Reading news stories regarding Donald Trump or Hunter Biden with new indictments or Special Counsels is like waking up in Bill Murray's classic Groundhog Day, with Sonny and Cher blaring, "I got you babe." With every new set of charges, it's easy to relate to Phil in the movie when he says, "You want a prediction about the weather, you're asking the wrong Phil. I'll give you a winter prediction: It's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life."
So we have new indictments against Donald Trump in Georgia and a Special Counsel for Hunter Biden's business dealings. The press is gleefully reporting that the law Georgia is using with Trump, the Georgia RICO Act (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations), was typically used in the past to target the mob and pierce various conspiracy schemes.
The looming problem with charging Trump with anything as cohesive as a mob organization is that no one can even claim his Presidency was organized as well as a mob. It was consistent chaos with various strands pulling in unrelated directions. There's no proof Trump's Presidency ever colluded with itself on policy, let alone with the Russians or anyone else. The disastrous rollouts of things like the immigration executive orders are proof positive.
But that's not why the Georgia prosecution team is using RICO. The key to all RICO laws is the ability to cast a wide net, capture a ton of people, and squeeze them to turn state's evidence to go after the real targets. In this case, that's Trump and maybe a few others.
After the indictment, Trump promised to reveal a new report on the 2020 election to exonerate himself and prove the race was rigged in Georgia and elsewhere. Republican Governor Brian Kemp is having none of it, though. He said:
The 2020 election in Georgia was not stolen.
For nearly three years now, anyone with evidence of fraud has failed to come forward - under oath - and prove anything in a court of law. Our elections in Georgia are secure, accessible, and fair and will continue to be as long as I am governor.
The future of our country is at stake in 2024 and that must be our focus.
And that's the real crux of the matter. If Donald Trump or anyone on his team had this evidence, they could have brought it at any time. They've never done that, and indeed, the quotes we have from them from the various indictments reveal few of them believe a single thing Trump has claimed.
In short, Brian Kemp is right. As is Mike Pence, Bill Barr, and many others in Trump's administration who listened to the former President, examined his claims, and found nothing of merit. Trump's bluster demanded the overthrow of an election without proof. Even without a single indictment, Trump's stance on this singular matter is wrong in every conceivable way. He lost because he was a lousy candidate that didn't win the Midwest, and then his hand-picked candidates lost again in 2022. It was Hilary Clinton's game plan from 2016, and Trump ran with that.
That doesn't mean the Georgia case is iron-clad. As a purely legal matter, I don't see the evidence there to apply RICO. There's a real threat that Georgia prosecutors are getting as creative in their reading of laws as the federal prosecutors are in those indictments. But winning a case with RICO isn't the goal — it's a means to an end.
This leaves us headed towards 2024, with Democrats grinning as broadly as the Cheshire Cat. These cases have three uses for them. First, it keeps Trump in the lead of the GOP primaries, preventing stronger candidates from rising. Second, it makes Trump radioactive with independents and suburban voters, making his possibility of winning in 2024 smaller by the day. And third, Trump must spend all his campaign dollars on legal fees, making it impossible for him to campaign.
Brian Kemp is correct. There's a lot at stake in 2024. By the time that general election is held, we'll be four years past the 2020 election, and the only thing Trump wants to run on is whether or not he won that race. Voters need a reason to vote for you, and Trump isn't giving a single reason to anyone but his most ardent supporters. All that and a dollar will lose you Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and make other Republicans needlessly uncompetitive downstream.
In 2024, the Republican Party needs a candidate to move past 2020, assemble a winning coalition, and rebuild lost ground from the disastrous Trump era on the state and federal level from 2018 - 2022. Trump does not have that capacity, and the more people hear about him in these lawsuits, the less likely they'll be the vote for him.
Like 2022 when more reasonable candidates were available for Republicans, it'll be an avoidable situation. But right now, we're set on that path with the pedal to the metal and the brake lines cut.
Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day finally left that time loop once he'd changed as a person and become a better human being. Even with people like Brian Kemp speaking the truth, people seem intent on slamming the alarm clock and trudging through this political Groundhog Day. Hopefully, we get some change before people start trying to drive the country off the side of a cliff with a groundhog at the wheel.