May 23, 2024

Relocations: It’s not sufficient to defeat Donald Trump at the voting booth

Fani Willis
Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis announces indictments of former President Donald Trump and 18 others in an alleged scheme to overturn the 2020 presidential vote in Georgia. C-SPAN screen shot
August 17, 2023

The latest indictments: The generals should join their foot soldiers behind bars

By Herbert Rothschild

On Dec. 14, 2020, the day before presidential electors all across the country were required to cast their votes and submit them to Congress, in Michigan, Mike Shirkey, then the state Senate majority leader, and Lee Chatfield, then the speaker of the state House, made public statements explaining why they would not accede to Donald Trump’s pressure to get the Republican-dominated Legislature to decertify Biden’s win in their state.

Herb Rothschild Relocations
Herbert Rothschild

Here is an excerpt from what Chatfield said, as set forth in Jack Smith’s indictment of Trump for crimes committed in his effort to overthrow the results of the 2020 election:

“I fought hard for President Trump. No one wanted him to win more than me. I think he’s done an incredible job. But I love our republic, too. I can’t fathom risking our norms, traditions and institutions to pass a resolution retroactively changing the electors for Trump, simply because some think there may have been enough widespread fraud to give him the win. That’s unprecedented for good reason. And that is why there is not enough support in the House to cast a new slate of electors. I fear we’d lose our country forever. This truly would bring mutually assured destruction for every future election in regards to the Electoral College. And I can’t stand for that. I won’t.”

When the historical verdict on Trump’s four years as president becomes settled, I doubt if it will affirm Chatfield’s adulatory assessment. Still, had Trump cooperated in the peaceful transfer of power, he wouldn’t have occupied a large place in our history one way or another. Like every Republican president beginning with Ronald Reagan, he served the rich well, lowering their taxes and deregulating the corporations from which they derive most of their wealth. His vile treatment of children at our border was short-lived thanks to the courts. He was far less inclined to imperial wars than his predecessors, Democratic and Republican alike. He did fiddle while the planet burned, but no national administration has been sufficiently vigorous about addressing global warming. Probably his most damaging legacy would have been his three appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But Trump didn’t cooperate in the peaceful transfer of power. What he did in itself assures his importance to our history. Whether we succeed in holding him accountable for his treason will matter even more.

Reading Chatfield’s declaration of loyalty to the United States should be encouraging. The indictment includes a similar statement by Rusty Bowers, speaker of the Arizona house, also responding to pressure from the White House to violate his oath of office. Thanks to Republican officeholders like Chatfield, Bowers, Mike Pence and Brad Raffensperger, the plot against America, laid out in stunning detail in the federal indictment and reinforced in the Fulton County indictment, failed. By itself, however, such refusal of complicity is insufficient to prevent future plots, especially when it’s coupled with a more general obeisance. To put quits to the abiding danger, Trump and his cronies need to go to jail. Otherwise, the GOP will purge itself of anybody who puts national loyalty and the rule of law before partisan advantage.

In the federal indictment, six people were singled out as Trump’s co-conspirators, although they weren’t named or indicted. Enough information was provided about each of them that four were immediately identifiable — Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell and Jeffrey Clark. Knowledgeable people were fairly sure that co-conspirator No. 5 was Kenneth Chesebro, a minor Trump attorney who initiated the fake slates of electors scheme. There’s uncertainty about No. 6.

Smith has yet to indict the six co-conspirators. Why isn’t clear. Often, prosecutors hold off as a way of pressuring accomplices to help convict the lead defendant. From the narratives in the indictment, however, it seems that Smith has all he needs, including evidence that the others committed crimes. New to me was the documented tale of how the fake electors scheme grew from creating a provisional Trump slate in Wisconsin in case the results were legitimately overturned (Biden won that state by just over 30,000 votes) to creating slates in seven states that would claim they were legitimate just so Pence could either certify them on Jan. 6 or point to them as evidence that the election results were too contested to certify a winner that day.

The Fulton County grand jury indicted Giuliani, Eastman, Powell, Clark and Chesebro along with Trump and 13 other individuals not apparently in Smith’s sights. Especially noteworthy is the inclusion of Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff. As many commentators noted Monday night when they were awaiting District Attorney Fani Willis’ appearance, by using the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute, she could charge all the parties to the conspiracy even if what any one of them did wasn’t in itself a criminal act (for example, falsely claiming voter fraud). The overriding criminal act was the intention to overturn the election results in Georgia, and everyone who acted in concert to effect that outcome is charged with that crime.

Here is the concise statement of the charge: “Defendant Donald John Trump lost the United States presidential election held on November 3, 2020. One of the states he lost was Georgia. Trump and the other Defendants charged in this Indictment refused to accept that Trump lost, and they knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump. That conspiracy contained a common plan and purpose to commit two or more acts of racketeering activity in Fulton County, Georgia, elsewhere in the State of Georgia, and in other states.”

The U.S. Justice Department has already convicted leaders of both the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys of seditious conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. It’s clear now that the attack was actually Trump’s last desperate attempt to rescue the far larger conspiracy from failure. The generals should join their foot soldiers behind bars.       

Herbert Rothschild is an unpaid board member. Opinions expressed in columns represent the author’s views and may or may not reflect those of Email Rothschild at

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