The Best and Worst Arguments Surrounding the Georgia Trump Indictment

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Donald Trump was indicted once again on Monday, this time in Fulton County, GA. 

Given the political makeup of that area, it wasn't that surprising when the proceedings turned into a low-budget reality show. The court clerk the indictment out of the courtroom, cameras in tow, before she posed the document for reporters and furiously signed it. It was her time to shine, and she soaked up every second of it. 

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That stood in stark contrast to Trump's other indictments, in which the courts involved at least attempted to limit the spectacle, forgoing cameras and mugshots. Fulton County DA Fani Willis wants the spectacle, though, because she's a special kind of hack. 

That leads me to the first good argument against this latest indictment: It's blatantly political. 

It will surprise no one that Willis is an elected Democrat given she serves in the greater Atlanta area. That's not necessarily disqualifying (most DAs belong to one party or the other). Her behavior surrounding this indictment has been supremely over-the-top political, though. The leaking of the charges before the grand jury voted on it is just one example, but another involves the timing. 

Having looked over the text, there is essentially nothing in this indictment that couldn't have been brought long before the 2024 presidential campaign. Why wait until now except to ensure this disrupts the Republican primary and ultimately the general election? The grand jury was empaneled in early 2022 while the investigation begin in early 2021. It's now August of 2023. Given what she's alleging qualifies as "furthering the conspiracy" in the indictment, there's every reason to believe she could have brought these charges a year ago. She didn't, and I absolutely believe it was purposeful. 

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Moving on to the charges themselves, there's a good argument there as well: The use of RICO here is a stretch. 

I'm not a lawyer so I'm going to stay very broad in my critique here, but as a general rule, RICO laws are used to break up established criminal enterprises. The most thought of example would be the mafia or drug cartels. But what was the established criminal enterprise involving Team Trump after the 2020 election? 

Yes, there was a lot of conspiratorial thinking going on (i.e. releasing the Kraken), and perhaps there were even some attempts to pressure officials that might be chargeable. Still, the idea that 18 people are going to be charged as if they were part of some grand criminal conspiracy seems excessive in the extreme. On the contrary, I think everything that happened post-2020 was a result of shooting from the hip. That's who Donald Trump is, and while he's his own worst enemy, that doesn't excuse stretching the limits of the law. 

With that said, there are some bad arguments involving the indictment floating around, including the idea that certain legal acts are being criminalized. 

For example, here's a common refrain making the rounds. 

No, Trump is not being indicted for watching television. Part of proving a RICO case is showing that the group of people in question actively took specific actions to further the conspiracy they are being accused of. That does not mean those individual actions were illegal.

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For example, if five people are charged with conspiring to kill someone and one of the listed actions in the indictment is buying a shovel, that does not mean buying a shovel was an illegal act. The allegation is that those actions were taken to reach the end goal of the alleged conspiracy. I realize that explanation won't get me clicks on social media, but the truth is typically more boring than sensationalism.

Lastly, the issue of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's role needs to be addressed. There's a lot of disinformation going around about what he can and can't do. 

Putting aside that Kemp has already survived the full wrath of Donald Trump, making that threat rather weak, that is not how any of this works. Governors in Georgia do not have pardon power. Instead, there is a board that decides what pardons are given out. 

Once that was pointed out, many on social media shifted to suggesting Kemp should fire the entire board and appoint people who will pardon Trump. Again, that wouldn't work because Georgia law requires at least five years of all sentences to be served before a pardon can be granted. 

Yet another claim is that Kemp has the power to remove Willis from office. That comes from a misunderstanding about a law signed back in May that grants the power to remove DAs in the state. That power is vested in a board, not the governor. More importantly, though, the law itself isn't in effect right now because it is facing judicial review, making it irrelevant to the discussion. 

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In other words, there's a lot to tear apart about this indictment on legal grounds, but conservatives are going to further marginalize themselves in the conversation if they spend all their time misunderstanding the law and making irrelevant arguments. Instead, set yourself up on firm footing and blast away. 

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