We’ve seen that scowl a million times, but never before in this context: Donald Trump, the “strawberry blond” former president, was booked, fingerprinted, and mug shot in Georgia Thursday evening—the 45th president now inmate no. P01135809. “It is not a comfortable feeling,” he told Fox News Digital afterward. But once again, his Republican allies are rallying to his defense—seeking not only to run political interference for him, but also remove Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from office, potentially undermining the prosecution entirely.
There was the usual framing by the MAGA crowd of Trump as some kind of martyr, which his grim expression in the booking photo was presumably meant to convey: “God Bless President Trump!” wrote Congressman Jim Jordan, who announced a probe earlier in the day into Willis over the indictment. “The circumstances surrounding your actions raise serious concerns about whether they are politically motivated,” the House Judiciary Committee chair wrote in a letter to Willis.
But more concerning than Jordan’s gambit is a play on the state-level by Georgia Republicans to remove Willis to get Trump’s case thrown out: In a Facebook post earlier this week, State Senator Clint Dixon accused the DA of prosecuting the ex-president to become “some sort of leftist celebrity,” and said he would call on a newly-formed committee of political appointees to “take action” against her. That commission, approved by Republican Governor Brian Kemp in May, was ostensibly created to make it easier to oust progressive, reform-minded DAs. “I am not gonna stand idly by as rogue or incompetent prosecutors refuse to uphold the law,” the governor said ahead of the law’s signing. In this case, of course, Dixon and the Republicans are seeking to use the law to target Willis not for any reform efforts, but explicitly because she brought charges against Trump and his allies. In his Facebook post, Dixon acknowledged the “reality” of the Trump indictment in Georgia “is one of the reasons we passed a law.”
“There’s a one-hundred percent chance that’s going to happen,” as Clark Cunningham, a professor of law at Georgia State University, told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC Thursday night.
It’s unclear what will come of the effort. The law allowing the Prosecuting Attorneys Statewide Qualifications Commission to remove elected district attorneys from office, which takes effect in October, is currently being challenged in court; the Public Rights Project, which is part of the lawsuit, filed a preliminary injunction Thursday in an effort to stop the commission from initiating any removal proceedings while the law is under litigation. “The original reasoning for the commission was to go after DAs who supposedly weren’t prosecuting enough,” Jill Habig, the group’s executive director, told the Intercept. “It’s not only about not prosecuting enough, it’s also about prosecuting too much if the defendant is the wrong one from the perspective of the partisan officials who are creating and staffing this commission.” But should the commission stand—and heed Republican calls to investigate Willis—it is possible they could remove her before Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and their fellow co-defendants have to go to trial.
That wouldn’t eliminate all of the 2024 GOP frontrunner’s legal troubles, of course—the Georgia racketeering case represents only 13 of the 91 felony charges he’s been hit with since April. But it could at least undermine what is perhaps the most perilous case against him: Unlike in the federal cases brought by Jack Smith, a conviction in Georgia would not be subject to presidential or gubernatorial pardon—and the RICO charges in the state mean he’d almost certainly face jail time if found guilty. To hobble that prosecution would be an extraordinary and outrageous move. But these are desperate times for Trump—and it has his allies, in Georgia and beyond, reaching for desperate measures. “We’re not going to keep putting up with this,” Sarah Palin said on Newsmax Thursday night, seemingly calling for “civil war” after Trump’s surrender. “We do need to rise up and take our country back.”