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In America's latest iteration of law vs. scofflaw, Fulton County Prosecutor Fani Willis has brought the most consequential prosecution in U.S. history.  The Georgia DA's 41 count indictment against Donald Trump and 18 of his closest co-conspirators threads the infinitesimal needle between free political speech and fraud, sewing Trump's lies into a cloak of criminal enterprise beyond the protection of the Constitution.

The First Amendment protects lying politicians — Georgia law doesn't  

Trump's incessant drumbeat about a stolen 2020 election, repulsive to voters who value fact over fiction, is legally challenging to parse. Under the First Amendment, politicians have the right to lie to the American public with impunity.  Trump can claim that he is Jesus, that the Earth is flat, and that a chlorine enema can cure cancer; there's little the courts can do. Since 1943, the Supreme Court has protected political speech — even demonstrably false and ridiculous political speech — as the heart of the First Amendment.

"If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion…"

In deference to this reality, Jack Smith's federal indictment acknowledged up front that Trump "had a right, like every American, to speak publicly about the election and even to claim, falsely, that there had been outcome-determinative fraud during the election and that he had won."  

 Willis was not so constrained. She relied on Georgia Code Section 16-10-20, which makes it a crime to lie to any state, city or local government official in Georgia regarding any matter within their jurisdiction. It means that while Trump has gotten away with lying to his MAGA devotees for years, he broke the law when he lied to state and federal officials to try to change the outcome of the 2020 election in Georgia.

"It's tough to own any of this when it's all just conspiracy shit beamed down from the mothership."

The Georgia indictment cites 162 separate acts by Trump and his co-conspirators, including false statements, impersonating a public officer, and forgery, and weaves them into criminal racketeering charges under Georgia's RICO statute, which is broader than the federal RICO lawIt alleges that Trump conspired to convince Georgia election officials that fraud had occurred, despite a lack of credible evidence and consistent judicial rulings to the contrary. It describes Trump's recorded call urging Brad Raffensperger, Georgia's Republican secretary of state, to "find" nearly 12,000 non-existent votes, vaguely threatening Raffensperger if he did not.  

Trump's "overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy" to overturn the presidential vote in Georgia began on November 4, 2020, when Trump made a nationally televised speech falsely declaring victory. That lie quickly metastasized into varied iterations, including a pressure campaign on state and local officials to violate their oaths of office. It included transmitting false elector votes and forged elector certificates to state and federal officials; accusing low-level Georgia election workers of ballot stuffing; and trying to intimidate an election worker into falsely confessing to election crimes she did not commit.  

Trying to explain how Trump's stolen election litigation resulted in massive losses (61 cases, at last count), one Trump advisor commented, "It's tough to own any of this when it's all just conspiracy shit beamed down from the mothership."

The sweet poetry of watching a woman take down a misogynist 

Trump, who bragged in 2005 about assaulting women's genitalia and then dismissed his comments as locker room talk, was found guilty of the same in 2023 by a jury of his peers. Aside from his vitriolic attacks on female politicians and professionals, he likes to brag that he personally "killed Roe v. Wade." He campaigned on eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion, promising to appoint pro-life judges. Trump's Supreme Court justices, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh, have tilted a political court further to the right, injuring women more than any other demographic in the process.  

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As red states are now free to force pregnancy and birth on half the population, women have lost agency over their own bodies, are left unable to plan their own families or careers and are reduced to second-class status. How gratifying it is, then, to see Trump taken down by a woman, as there is no federal pardon for state crimes.  

Republicans have abandoned the rule of law, preferring political violence and authoritarianism over the loss of power, which makes it all the more gratifying to watch Willis rein them in. Pardon me while I swoon, but Fani Willis is no pushover.  She has taken on violent gangs and is now prosecuting rapper Young Thug under the same RICO statute ensnaring Trump.   

Willis leans conservative on criminal justice and her campaign for prosecutor was endorsed by the police union. She sought the death penalty for a man who murdered four women during a shooting spree that targeted Asian spas in Atlanta. She also prosecuted public school teachers in a high-profile test cheating scandal, a risky political move. When criticized for the case, Willis told her detractors to "put it in my obituary."

I think Fani's obituary is writing itself: Fani T. Willis, the woman from Georgia who took a criminal president down.

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