It takes a good woman to bring a bad man down. Having at Donald Trump vigorously are Representative Liz Cheney in Washington and District Attorney Fani Willis in Georgia’s Fulton County.
On July 5, Willis made a giant leap forward. It’s not that Cheney and the January 6 Committee haven’t shown the White House to be a madhouse. But unless the panel refers its rich findings to Attorney General Merrick Garland before the GOP takes the House, it’s a Netflix doc with vivid proof of how close we came to a coup, not a vehicle to bring the culprits to justice.
The hearings, which resume on the 12th, lead one to ask again and again, “Are we there yet?” No matter what’s revealed, it falls short of the promised land: Trump order the magnetometers removed from the Ellipse so his rally would be better attended and his tantrum when the Secret Service wouldn’t let him lead the armed mob at the Capitol are both salacious, but they might not get us closer to an indictment. Read the ketchup on the wall: Stop pursuing the state of mind of someone who doesn’t have one.
Not so a Georgia grand jury with a full mouth of teeth bared to get the man who tried to overturn the state’s election to overturn Joe Biden’s. In Georgia they know that a winning candidate doesn’t come begging for votes. In the infamous call Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the leader of the free world went on for an hour accusing Raffensperger of committing a “criminal offense” and warning that people were laughing at him. Finally, aware that he couldn’t refute Raffensperger’s defense, Trump said, “So look. 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.”
Willis has the decency to be appalled by Trump. She won’t cross him off her list of those who could be summoned to Atlanta to testify. After being stiffed by various “individuals of interest,” she fired off subpoenas to Rudy Giuliani and his legal clown car, the lawyers who convened ersatz hearings in a rented ballroom dressed up to look official where nothing was proved. More significantly, indeed historic, Willis’s special grand jury that can call targets as well as witnesses subpoenaed a sitting senator, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham.
As determined as Cheney is, she can’t hook a Big Fish Senator, nor could her House committee do anything to Graham anyway. Willis can—her inquiry is criminal—and after more than 20 years as a prosecutor and two years in her current post, where she ousted a longtime incumbent, the Howard University grad is The Donald’s worst nightmare: a Black woman with a grand jury.
Grand juries have more oomph than committees, and the farther you get from Washington the more prima facie illegal Trump’s conduct looks. You only have to prove that a U.S. senator badgered a state official from a state not his own to disqualify mail-in ballots. Back in Washington, among Graham’s wizened peers, that barely raises a bushy eyebrow.
Upon being served, Graham issued statements wondering what in the world was going on, before announcing that he would challenge the summons in court. His aides explained that he only had Georgia on his mind in his role as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, making sure there was nothing to see there. There will be a lot to see and hear if Graham shows up in Atlanta. He is facing a “he Said, he Said” situation with Raffensperger’s testimony, already taken, ready to be compared to Graham’s memory. That’s the Raffensperger who voted for Trump but took his oath of office seriously enough to chase down every crazy allegation of buckets of uncounted votes and, finding none, rejected Trump’s entreaties. For that, he lost friends and his peace of mind. (His daughter was threatened at her home.) If there were a clash, who would you believe: an official who played it straight to his detriment or a senator who left his spine in Mar-a-Lago?
Republicans blowing off subpoenas is an indoor sport. You’d think as a former judge advocate general, Graham would be more reluctant than the usual Trump buffoons to stiff a grand jury. The old Graham who admired his mentor, John McCain, might have raised his right hand and done his duty. “Whatever happened to Lindsey Graham?” is a drinking game in Washington that became popular when the son of a pool hall owner turned 27-year veteran of the House and Senate went from calling Trump a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot” who would destroy the party to embracing him. For a few hours, he was appalled at the insurrection Trump fomented, going to the Senate floor on the evening of January 6 to say, “Enough is enough.” That steely resolve lasted for a matter of hours, until he read polls showing that Trump’s base was on board with mob rule. Graham fell quickly back in line and onto Trump’s golf course.
As interesting as who was subpoenaed is who wasn’t: Limp-as-a-dishrag Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who, according to his deputy Cassidy Hutchinson, couldn’t stop staring at his phone to respond to her updates about the bloody takeover of the Capitol. During the plot to steal the election, Meadows wasn’t just on the phone with Trump and Raffenserger, he actually took a midnight train to Georgia to purloin votes. One bit of speculation is that Meadows is so implicated in the coup—he and Ginni Thomas were on personal texting terms about overturning Arizona’s results—that he’s already flipped and is helping Cheney and Willis. Maybe. What’s certain is that at 63, any felony sentence would be a life sentence.
There’s rough justice in the prosecution of the son of Fred Trump, the Queens developer nailed by the feds for racial discrimination. A meticulous, quietly determined, non-showboat Black woman attorney with two daughters brings Trump’s unlikely political career full circle. Trump’s White House trajectory began with his birther canard, which seemed to be about his lip-curled disdain for the first Black president but was just as much a cheap way to gauge how many racists were out there to be tapped in a rogue run for president.
The answer was plenty, no shortage of Americans seething over the Obamas and Willises out there. There was no lack of establishment Republicans willing to sacrifice their souls and embrace a neo George Wallace for the promise of tax cuts and microscopic zygotes.
Trump can’t get Georgia off his mind. Tough. Mr. Hate shouldn’t have inserted himself into elections in the City Too Busy to Hate. Just as Trump underestimated Willis, his blind spot when it comes to persons of color and a soft spot for athletes with concussions led him to overestimate Herschel Walker. In a race that the GOP should be winning—in their primaries, Republican Governor Brad Kemp and Raffensperger easily prevailed—the admitted wife-abusing Walker is running behind Democratic incumbent Ralph Warnock for a seat Republicans expected to take back. He’s acknowledged mental health issues but insists, unconvincingly, that he’s been cured. It doesn’t help that, like Elon Musk, the Heisman Trophy winner can’t put a number on exactly how many children he’s fathered. If Walker loses and Mitch McConnell doesn’t return to being the majority leader because of it, the Kentuckian might strangle Trump before the Furies get to him.
Trump will run again and the GOP will support him again unless he’s stopped by controlling legal authority, the primary one being Willis if the midterms end a half century of Cheney family rule in Wyoming. In January 2023, the (likely) Republican House will kill the committee so they can establish new panels to investigate Hunter Biden’s laptop and Hillary Clinton’s emails. And, for old times’ sake, revisit Benghazi.
Willis could compel Trump to testify, even indict the plate-throwing man-child despite a long-ago memo to the file at the DOJ recommending that a former president not be indicted. That wouldn’t stop Cheney, either, but unfortunately for the country, she doesn’t have a grand jury, or her party, behind her.
Willis has other experiences that make her the right woman to take a bad man down. Another of her high-profile cases is a multi-count indictment of the rapper Young Thug. She’s trying to send him to prison for participating in an illegal gang and violating the state’s RICO Act, the same statute that she might invoke to bring down the ex-president. Who better than Willis to take on an Old Thug?