customers to murder. And so I know the RICO laws, including in Georgia.

Now, here’s the interesting thing, and this is why Donald Trump better get a good lawyer — or a file in a cake! And this is no joke. He’s really facing potential serious felony charges. Georgia created its own RICO statute, its own racketeering statute, which is a lot easier to prosecute people under than the federal statute for a couple reasons, one is political and one is technical.

Now, the legal/technical part you should know about it. The reason it’s easier to convict someone of a racketeering crime in Georgia than federally is that Brian Kemp, the Governor, and his cronies, and the characters before him, have wanted to go after Democratic voter registration organizations as organized crime. So, they created the statutes to go after Democrats, and now it’s going after Donald Trump.

For example, just a few weeks ago, the Kemp Administration and Secretary of State Raffensperger, his Republican appointee, recommended the indictment of Stacey Abrams’ vote registration organization. I kid you not. They wanna put the head of the organization, Nsé Ufot in prison. She was head of the Canadian Bar Association, so she’s not your typical criminal. What was this about? They said that they took more than 10 days to submit some registration signatures, and this they’re calling a felony go to jail crime. That’s what they wanna do with Stacy Abrams’ organization, shut it down under criminal laws and put the leadership of Abrams’ organization in prison.

So, because they made it easy to prosecute people [under Georgia’s racketeering statutes], it now becomes easier to prosecute Trump, because of the crime that they were trying to charge Stacy Abrams’ people with, and many other voter registrations organizations, including the Asian-American group 10,000 Koreans Vote, including several other voting rights groups that they’re trying to put out of business. They made interference in the election process a felony crime, which counts as what’s called a “predicate act” under RICO. So, in their zeal to put Stacey Abrams, and Democrats, and people of color, and voter registrars in jail, they’ve now set up a case where it’s likely to be Donald Trump behind bars — this is no joke!

Bernstein: Donald Trump behind bars, I don’t know, Greg. We have seen this dude slip out of handcuffs many times before. Everybody around him goes to jail, the key players in the crime go to jail… We see this unfolding in Washington, D.C., do you think it’s a better shot in Atlanta than D.C.?

Palast: Way, way better, and I’ll tell you why. There’s technical reasons and political reasons, and they kind of mix together. I told you about that case that I was involved with, the case against Georgia Power for overcharges and murder involving their nuclear plants — I kid you not. And a grand jury recommended — this is a federal grand jury, not a Georgia grand jury — a federal grand jury recommended that they be indicted for crimes. But then, the Governor of Georgia happened to become President, Jimmy Carter, and he appointed his crony, a guy named Griffin Bell as Attorney General. Then Bell resigned as Attorney General and Georgia Power hired him, and had him go to the Justice Department and say don’t indict these guys. So, his successor under Carter, and then under Reagan, had to make a decision whether to indict Georgia Power. Just so you understand the politics of this, under federal law, the Attorney General must personally improve a RICO indictment, so there’s all this politics involved and the Georgia Power gang got away with it. And that’s how there’s tremendous pressure on Merrick Garland, the Attorney General right now, political pressure. He would have to make the personal decision about whether to indict Trump, and the political pressure is extraordinary. In Georgia, it’s quite different. There is no such Big Kauna who has to approve the indictment, only the grand jury and, obviously, a judge.

Now, understand, while Trump and cronies are claiming this is a political prosecution by the Democrats, the grand jury was impaneled by Republican-appointed judges. Kemp’s own judges and Republican party judges. These are not Democratic judges that impaneled the grand jury… The judges have gone completely along with all the wide-ranging subpoenas that the District Attorney Fani Willis has issued, including on Lindsey Graham, the Senator who was making calls to tell the state to overturn the election. I’m sure you’re gonna see Roger Stone and others who were involved. If you remember, Ali Alexander stood in front of the Governor’s Mansion and said, “We’re gonna light this sh*t on fire.” And that was encouraged after he had spoken to Trump. This could get into…that Trump was organizing the violence in Georgia — not just January 6th, but the violence before January 6th in Georgia.

Bernstein: It was like a dress rehearsal. It sort of feels like all of the key players, they were trying it out in Atlanta, because there was the big battle coming up for the vote there, and then they took it to D.C.

Palast: Yes, exactly. And now, very important — and here’s where it gets more dangerous for Trump and the Republican party — the violence that was threatened… Again, this was the practice, as you said, for the January 6th attack on the Capitol, this was the January attack on the Governor’s Mansion, and they were also aiming for the Legislature, by Alex Jones, Ali Alexander, Nick Fuentes, the kind of Catholic Fascist leader of the Proud Boys, Roger Stone. That whole crew were down in Georgia threatening violence, threatening to burn down the Capitol and Governor’s Mansion if they didn’t do what they want — and, they specifically said, unless you make Trump president.

That wasn’t working, not because Brian Kemp didn’t want to help Trump, by the way, this is a great misunderstanding. Kemp had no legal authority, dead zero, none. He was kind of like Pence, but it was even clearer. He had no way in the world to tell the legislature to go choose Trump as president. I’m sure he would’ve if he had the power to do so. Now, by the way, under the new SB 202, the legislature does have more power to overturn the votes of the public. This is no joke.

