Trump’s RICO indictment proves the GOP is beyond saving

The depth of criminality within the Republican Party – both among its elected officials and its operatives – is truly unprecedented.


Despite four criminal indictments totaling 91 felony charges, two impeachments, 26 women with sexual misconduct allegations, and arguably an act of sedition and an attempt to incite a civil war, Donald Trump remains the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. But what this week’s indictment of Trump and 18 other Republican operatives by a Fulton County, Georgia, grand jury truly shows is that the corruption within the Republican Party goes far beyond Trump.

Whereas a criminal indictment would likely doom any Democratic candidate (former New York Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin resigned last year following an indictment for crimes allegedly committed while he was a state senator), Trump’s indictments, bizarrely, have not only had no negative effect on his polling position, but strengthened it. Trump’s national polling average has steadily climbed since he was first indicted by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on several dozen counts of falsifying business records. In the meantime, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis – Trump’s closest rival – has seen his own polling position decline over that same period of time according to FiveThirtyEight. 

It could be argued that, according to these two trends, DeSantis’ base of support is converting to Trump’s side as he continues to accumulate felony charges. It’s become more clear that any political party in thrall to a presidential candidate awaiting trial in three separate jurisdictions is a sign that that party is morally bankrupt and rotten to the core.

Georgia RICO indictment a who’s-who of GOP operatives

While Trump was a centerpiece of the Manhattan indictment and Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictments for allegedly mishandling classified documents and masterminding the January 6, 2021 insurrection, he was just one of many players in the alleged criminal enterprise Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis laid out in her indictment. Many of the other names are longtime acolytes of GOP causes.

According to Georgia’s RICO (Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations) statute, each co-conspirator in a RICO case is equally liable, and each person charged can serve up to 20 years in prison with a mandatory minimum of five years’ prison time. In her press conference announcing the indictment, Willis made it clear that anyone found guilty will not be able to serve less than five years, or be able to substitute time served with probation. This means other co-conspirators like John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark, and Kenneth Chesebro are just as culpable as Trump in attempting to subvert the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. When looking at the careers and records of individual co-conspirators, it becomes clear that Trump is merely a byproduct of an increasingly criminal political party.

The proposed plot to steal the 2020 election via fake electors from swing states came from the mind of John Eastman, who has a decades-long career as one of the GOP’s most committed apparatchiks. Eastman not only clerked for conservative judges like J. Michael Luttig and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (R-Bush 43)* but has represented Republican-dominated legislatures in multiple states in their legal challenges to court cases involving same-sex marriage and immigration. Eastman also chairs the board for the National Organization for Marriage (which is opposed to same-sex marriage), and sits on the board of the far-right Claremont Institute. He’s also heavily involved in the Federalist Society – a powerful far-right legal powerhouse which has produced all six members of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority. Eastman could be thought of as the GOP version of Democratic super-attorney Marc Elias.

Jeffrey Clark – another prominent defendant in the Fulton County RICO case – also has decades of experience as a champion of far-right causes in the legal world, particularly in representing anti-environmental special interests. In addition to serving as Assistant Attorney General in the Trump administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ), Clark also served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for George W. Bush’s DOJ. He also represented the US Chamber of Commerce (the chief lobbying organization for multinational corporations) in legal challenges to regulations of carbon emissions. And in 2010, Clark represented BP in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (the worst offshore oil spill in US history). 

Eastman and Clark being named in the RICO indictment, along with other major GOP figures like former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and others, is arguably more significant than just Trump being indicted. It shows that the effort to subvert the 2020 election – and effectively, democracy itself – by any means necessary, including the alleged commission of crimes, was not just a goal of Trump and his team. In fact, it was a goal shared by the Republican Party’s most experienced legal minds. With this in mind, it’s not inaccurate to say the Republican Party as it is now is ardently opposed to both democracy and the rule of law, and there’s no saving it.

Almost all voices of sanity in the GOP have been run out of the party

On July 19, Politico mourned the political career of Governor Chris Sununu (R-New Hampshire), who announced that day he was not seeking a fifth two-year term for the Granite State’s highest office. While Sununu – the son of former New Hampshire governor John Sununu – attributed his decision to simply wanting to “hand off the reins” to another Republican, he has been one of the most vocal GOP critics of Donald Trump.

