JUSTIN WEBB: With Donald Trump’s latest charges, brought by the state of Georgia, the former president faces the one case he can’t stop or avoid… his only option is to win
At his rallies, Donald Trump used to tell a story about how to force journalists to reveal their sources. His suggestion was to put them in prison where they could become the “bride” of another prisoner. The crowd would cheer and he would laugh. He doesn’t tell that prison rape joke anymore, maybe because he doesn’t find it as funny now.
The ex-president faces four major trials next year where he will answer four sets of indictments comprising 91 separate counts. The extent of the legal danger he faces is enormous.
And the latest charges — brought by the state of Georgia, not the Washington DC Department of Justice — have the potential to be more damaging than the others.
For starters, this is the only trial that will be televised. Depending on when it’s scheduled to be heard, it will become the most important story in America just as the presidential campaign begins.
All of the defendants – including Trump himself – face at least five years in prison if convicted.
Racketeering accusation: Trump salutes as he golfs in New Jersey this week
Donald Trump enters the Manhattan Courthouse in New York on April 4
Indeed, Trump and his team are charged under Georgia’s racketeering law. This was originally used to bring down organized crime gangs, and to be successful the prosecutor does not have to prove that the boss of an organization himself hit someone on the head, or the tied to a chair and ripped out his fingernails, or tried to play with the results of an election.
They don’t even need to prove that the alleged crime was ordered by the boss. All they have to prove to a jury’s satisfaction is that the boss, the Tony Soprano figure, appears to be at the top of a group of people who break the law.
That’s why Georgia’s indictment matters. It’s hard to defend, and it inevitably comes with a jail sentence in a way that none of the other indictments do.
But it’s also important because the main path to a successful defense is blocked for the Trump team. This path is not legal, it is political.
With each new indictment, Donald Trump has increased his support among Republicans. He is highly likely to be the party’s presidential candidate for 2024. And as president, he can have the charges dropped or forgive himself. With the Georgia case, that’s not an option. He has no power over a state prosecution and conviction, it’s something he can’t stop. Even the Republican governor of Georgia does not have the power to pardon until a sentence has been served. Granted, it would be difficult to prosecute a sitting president, but they could wait. It wouldn’t go away.
My friends, it seems there is only one way for Donald Trump to avoid going to Atlanta Penitentiary. He must win the case.
The sun sets over the Fulton County Courthouse Monday, Aug. 14, in Atlanta, Georgia, as Atlanta court officials released a list of criminal charges against former President Donald Trump.
And of course it can happen. Georgia’s indictment – unlike the other three – is very complicated and involves a large group of defendants, including some of its closest allies. He could collapse. The jury could determine that this is really all about politics – that the law was stretched to fulfill a political ambition to overthrow the former president.
But also, it could be that these “allies” are starting to feel a little sweaty under the collar as they contemplate their own future. Not just jail – but the huge cost of legal fees to stay out of it. Money that could have been spent on college funds for their children.
Donald Trump recently promised, “If you come after me, I’m coming after you.” They’re all chasing him now. In New York, Miami, Washington DC and now Atlanta. He will need all his powers, all his stamina and all his luck to keep his enemies at bay.
Justin Webb presents the Americast podcast on BBC Sounds