Georgia Targets Rudy

[ Posted Monday, August 15th, 2022 – 15:24 UTC ]

Rudy Giuliani, one-time self-styled "America's mayor," is now the target of a criminal investigation in Atlanta, Georgia. He's not alone in this either, since already at least 17 other people have been informed that they too are targets of the investigation into exactly what happened after the 2020 election. Included in those 17 are two Republican state senators and the head of the state's Republican Party. The investigation is fairly wide-ranging, looking not only into Donald Trump and his minions trying to get every Georgia Republican holding office from the governor on down to somehow throw out enough votes for Joe Biden to allow Trump to proclaim he won, but also into the "fake electors" scheme where a group of Republicans tried to defraud the United States Congress and the American people into believing that Georgia had officially gone for Trump (when it hadn't). That's a lot to cover and it is why so many people are now targets.

Rudy played a principal part in the fake electors scheme, as he devilishly went down to Georgia (sorry, couldn't resist that one...) to push already-debunked conspiracy theories about suitcases stuffed with illicit votes for Joe Biden and the supposedly-suspicious behavior of the vote-counters. He presented this information (which, again, had by this point already been fully debunked by the release of the full and uncut video footage of the room in question) to Republican members of the state legislature, in an effort to get them to vote to just completely ignore the election's actual result and instead declare the fake electors were the real ones. Rudy wasn't just in on the fraud, he was a prime instigator of it, in other words.

In fact, his actions in Georgia have already had consequences, as his license to practice law has already been suspended in his home state of New York (due in large part to his activities in Georgia) and he is being sued by two of the companies who manufacture voting machines to the tune of billions of dollars. But none of that carries the risk of a prison sentence. Today's announcement does.

The investigation is being run by an intrepid district attorney in Atlanta. So far, she has not commented on the announcement by Rudy's lawyers that he is a target, but that is entirely proper as a grand jury is already looking at the matter. Rudy is scheduled to appear before this grand jury on Wednesday, after trying to get out of it by claiming he is too medically frail to fly. That tactic... well, didn't fly with the judge, who ordered Giuliani to get himself down to Atlanta "on a train, on a bus, or Uber."

It should be noted that this is the only state-level investigation that has been made public even though fake elector slates were created in numerous states, most of them purple (the red states didn't need them, they had legal slates of electors for Trump already). But then the evidence in Georgia was absolutely overwhelming, beginning with a publically-released recording of a phone call Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger where Trump begs him to just "find 11,780 votes" -- one more than he needed to declare victory. That phone call itself will be Exhibit A in any trial of Donald Trump in Georgia, because it is irrefutable evidence of election tampering.

In no other state (such as Michigan or Pennsylvania) has a district attorney launched a wide-ranging investigation (that I am aware of) into election tampering and the fraud of naming fake electors, but then they didn't have a smoking-gun recording of a phone call with Trump's own voice on it.

So how is this all going to play out? Your guess is as good as mine, really. If the grand jury hands down multiple indictments for the fake electors scheme but doesn't move further up the ladder than the people who actually signed the fraudulent document, that would be one thing. It would be quite another if Rudy Giuliani is charged, and it would be an absolute political earthquake if Donald Trump is charged with serious crimes.

What would happen in those last two cases? Again, your guess is as good as mine. In the supercharged political environment we live in now, nobody can really predict the outcome. If Rudy is charged (along with perhaps a few other of the lawyers who were directing things from behind the scenes on Trump's behalf), then we'll get a trial. So far, the Georgia legal process has moved a lot quicker than the federal one, so perhaps a trial would actually begin by, say, early next year. If Trump himself gets charged, he'll doubtlessly throw as much sand in the gears of the justice system as he can, so perhaps his trial would be delayed a bit longer.