Because Trump handily won New Hampshire’s Republican primary by a wide margin in 2016 and accumulated more than 365,000 votes in the 2020 general election, Gov. Sununu may very well have read the tea leaves and saw no path to victory as a Trump critic in a state where the former president’s popularity has remained strong. FiveThirtyEight shows that Trump holds 49% support out of all candidates in the 2024 New Hampshire primary, with former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (another outspoken Trump critic) coming in second with just 9% support as of this writing.

It isn’t just Chris Sununu and Chris Christie who have been relegated to the sidelines of a party they once called home. Of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the January 6 insurrection, only two remain in office. The rest have either been defeated by Trump-backed candidates in Republican primaries, or, like Sununu, declined to run for another term. Even former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) – the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney – was unceremoniously drummed out of office by more than 30 points in the August 2022 primary. This is despite Cheney’s far-right voting record as a member of Congress, and as someone who voted in line with Trump’s stated positions on issues 93% of the time. In the eyes of GOP primary voters, Cheney was deemed a heretic not because she wasn’t conservative enough, but merely because she objected to Trump instigating an attack on the US Capitol.

Meanwhile, the Republicans who remain in office are some of the former president’s most steadfast defenders. Following the Georgia indictment, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California), House Oversight Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-New York) all panned the new charges against Trump as politically motivated. Even Ron DeSantis, who was arguably handed the biggest political gift with the Georgia indictment, referred to the new charges as a “criminalization of politics.” 

The Republican Party’s base has made it clear there is no room for dissent within its ranks. But one silver lining in the midst of one of America’s two major parties openly rejecting the rule of law is that criminal accountability may be coming down the pike for even more Republican operatives, possibly including Republican elected officials.

The GOP’s potentially dark future

Having Donald Trump at the top of the Republican ticket will almost certainly spell political disaster for Republicans in 2024, given how Americans’ antipathy toward Trump caused Republicans to lose control of the US House of Representatives in the 2018 midterms, the White House in 2020, and the US Senate in 2022 (as previously reported, the GOP retaking the House in 2022 was largely a result of racial gerrymandering and former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo). 

When he came out of testifying before Fani Willis’ grand jury in Fulton County, former Georgia Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan (another Republican Trump critic who declined to seek another term in office) emphasized that the GOP nominating Trump would be a huge mistake. He even compared the former president to failed Republican US Senate candidate Herschel Walker, who was accused by multiple women of domestic violence and quietly paying for multiple abortions and eventually lost to Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia) despite a Trump endorsement.

“We didn’t ask who was the best leader. We didn’t ask who had the best resume,” Duncan told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on the eve of the 2022 general election. “Unfortunately, Republicans looked around to see who Trump supported and he was a famous football player, and so he became our nominee and now we’re paying the price.”

Former Congressman Will Hurd (R-Texas), yet another Trump critic who didn’t run for reelection despite surviving the 2018 Democratic midterm wave, is challenging the former president in a long-shot bid for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. Hurd was more direct in his admonishment of Trump regarding his toxicity to the Republican Party as a whole. In a July interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Hurd said nominating Trump would “give the [2024] election to Joe Biden.”

But aside from the potentially damning political consequences of Trump leading the Republican Party once again, there may be additional legal headaches for Republicans in the near future. Even after Jack Smith indicted Trump for alleged crimes related to the January 6 insurrection, the grand jury he convened is still active and meeting at the same DC courthouse. Smith indicated that “investigation of other individuals continues,” and there are still six unnamed, as-yet unindicted co-conspirators who may face charges in the future.

Additionally, Fani Willis’ indictment included 30 other unnamed co-conspirators who may face separate criminal charges in addition to the 19 already named in the RICO case. It’s still too early to tell who any of those individuals are, but between the fake Georgia electors and the several dozen Republican lawmakers who texted Mark Meadows in the prelude to and aftermath of the January 6 insurrection, it’s safe to say there are plenty of other Republicans who may be criminally charged in the coming weeks and months.

The depth of criminality within the Republican Party – both among its elected officials and its operatives – is truly unprecedented. Democracy may not ever truly be secure in the United States until the Republican Party suffers enough defeats at the polls. Alternatively, if the GOP still manages to stay electorally competitive, democracy may be in peril for years to come.

* has made the editorial decision to name the president who appointed each respective Supreme Court justice, along with their party affiliation, when mentioning a specific justice.


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