New indictment of Trump is frontal attack on free speech

Defend constitutional rights! Drop the charges

By Terry Evans
September 4, 2023
Image of Donald Trump fills screen at June 16, 2022, hearing in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, riot at Capitol. Democrats’ witch hunt against former president aims to stop him running today.
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP ImagesImage of Donald Trump fills screen at June 16, 2022, hearing in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, riot at Capitol. Democrats’ witch hunt against former president aims to stop him running today.

On Aug. 14, Fani Willis, the Democratic district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, announced the indictment of former President Donald Trump and a number of his political supporters under the notorious anti-union RICO law. A grand jury she has been conducting charged Trump with orchestrating a criminal gang, claiming it carried out a far-reaching conspiracy to try to overturn the 2020 election.

RICO stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, adopted in 1970 to go after the unions. It allows for prosecuting unrelated “crimes” as a racketeering conspiracy. These laws are used by the government to intervene in the unions and restrict the right of union members to elect the officers of their choice. And they call for severe sentences.

The real aim of the indictment, which draws in 19 named conspirators on 41 counts, is to drive Trump out of politics in 2024 and show anyone who agrees with him politically that they too can be victimized. Like each of the three other indictments against Trump — in New York, Washington, D.C., and Florida — the Georgia charges toss aside constitutional protections of free speech and political association to accomplish the Democrats’ political ends.

Unlike the three other cases, the latest charges are not prosecuted in federal court. If Willis’ prosecution prevails and Trump is convicted, it would preclude a victorious President Trump from being able to pardon himself, leaving him behind bars in Georgia for years.

Democrats, Never-Trump Republicans and the middle-class left are determined to silence the Republican front-runner. The Georgia indictment is based overwhelmingly on statements Trump and his supporters made. Willis claims he began a conspiracy one day after the 2020 election by giving a speech saying he had won. She says tweets by Trump making the same claims were “an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.” And she claims appeals by the Trump campaign for Georgia legislators to send electors pledged to Trump to the electoral college were a crime.

She also charges Trump with soliciting a public officer to violate their oath, based on what he said in a highly publicized phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger: “All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.” But lobbying state officials and lawmakers seeking to change their minds is not a crime. It’s free speech.

The 2020 election was far from the first time the results have been sharply contested. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz denounced the indictment, saying what Trump did was “very similar” to what Dershowitz and the Democrats did challenging Al Gore’s loss to George W. Bush in 2000.

“We challenged the election, and we did much of the things that are being done today, and people praised us,” he said. “Now they’re making it a crime.”

Turning challenges to an election result into a criminal offense and targeting free speech is a serious danger for working people.

Every election under capitalism is rigged to benefit the main capitalist parties, the Democrats and Republicans, and against working-class parties like the Socialist Workers Party. Huge petitioning requirements to get on the ballot are used to exclude a working-class voice in most states. Being able to speak out against the rigging of elections is a constitutionally protected right.

RICO laws target the working class

Georgia’s RICO law is even more far-reaching than the federal statute. It doesn’t require prosecutors to show there was an underlying criminal enterprise, only that several illegal acts were carried out to advance a single goal. It is entirely set up for use in “turning” witnesses against each other and forcing confessions through plea bargains. Willis boasts she’s an expert in procuring RICO convictions.

Government prosecutors and the bosses have used RICO laws for years to target the unions.

In an effort to break a three-year strike by the United Steelworkers union at Titan Tire in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2000, bosses used RICO to sue some 90 members of USW Local 164. The company claimed striking workers “implemented a massive conspiracy to extort money” and conspired to “receive income from a pattern of racketeering” — i.e., winning higher wages. The union won and the anti-labor suit was dismissed in 2006.

Ironworkers Local 401 official Joseph Dougherty was sentenced to 19 years in jail in 2015, after being convicted under federal RICO laws in Philadelphia. The prosecutor alleged Dougherty used bullying to force nonunion contractors to hire union members. Before his trial, 11 other Ironworkers officials and members were bullied into pleading guilty to similar charges. The Militant denounced the frame-up.

Rush to trial violates rights

All four prosecutors trying to jail Trump are pushing for rapid trials set early in the 2024 election race. Willis wants the Georgia trial to start March 4.

Jack Smith, special counsel for President Joseph Biden’s Justice Department, demands Trump’s federal trial on charges of trying to overturn an election begin Jan. 2.

The Democrats, FBI and liberal media moguls have been laser-focused on bringing Trump down for over seven years. Democrats choreographed a monthslong show-trial of Trump during the Jan. 6 congressional hearings last year, a predecessor of today’s indictments.

Democrats used vast congressional resources to interrogate witnesses and gin up a case, but now insist those accused only get five months to prepare their defense.

The sixth amendment to the Constitution guarantees the accused the right to a legal defense. That requires the time needed to see all the evidence and bring witnesses in their defense. But Democrats are riding roughshod over due process in order to ensure Biden stays in the White House.

The judge hearing the case in Georgia has already limited Trump’s right to discuss the witch hunt against him and speak out on the lack of evidence.

All defenders of constitutional freedoms should demand the charges against Trump be dropped.