But here, once again, we have an independent District Attorney, who’s getting support from Republican-appointed judges to go wide, to bring in all these co-conspirators trying to overturn the election. And we know that Trump had spoken to Ali Alexander and Alex Jones and others, and Mark Meadows, the Chief of Staff of Trump, they knew all about this stuff and were encouraging it. And of course there were the threatening calls from Trump to the Secretary of State’s office. Now, there were 29 calls, we only have had the tape released of one. I would sure like to know what those others were… Also, I don’t know how much additional information the District Attorney has…

About a month ago, I would’ve said there’s no chance Trump will be indicted, and I still think that you’re not gonna see that on a federal level, but this is a very different thing. And I have to tell you, Fani Willis is a tough cookie. In fact, I think she’s a little too tough. She indicted teachers for helping kids pass high stakes tests, you know, just school teachers. So, she’s a tough cookie.

A judge did get on her case for one thing, because one of the people that is a target of indictment is the guy who’s running for Lieutenant Governor right now, and Fani Willis did a fundraiser for his opponent. This was way before she knew that he was going to be a target, but a judge said, no, you can’t go after this guy. If you wanna go after that one guy, ‘cause you were supporting his opponent, you’re going to have to have an independent expert, maybe a special prosecutor — and that’s happening by the way.

One other aspect of this story that you have to understand, the electors… Again, we don’t vote for president, we vote for electors for president. And we’ve talked about the 12th Amendment, how electors can run wild, or you can have a Congress choose one slate of electors, not another, which happened in 1824 when the Republican lost the electoral vote, the Republican lost the popular vote, lost the electoral and popular vote, but then Congress used its powers to, basically, switch out electors and make the Republican president…

So, in other words, that’s legal under the Constitution. What made this an illegal conspiracy is that when they sent a slate of electors to the National Archives, which is oddly where you send your slate of electors. When Trump sent a slate of electors, he didn’t send the ones that were on the ballot when he ran for president. Because a lot of those electors said to Trump, you lost, I can’t vote for you either morally, in fact, I’m a bit concerned that it might be illegal. In other words, some electors didn’t wanna go to prison for Trump. Or they actually wanted to respect the vote of the people in Georgia — that’s his Republican electors. So… he just picked people who knew people, just basically Trumpite fanatics, who were never on a ballot, never voted for by anyone. You couldn’t say that there was a disputed count for those electors. So, when they sent that list, that was an act of fraud on the federal government, ‘cause they sent an official list. It’s mail fraud, ‘cause they used the mail. They sent a fake list to the Archives, which is the federal government, and then tried to force Pence to say that those electors were chosen. They weren’t even on the ballot. They were not on the ballot, so, that is the core of the crime. It sounds a little complicated, but the core of the crime is sending phony, never-on-the-ballot electors to the United States Congress to overturn a federal election. And, under Georgia racketeering law, I don’t know, it looks like case closed, slam dunk.

Bernstein: Slam dunk?

Palast: Yeah, it’s tough.

Bernstein: On more thing, Greg… You have been so far ahead of this story in so many different ways. But, even if all our dream comes true and Donald Trump goes to jail, because he deserves to and he’s made so many people suffer, even if all that happens, or if it doesn’t, the thing that you’ve been on top of since 2000 is the fact that there is a moving target, and it has to do with us losing our right to vote based on all kinds of things happening at the local and state level. You struck this hard with the film The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. And now everybody’s looking at Trump, and I’m thinking they should be, but this other thing going on with the vote steal — that’s in full motion, right?

Palast: Yes, well, that’s the reason I was down in Georgia. Trump, I guess he might make a comeback, but at the moment that’s history. You know, we get so focused with Trump, because Trump is such a brilliant narcissist, he knows how to make you focus on him, he’s either your great hero or he’s the great Satan. And what’s being forgotten here, as you said, is why I was down in Georgia. It wasn’t about Trump, it was about the fact that there is a mass wholesale purging, an attack on the right of black people, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and young people to vote. I have never seen Jim Crow in action like this since I was a kid, before the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. This is Jim Crow on steroids, Jim Crow in cyberspace. And the guys who are being played in the national press as heroes, the Secretary of State of Georgia and Brian Kemp, who’s running for governor against Stacey Abrams, they are not heroes. They are the vote suppression hitmen of Georgia. That’s why I’m doing a film called Vigilantes: Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hitmen, because that’s the real danger. What they’re doing in Georgia, and what they’re training other states to do — Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, Texas, Arizona — that’s the danger to our democracy. Yes, following Trump is always fun, you know, he’s just watching a barrel of monkeys, but the real danger is not Agent Orange. The real danger is the guys in Georgia who are leading a national attack on the right to vote like we’ve never.

Bernstein: And they are active and not messing around, they’re getting their job done.


A film from Academy Award winning producer Maria Florio and Executive Producer Martin Sheen, Vigilantes: Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hitmen will be released Fall 2022. Support our investigation into the most brazen voter suppression scheme ever by making a tax-deductible donation. The Palast Investigative Fund is a project of the 501c3 non-partisan not-for-profit Sustainable Markets Foundation. We must get this film out to the Georgia and US voting public — for which we need your help.

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Dennis J. Bernstein is the executive producer and host of Flashpoints, an award winning front-line investigative news magazine focusing on human, civil and workers' rights, issues of war and peace, global warming, racism and poverty, and other issues. Flashpoints is broadcast weekdays at 5 PM PST on the Pacifica Radio station KPFA-FM (94.1) in Berkeley, California and is relayed on Pacifica's national feed.

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