IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Why Fani Willis may not have an easy time convicting Trump

Trump’s lawyers will no doubt pounce on any hint of partisanship.
Former president Donald Trump speaks at the Georgia Republican Party's state convention on Saturday, June 10, 2023 in Columbus, GA.
Former President Donald Trump in Columbus, Ga., on June 10.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

It’s happened: Donald Trump has been handed a fourth indictment, this time by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis for allegedly interfering with the outcome of Georgia’s 2020 presidential election results. But before anyone gets too excited, there’s a chance these charges will not all stick.

As someone who ran successfully for office 13 times, neither I nor my campaign team ever had any reason to call a county election official to complain about an outcome. In fact, I often quip, rather boastfully and facetiously, that’s 13-0, undefeated, unindicted and undeterred.

Before anyone gets too excited, there’s a chance these charges will not stick.

In 2006, my campaign manager, Shawn Millan, noticed a serious discrepancy in an unofficial precinct tabulation that inflated my opponents vote total by several hundred votes. Shawn politely informed county election officials of what he and I thought was an inadvertent, incorrect transposition of a tabulation in one precinct, which upon official certification of the election was caught and corrected.

No one thought there was anything nefarious occurring — just an honest mistake, which was quickly discovered and corrected. This episode had absolutely no impact on the election outcome and was an entirely appropriate communication between my campaign and election officials.?

Contrast that with former President Donald Trump’s “perfect call” with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. In that recorded one-hour call, Trump berated Raffensperger and demanded he find nearly 12,000 votes, claiming massive election fraud. In a gob-smacking act of brazenness, Trump even went so far as to suggest that Raffensperger could find himself in legal jeopardy if he didn’t remedy the Georgia election in the former president’s favor. Remember the former president presided over the United States Justice Department at the time of that call. That is no small threat. Where I come from, that takes a lot of brass.?

Had any other elected official attempted to strong-arm a state or county election official in a publicly released audio recording and commanded that same official to find 500, 5,000 or 15,000 votes to change the outcome in a free and fair election, I can assure you the offending elected official would be under immediate investigation by state or federal law enforcement and likely indicted in short order. Full stop. In Trump’s case, the matter is simple and straightforward. His words are self-incriminating.

An indictment of Trump in Georgia may not make a lick of difference in the GOP presidential primary, but it would make him a greater risk than he already is in the 2024 general election. Pleasing and pandering to Trump is now the obsession of far too many Republican leaders who have subordinated and deprioritized winning otherwise competitive races rather than offend the former president. Stated another way, they have made losing great again.

But none of this means Trump will be convicted for his misbehavior. In addition to the belligerent delay tactics of Trump and his legal teams, Willis has already made some missteps, causing her to be viewed by some as too partisan. That’s potentially not a good look for a prosecutor in such a high-profile matter. And Trump’s lawyers no doubt will pounce on any and all examples of partisanship at trial. Further, Trump’s hour-long call is peppered with his classic word salad statements that his lawyers will likely argue were merely suggestions, that he didn’t really mean to steal the election, making the prosecution’s case more difficult to prove. Willis also has a complicated, 19-person defendant pool, and will have to contend with a convoluted scheduling mess that could drag the process out for years.

It appears to me that the classified documents case still represents the clearest legal jeopardy faced by Trump of all these investigations.

Contrast this with the federal investigations led by Jack Smith, who was appointed rather than elected, in the classified documents and Jan. 6 matters where there are no credible charges of partisanship. It appears to me that the classified documents case still represents the clearest legal jeopardy faced by Trump of all these investigations. Knowingly absconding with classified documents, concealing them and then obstructing their return should be hard to explain away at trial

And as damning as Trump’s call with Raffensperger was, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which Trump, if convicted, would ever serve a minute in a Georgia correctional facility, especially if the other federal cases are still pending.

This whole Trump legal morass is unprecedented.?No former president has ever had anything close to this sort of legal jeopardy. Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal pales in comparison to the myriad of legal problems facing Trump.

The threat Trump presents to the rule of law and constitutional order are real. His misconduct in office is well documented, as was his chaotic and abusive management style. Voters in 2020 rejected all this madness for a more conventional president in Joe Biden.

How this noise surrounding Trump all translates in a Georgia courtroom trial of the former president is anyone’s guess. For now, it appears convicting Trump in Georgia is by no means a certainty.

That said, I suspect any other elected official who made a call similar to Trump’s would most assuredly be convicted.

But no one ever said life was fair.

news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news