The Promise of Justice in Fani Willis’s Indictment

The Promise of Justice in Fani Willis’s Indictment

The Promise of Justice in Fani Willis’s Indictment

Don’t overlook the deep historical significance in the fact that it’s in Fulton County, Ga., that Trump might meet his most dramatic comeuppance.

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There is gorgeous justice in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s staggering indictment of disgraced former president Donald Trump and his 18 coconspirators released late Monday night. Those 41 charges of racketeering, conspiracy, and other crimes lay bare the deep contempt Trump and his toadies showed for the voters of Georgia, who elected Joe Biden as their president.

Fani Willis isn’t having any of that.

The fact that all of this is taking place in Atlanta, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s home, and a capital of the Black voting rights movement, makes the moment even sweeter. Make no mistake, this is a voting rights case at its heart.

It’s also a form of long-delayed justice for two local poll workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, a mother and daughter falsely accused of committing voter fraud (coconspirator conman Rudy Giuliani said they passed around USB ports containing suspect votes like they were “vials of heroin or cocaine,” a nice, trademark racist flourish for the racist former prosecutor).

“In furtherance of the scheme,” Willis’s indictment says, “members of the enterprise traveled from out of state to harass Freeman, intimidate her, and solicit her to falsely confess to election crimes that she did not commit.” Trump called Freeman a “professional vote scammer and hustler.” The indictment also notes that Trump supporters came to the senior citizen’s home and forced her into hiding for a time, as she told the House January 6 committee last year.

“It was horrible,” Freeman said. “I felt homeless. I can’t believe this person [Trump] has caused this much damage to me and my family, to have to leave my home.”

“There is nowhere I feel safe, nowhere,” she continued. “Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you? The president of the United States is supposed to represent every American—not to target one. But he targeted me—Lady Ruby, a small-business owner, a mother, a proud American citizen who stood up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of the pandemic.”

I hope Lady Ruby is enjoying this day. I know Donald Trump is not.

Willis’s indictments also represent justice for all of us who have known Trump committed a crime ever since we first heard the tape of him begging, cajoling, and threatening Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, trying to get him to thwart the will of Georgia voters and “find me” the 11,000-plus votes he’d need to be declared the winner. There’s a reason “gaslighting” was Merriam-Webster’s word of the year in 2022: We had all learned to wonder whether what we’re seeing and hearing—from Trump and Giuliani and the entire clown car indicted with them—is reality, or has any meaning, when they’ve until recently faced no consequences for what seemed to be obvious crimes. Not just the chicanery in Georgia but also of course the January 6 insurrection.

Oh, the clown car. Let me pause and say their names, beyond Giuliani: former chief of staff Mark Meadows, “lawyers” John Eastman, Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell, Jeffrey Clark, and Kenneth Chesebro, Ray Stallings Smith III. And then some folks who joined the fake electors plot.

This hit me harder than I expected—but in a good way. While Trump and friends were on their Georgia crime spree, I was reporting on the runoff election for the Senate, eventually won by journalist and activist Jon Ossoff and Dr. King’s successor as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Raphael Warnock. I saw the extraordinary constellation of groups organizing voters of color and young people and white progressives that came together in Georgia first to elect Joe Biden and then to send Ossoff and Warnock to the Senate, where they gave the Democrats their crucial majority.

As I wrote at the time, that grassroots coalition was also working “to prevent the GOP from suppressing, disqualifying, and discouraging Democratic voters’ participation in the January 5 runoff.” Little did any of us realize at the time how extensive those efforts were. I paid attention to the fact that they were ultimately unsuccessful. Fani Willis paid attention to how close they came, and all the damage they did in the meantime.

Barbara Meyer, a longtime Atlanta activist and a board member for the Georgia Alliance for Progress, which helped coordinate all that work, is thrilled that Fulton County is where Trump might meet his most dramatic comeuppance. It’s the place where he finally has to sit for a mug shot, for example, where he’s most likely to face jail time for witness tampering, where there will be cameras in the courtroom—and where, even in the unlikely event that he gets reelected, he cannot pardon himself, since these are state charges.

“There were so many community-of-color-led grassroots organizations,” Meyer recalls, behind those 2020 and 2021 victories. Trump tried to thwart them, and now he’s facing dire consequences for doing so. Meyer also reminds me that the Fulton County jury pool is made up of mostly Democratic voters and voters of color. That’s why Trump’s team will try to change the venue, but there are many reasons that’s likely to fail.

“I’m just very excited to think my city and state might be the one to put this gentleman in jail!” Meyer tells me. “It’s so symbolic, given the history of Atlanta.” Representative Nikema Williams, who holds the late Representative John Lewis’s seat in the House of Representatives, made the same point on MSNBC Tuesday afternoon, citing Atlanta’s place as “the cradle of the civil rights movement” as she praised Willis’s tenacity and bravery, even in the face of death threats.

One noteworthy fact about Willis: She’s not entirely a progressive hero. She’s an unabashedly tough-on-crime prosecutor, and critics note the ways she’s used the RICO law she’s using against Trump against Black men. That’s why it should be hard for Trump to label her a “radical DA,” but he’s done it already. Lying is never hard for Trump.

I’m not buying a Fani Willis T-shirt or votive candle. But I am seeing the intricacy and integrity of her many-faceted prosecution of Trump in all its glory. So I unabashedly celebrate it.

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