But that's just the calendar. What would actually happen if Rudy and/or Trump were indicted? Well, we may have seen a preview of this, last week. Trump's followers are going to react, that much appears certain. Would they go to bat for Rudy, if he alone is charged? Or Rudy plus a bunch of other Trump lawyers? Is that going to outrage them enough to threaten (or actually use) violence against any and all connected with the proceedings? Two weeks ago, I might have had some doubts, but not so much anymore. If Trump tells his loyal MAGA followers to attack, then they are going to attack. The security for the trial and for all the prosecutors involved would be similar to trials held previously for Al Qaeda terrorists. The courthouse itself would be like a medieval fortress being besieged. And unlike the Capitol on January 6th, a trial wouldn't take only one day -- it'd be an extended event, with plenty of time for others to travel to Atlanta to join in whatever was happening. Even just Trump being served with a search warrant has already caused talk of us "being in a civil war" to spike through the roof online -- exactly as it did in the days leading up to January 6th. Except this time, perhaps they'll be more organized, and this time perhaps Trump's orders to them will be less vague and more directed.

That would just be for the trial. Could a jury be empanelled that could actually be fair? Would the MAGA citizens in and around Atlanta try to weasel their way onto the jury so that they could block a conviction no matter how damning or iron-clad the evidence was? And what would happen if an unbaised jury did unanimously decide that either Rudy or Trump were guilty of serious crimes? The scenes during the trial would pale in comparison to a real photo of Trump doing a perp walk in handcuffs off to jail, that's for sure. Violence seems almost certain to break out in that case, with the only questions being how localized it turned out to be (just in Georgia, or all across the country) and how violent things got.

These are not things that Americans used to have to worry about, to state the painfully obvious, but that was because in the past people or groups on the fringe advocating violence were shunned by both political parties (to one degree or another). But that has changed. Nowadays, Republican politicians openly approve of violence -- even against federal agents -- to further their political cause. What would GOP House members be saying if a guilty verdict were handed down for Trump? It is frightening to even imagine the depths their rhetoric would sink to, if last week was any measure.

There is also one last consideration that nobody has yet really thought about much. Say all of this happens, and both Rudy and Trump get multi-year prison sentences. Since the crimes they would have been found guilty of are state crimes and not federal, this would mean that the sitting governor of Georgia would have the power to pardon them.

If Republican Brain Kemp wins re-election over Stacey Abrams (he's currently ahead a few points in the polls), what would he do? Kemp has been on the outs with Trump ever since the 2020 election, and is one of the few Republicans who have stood up to Trump to actually survive politically. Trump heavily invested his energies into defeating Kemp in the Republican primary election, but Kemp still emerged with the party's nomination. From all available evidence, Trump loathes Kemp, because Kemp refused to wave some sort of magic wand and deliver Georgia's electors to him.

Kemp, as mentioned, has survived this political storm so far. But say he gets re-elected. What would he do if early in his next term he were faced with the decision of whether to pardon Donald Trump (or even just Rudy) or to actually allow the sentence to be carried out?

On the one hand, Kemp's proven that bucking Trump isn't a career-killer for a Georgia Republican. But on the other hand, if Kemp's victory in the general election were a slim one, he might be looking for ways to shore up his support with the MAGA voting base. And issuing a pardon would be a dandy way to do it.

It could also defuse a lot of the violence (or, assuming the best case, just the threats of violence). Kemp would never publically admit to being swayed by mob rule (no sane politician would), but he would know full well that if he acted immediately after the sentence was handed down the aftermath would almost certainly be a lot better.

Of course, if Stacey Abrams wins, it would all be a moot point. She'd never even consider a pardon, no matter how bad the street fighting got.

Today was a critical day, as we learned that serious legal consequences are now looming over people in Trump's inner circle. The wannabe-Machiavellis who concocted and then tried to implement the whole "fake electors" scheme are now on the hot seat. And prosecutors and the grand jury are now one small step from Trump himself. This is the closest any investigation has come, to date. And this is not a question of tax fraud or mishandling top secret presidential documents, this investigation is directed at the undermining of America's democracy that took place after Election Day 2020. The wheels of justice have moved quicker in Georgia than elsewhere -- so a final reckoning may finally be close at hand, at least in one state.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


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