Since the latest Trump indictment dropped in my home state of Georgia, I offered some thoughts at New York about the Peach State being his nightmare jurisdiction:
There’s an old saying among southerners that “you can’t go to hell without going through Atlanta,” which is a reference to the many, many air passengers who have to transfer from plane to plane at Atlanta’s Jackson-Hartsfield Airport to reach their destinations. Donald Trump’s journey through criminal courtrooms near and far is taking him through Atlanta, too, we learned on August 14, as a Fulton County grand jury indicted the former president on a variety of charges stemming from the Georgia edition of his plot to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. And unless he gets very lucky, Trump’s legal experience in Atlanta will be as hellish as a layover headed nowhere, as the charges force him to relive some of his least favorite moments of the last three years.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, and likely the jurors called forth to judge Trump, can and will be demonized by Team Trump and his MAGA supporters as Democrats “weaponizing” the legal system to take down the 45th president before he can return triumphantly to the White House. But many of the key witnesses testifying to Trump’s criminality will be his fellow Republicans in a state that has defied his wishes again and again. Trump’s losing streak in the state began in 2020, when he lost the state narrowly to Joe Biden in an election result certified by Republican secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, who administered the election, and recertified by Republican governor Brian Kemp.
All Trump’s efforts to change that result represented challenges to his own party’s power structure in the state, which refused to back down on the conviction that it was an honest election honestly counted and duly confirmed before God and the federal government. Trump and his allies had to lie like madmen to keep Georgia’s electoral votes contested, and from the president on down, they ensnared themselves serially in fraudulent charges and felonious pressure campaigns, most notably in Trump’s own plea to Raffensperger to manufacture some votes for him. And while their high jinks from fake-elector schemes to made-up fraud incidents echoed what they were doing in other battleground states, it’s the solid phalanx of Republican statewide elected officials fighting the election coup that made Georgia special.
Trump’s humiliation in Georgia didn’t end with Raffensperger’s refusal to “find” him some votes or with the refusal of Georgia’s Republican legislature to certify fake electors. His obsession with his attempted election coup was widely blamed for the defeat of two Republican U.S. senators in a January 2021 general-election runoff that cost the GOP control of the upper chamber. But worse yet, Trump sought to purge Raffensperger, Kemp, and several other GOP officeholders who didn’t bend the knee during the 2022 Republican primaries, and he and his surrogates had their asses handed to them. In the midterm election, Kemp, Raffensperger, and other Republicans romped to victory. The conspicuous loser was Trump’s hand-picked Senate candidate Herschel Walker, again robbing the GOP of a shot at Senate control.
Suffice it to say that as Trump faces a potentially devastating criminal proceeding in Georgia, there are very few of his fellow partisans willing to defend him, and some of the biggest names in the state GOP have already testified against him before the grand jury and are likely to incriminate him in open court (a very open court since the proceedings may be televised). Such sympathy as Trump demands as the putative 2024 Republican presidential nominee may be eroded by racketeering charges, which will surely make potential co-conspirators keep their distance. And if Trump is found guilty by a Fulton County jury at trial, he not only cannot pardon himself as he might do with a federal conviction but cannot even throw himself on Brian Kemp’s mercy. In Georgia, pardons are administered not by the governor but by an appointed state board that in the past has limited pardons to offenders who have already done their time.
All in all, Georgia is the last place in America where Donald Trump wants to face the music for his misdeeds. He should have skipped committing election-related crimes in his nightmare state even as wealthy travelers find ways to fly around Atlanta.