Why potential RICO charges in Georgia are 'the most dangerous prosecution for Trump': report

Why potential RICO charges in Georgia are 'the most dangerous prosecution for Trump': report
ATLANTA, GA - MAY 3: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (C) attends a press conference at the Atlanta Police headquarters following a shooting at Northside Hospital medical facility on May 3, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. Police say one person was killed and four others injured in the shooting and the suspect, Deion Patterson, has been captured. Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images).

Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis announced over the weekend that she has concluded her investigation into former President Donald Trump's alleged attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election in the Peach State.

"The work is accomplished," Willis told CNN affiliate WXIA. "We've been working for two and a half years. We're ready to go." The outlet noted that Willis appears to be "holding true to her commitment to giving the American people an answer by Sep. 1" on whether Trump will be criminally charged, which "could be Trump's third indictment case of the year."

On Monday, The New Yorker's Charles Bethea speculated based on interviews with experts that Willis may "use her favorite prosecutorial Swiss Army knife" — the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act — against Trump.

READ MORE: Georgia prosecutors are preparing a massive racketeering case against Trump: report

"Traditionally, a racket is an illegal money-making scheme," Bethea explained. "The federal RICO statute, which was introduced in 1970, allows prosecutors to threaten serious penalties for people whose own criminal violations may have been relatively minor but who were part of a larger racketeering enterprise (such as the Mafia)."

Georgia is one of only seven states with its own set of RICO laws, which Bethea noted do not "require prosecutors to demonstrate an underlying criminal enterprise, only the commission of a range of illegal acts that furthered a single criminal goal."

Trump's now-infamous call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find 11,780 votes" is the crux of Willis' anticipated complaint.

Norm Eisen, who served as co-counsel for the United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee in Trump's first impeachment trial, told Bethea, "It's almost as if Trump and his alleged co-conspirators utilized Georgia's RICO statute as a punch list for election interference in the state after the 2020 election," adding that "Trump converted a political campaign into a criminal organization."

READ MORE: 'RICO': Georgia prosecutors considering racketeering and conspiracy charges against Trump

But Georgia State University Criminology Professor Volkan Topalli was not "so sure." Although he told Bethea "that the state's generous statute helps create a 'whirlpool effect' in the prosecution of criminal conspiracies: 'If you capture one person in the whirlpool, everyone else gets sucked in along with them,'" he stressed that "it's new ground that they're treading here with this application of RICO."

Despite the unprecedented task of prosecuting a former president, Topalli said that "Georgia is the most dangerous prosecution for Trump... due to the preëxisting prosecutions taking place."

If Willis goes the RICO route, Trump's attorney Drew Findling will not be short on counterclaims, according to Berthea's discussion with Eisen.

"Findling could argue that Trump was looking into allegations of election fraud as part of his Presidential duties, thereby conveying him immunity," Berthea wrote. "He could argue that Trump's opinions stemmed from his reliance, or overreliance, on the counsel of his lawyers. And he could argue that Trump genuinely believed that he had won the election."

Eisen, however, "doesn't buy any one of these defenses."

Bethea's analysis continues at this link (subscription required).

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