Trump’s Prosecution America’s Last Hope

Trump's Prosecution America's Last Hope

Donald Trump Arrested in Georgia: A Wide-Ranging Criminal Enterprise

Donald Trump Arrested

In a stunning turn of events, former President Donald Trump has been arrested in Georgia for his alleged involvement in a wide-ranging criminal enterprise aimed at overturning the results of the 2020 election. Trump, along with 18 others, including his former lawyer Rudolph Giuliani and former chief of staff Mark Meadows, has been formally accused of 41 state-law felonies. This historic case, brought by Fani Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Georgia, marks the first time a United States president has been accused of trying to steal an election.

The charges against Trump include filing false documents, conspiracy to commit forgery, and attempting to browbeat and suborn felony acts from high-ranking Georgia officials. Prosecutors claim that Trump and his co-conspirators pressured officials to take action to “decertify the election” and “unlawfully appoint presidential electors.” These charges have paved the way for additional counts of racketeering, filed under the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). A conviction under RICO, which can carry up to a 20-year prison sentence, would require jurors to consider whether Trump and the other defendants were involved in a single criminal undertaking.

RICO is a powerful legal weapon that only requires prosecutors to prove two out of dozens of possible crimes to secure a conviction. The state’s definition of an “enterprise” is fairly ambiguous, allowing jurors to examine a tower of evidence and discern a pattern in the defendants’ actions. For Trump and his team, the prospect of facing a jury deliberating RICO charges is a doomsday scenario.

This Georgia prosecution is not the only legal battle Trump is facing. He is also involved in cases in Manhattan over “hush money” paid to a porn star, in Florida federal court over the retention of classified documents, and in Washington, DC, for his role in the January 6 insurrectionist riot at the US Capitol and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. In total, Trump is now facing a staggering 91 felony charges. Despite the mounting legal pressure, he has pleaded not guilty to each one so far.

The indictment against Trump represents the culmination of a political career built on ignoring checks and balances, mocking the law and the courts, and encouraging violence among his supporters. Over 1,100 of his most committed followers have been charged in the past 31 months for attempting to physically stop Congress from certifying the election results. Shockingly, more than 80 of them have pleaded guilty to assaulting police officers who ordered them to disperse. The events of that day resulted in over 140 officers being injured, and tragically, four officers took their own lives within 200 days of the insurrection.

However, the casualties of Trump’s presidency extend beyond physical harm. Legal experts have long warned that his acrimonious brand of politics, characterized by harassment and norm-breaking behaviors, is corrosive to the very foundations of democracy. Prosecuting Trump may serve as a crucial step in distinguishing lawful challenges in future elections from outright criminal acts. His arrest has already made it clear that the public will not condone such norm-breaking behaviors, regardless of the courts’ views.

In their book published in 2018, Harvard Law scholars Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt outlined two criteria for a healthy democracy: “social norms” and “institutional forbearance.” Social norms refer to unwritten codes of conduct that people generally agree upon, while institutional forbearance emphasizes the need for politicians to exercise restraint in the use of their authority. The Trump administration, however, violated both of these criteria with alarming frequency. Trump’s strategy of delegitimizing political rivals and painting them as un-American eroded social and democratic norms that are essential for a functioning democracy.

The Trump presidency saw an unprecedented number of false or misleading claims, with the Washington Post cataloging over 30,000 such statements by the end of his term. The administration’s ethical violations highlighted the fact that there are few laws against basic forms of corruption, relying instead on conventions and norms to prevent abuse of power. The absence of robust norms rendered traditional checks and balances ineffective, allowing democracy’s assassins to use democratic institutions to gradually undermine and dismantle it.

The Georgia case represents a significant shift, as it moves Trump and his associates from the realm of “norms violations” to the realm of criminality. Prosecuting Trump under RICO allows jurors to consider both the legal and normative dimensions of his actions. While the prosecutions may not heal America’s deep partisan divide, legal scholars argue that they are necessary to hold the de facto leader of the Republican Party accountable. Relying solely on the vote, rather than impartial jurors who consider evidence and draw inferences, risks creating a new norm that undermines democratic values.

For American democracy to thrive and regain its legitimacy, the prosecutorial systems, judges, and jurors in New York, Georgia, Florida, and Washington must continue their work. While the prosecutions may not prevent individuals from profiting off their wrongdoings, they provide an opportunity for the law to decide whether ill-gotten gains should be stripped away. Democratic institutions rely on public officials consciously adopting common standards of behavior and holding each other accountable. Neglecting these standards would undermine the validity of the legal system and the system itself.

During Trump’s presidency, the focus on criminal charges overshadowed the erosion of democratic norms. Many observers mistakenly believed that the absence of criminal charges indicated the failure of federal oversight officials. However, the absence of coherence in democratic norms allowed essential but less defensible norms to be eroded. Trump’s hypothetical plan to fire thousands of bureaucrats and civil servants in an effort to insulate himself from legal scrutiny is a stark contrast to the restraint necessary for a healthy democracy.

In conclusion, the arrest of Donald Trump in Georgia marks a significant moment in American history. The charges brought against him and his associates highlight the importance of upholding democratic norms and prosecuting those who seek to undermine the electoral process. While the prosecutions may further inflame hostilities and erode trust in institutions, they are a necessary step towards restoring the legitimacy of American democracy. The law must be allowed to decide whether individuals like Trump should be held accountable for their actions, ensuring that ill-gotten gains are not protected at the expense of justice.