I don’t think Georgia is prepared for what’s coming its way.
I don’t know how it could be, not with the most important and controversial trial in American history looming in its not-too-distant future.
Now, maybe that trial will never happen. After months of investigative work into an alleged criminal conspiracy to interfere with and overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election, the special grand jury convened by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis could decide that no indictments are warranted.
After all, we don’t know what if anything the investigation is finding, because there have been few leaks of consequence. The grand jury process is supposed to be secret, and Willis and her team have been far more professional, diligent, and disciplined about honoring secrecy requirements than a certain ex-president has been.
That high degree of professionalism and discipline tells us that Willis is taking this very seriously, as she must. And I find it hard to believe that someone who has run such a tight ship is still stringing out a probe that hasn’t found much. Donald Trump’s prospects of escaping unscathed would be far better with an investigation that was loose and sloppy, which so far shows no sign of being.
To the contrary, through court filings, subpoenas and witness statements to the media, we know that the investigation has been broad and wide-ranging. “False electors” who proclaimed themselves the true voice of Georgia voters, and who sent false documents to Congress to that effect, have been warned they might be targets for prosecution. Rudy Giuliani, who told a string of huge whoppers to the Georgia Legislature to try to get it to hand Georgia’s electoral votes to Donald Trump, is also a potential target. Subpoenas have been issued to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, to Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, to Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, as well as many others.
Willis and her team are also exploring the illegal breach of voting machines in Coffee County by Trump advocates, a crime that Georgia’s Republican leadership has been notably slow to address, as well as an apparent attempt to intimidate Fulton County poll workers who were falsely accused of rigging the election outcome.
Again, this is not the behavior of an investigative team that is coming up empty. It looks instead like the careful, confident work of a team that is quietly disassembling a conspiracy network, figuring out how this effort is related to that effort, who gave the orders, who drew up the strategy, who should be held responsible.
And while we have no insight into the operations of the special grand jury, congressional investigations into Trump’s effort to remain in office despite losing the election have been far more public. Extremely damning emails, messages and witness testimony from Trump officials, including requests for pardons from conspiracy participants, have no doubt contributed immensely to Willis’ effort to weave all of this into a narrative that she can take to a jury, a narrative that places Trump at the center of it all. It would be an injustice to prosecute and potentially convict those at lower rungs of an alleged conspiracy to overthrow American democracy while allowing the man who would have benefitted most from it, who inspired it and who even reveled in it, to go scot-free.
That said, though, we should acknowledge that it would be a monumental decision to bring charges against Trump. It would create enormous security concerns, with Trump already hinting darkly that violence might be a justifiable response. The global media spotlight would be harsh and blinding, because nothing like it has ever happened in American history. It would be a storm like we have never witnessed, and we would be the center of it.
However, the events that have brought us to this point have also been unprecedented: Never before have we witnessed a serious, multi-pronged attempt to halt the peaceful transfer of presidential power; never before have we seen an attempt to silence the voice of American voters. The Fulton grand jurors have seen and heard things that we have not, and if they recommend to Willis that charges are necessary, then they can’t be blamed for the resulting chaos. The responsibility would belong to those who set all this in motion from Nov. 3, 2020 through Jan. 6, 2021.
They made the mess; this would be the cleanup.
Jay Bookman reporting via Florida Phoenix.
This column was published earlier by the Georgia Recorder, an affiliate of the nonprofit States Newsroom network, including Florida Phoenix.
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