For pro-democracy Americans, the schadenfreude of watching the long arm of justice come for former President Donald Trump's "gaggle of crackpot lawyers," as former Vice President Mike Pence dubbed them, is strong.
Rudy Giuliani, drowning in legal bills, pleaded to Trump for financial assistance.
Jenna Ellis, an attorney who has since been dumped by Trump for supporting Ron DeSantis, is making her own online funding appeals and hoping to crack $100,000 soon.
Former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell is now hawking conspiracy-theory merch with the promo code "SYDNEY20" for a 20% discount.
Giuliani, Ellis, and Powell are among the 19 defendants named in the Georgia case charging Trump and his associates with trying to overturn the state's 2020 election results. But they also represent the type of high-profile fall from grace that Americans need to see in order to make future coup-plotters think twice before trying to subvert democracy.
The truth is, Trump never would have come so close to illegally holding on to power without these henchmen who plotted with him, cheered him on, and relentlessly pushed his baseless conspiracies. And by design, the Georgia racketeering case ensnaring 18 co-defendants will inevitably push these Trump lackeys to turn on each other to avoid jail time.
Some may even turn on Trump himself. Ellis, for instance, has tried to raise money by questioning the former president for hoarding the millions in defense funds he has raised. "I totally agree this has become a bigger principle than just one man. So why isn't MAGA, Inc. funding everyone's defense?" she tweeted earlier this month. Will she be peeved enough to cut a deal with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is prosecuting the Georgia case?
In a new court filing, another co-defendant, former Georgia Republican Party Chair David Shafer, is pointing his finger at Trump's campaign lawyers for masterminding the fake-elector scheme.
Naturally, Shafer was also one of those fake electors who signed documents claiming to be a legitimate Georgia presidential elector for Trump. Slates of fake electors were assembled in multiple states to provide a rationale to federal lawmakers for refusing to certify the election for Joe Biden on Jan. 6, 2021.
“[A]n attorney for the President was present at the December 14, 2020 meeting of the presidential electors itself and advised the Presidential Electors, including Mr. Shafer, that performance of their duties was necessary on behalf of the President and the Constitution,” Shafer’s attorneys wrote in the new filing. In this case, Shafer's attorneys were referring to Ray Smith, another co-defendant in the Georgia case.
While special counsel Jack Smith's federal indictment might succeed in holding Trump to account before the 2024 election, the slow burn of the sweeping Georgia case is arguably just as essential to restoring respect for the fundamental tenets of U.S. democracy.
Americans need to see accountability on all levels. It’s a good start to see 1,000-plus charged insurrectionists—hundreds of whom have pleaded guilty or been convicted—but it isn’t nearly enough to prevent future violent anti-democratic revolts. Consequences must encompass grassroots organizers, architects, enablers, and, of course, Trump himself.
The message must be loud and clear: If you want to avoid prison, you can’t stoke or participate in violence, even if you personally believe the cause is righteous. And if you attack a legitimate election with a barrage of falsehoods that result in death and destruction, you'll end up in a prison cell reviewing your life choices.
But the collapse of Trump’s once-unified front of enablers is equally important. Co-conspirators turning on each other is more than just a prosecutor’s dream—it’s also an implosion of the spin the conspirators once peddled.
Ultimately, the most crucial outcome of Willis' case in Georgia could be a very public breakdown of the us-vs.-them mentality that is essential to creating and proliferating destructive conspiracies. The weaker those alliances get, the better for the survival of the republic.
Did anything happen while we were all taking a well-deserved break? Something about Donald Trump being indicted not once, but two times! Also in the news: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign collapse. So much is happening!