Constitutional law expert Hans von Spakovsky has seen his share of questionable prosecutions in his distinguished career.
But he said he’s seen few more abusive than this week’s indictment brought by far-left Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis against former President Donald Trump.
“The Georgia one is really one of the more dubious, spurious, abusive prosecutions I’ve ever seen,” von Spakovsky, Senior Legal Fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, told The Wisconsin Daily Star this week on the Vicki McKenna Show.
In particular, von Spakovsky said the indictment signed off on by a deep blue Fulton County grand jury is an assault on the First Amendment.
Willis on Monday evening announced the multiple felony charges against Trump and 18 “co-conspirators,” including Trump’s former attorney Rudy Giuliani and his former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. The everything-including-the-kitchen-sink indictment alleges the former president and the other defendants interfered with and ultimately attempted to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election. Charges include everything from election fraud to violations of Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
The 98-page indictment lists Trump’s speeches and public tweets among the supposed illegal acts. Included in the “evidence” file is a December 3, 2003 tweet from Trump commenting on the Georgia State Legislature’s public hearings on whether there had been problems and irregularities in the administration of the 2020 presidential election. There had.
“Georgia hearings now on @OANN. Amazing!” the former president wrote on his soon-to-be suspended Twitter account.
“According to Fani Willis, the DA, this was an overt act in furtherance of a conspiracy,” von Spakovsky said. “So telling people that a publicly televised hearing was something he was watching was part of a conspiracy.”
The indictment alleges Trump promoted false election fraud claims discussed at the hearing, tweeting, “Wow! Blockbuster testimony taking place right now in Georgia. Ballot stuffing by Dems when Republicans were forced to leave the large counting room. Plenty more coming, but this alone leads to an easy win of the State!”
The indictment pushed by Willis is filled with such examples of “law-breaking.”
“What she has done is a broad attack on the First Amendment.,” von Spakovsky said. “You have a right to speak. That means you have a right to contest any election. And the fact that you may be wrong, proven wrong later on, is irrelevant.”
“It doesn’t matter whether what Trump and his people were saying about the 2020 election was true or not. They have an absolute right under the First Amendment to speak out, to complain, to criticize. And yet that’s what they’re being criminally prosecuted for,” the legal expert said.
Trump’s attorneys, Drew Findling, Jennifer Little, and Marissa Goldberg, said the charges are “shocking and absurd.”
“This one-sided grand jury presentation relied on witnesses who harbor their own personal and political interests— some of whom ran campaigns touting their efforts against the accused and/or profited from book deals and employment opportunities as a result,” the attorneys said in the statement. “We look forward to a detailed review of this indictment which is undoubtedly just as flawed and unconstitutional as this entire process has been.”
Trump and his fellow defendants have until next Friday to “surrender” or turn themselves in for processing, Willis said this week. A formal arraignment is expected in September.
Trump is now facing four indictments — two federal indictments related to the January 6, 2021 riots and allegations the former president mishandled classified documents, and a Manhattan indictment involving hush money over an alleged affair paid to a porn star.
But the sprawling Fulton County indictment includes allegations of illegal activity that took place well outside the district attorney’s jurisdiction.
“Now, I’m sure that the attorneys general of the states she talked about, like Wisconsin, Arizona, Pennsylvania, will be astonished to learn that a local prosecutor in Georgia has criminal jurisdiction over things that happened in their state. That is just how bizarre this indictment is,” von Spakovsky said.
But Willis is prosecuting her case in one of the bluest county’s in the country, where 75 percent of voters cast their ballots for Democrat Joe Biden in 2020.
“Fani Willis is counting on the fact that she can get a biased, partisan jury who will convict Donald Trump no matter what the facts of the law are in this case,” von Spakovsky said.
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M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.