“Make attorneys get attorneys”: Trumpers face prison in Georgia — some are already starting to turn

“Most people have their lives turned upside down by an indictment, and plead guilty to avoid ruin," expert warns

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published August 15, 2023 8:46AM (EDT)

Donald Trump, John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump on Monday was indicted alongside 18 alleged co-conspirators over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia, raising the possibility that some of those charged could cooperate with prosecutors.

A Fulton County grand jury late Monday night handed up a 41-count indictment, including 13 charges against Trump. Though different alleged co-conspirators were charged with varying crimes, all 19 are charged under the state's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute.

The indictment says Trump and the other defendants "conspired and endeavored to conduct and participate in a criminal enterprise in Fulton County, Georgia, and elsewhere," at one point describing it as a "criminal organization."

Willis said in a late-night press conference that she plans to try Trump and the 18 others together. She gave them until noon on Aug. 25 to surrender or face arrest.

The defendants include former chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark. They also include attorneys Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Kenneth Chesebro, Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis, Ray Smith and Robert Cheeley.

National security attorney Mark Zaid called it a "true #MAGA moment — Make Attorneys Get Attorneys."

Unlike other cases, there is no chance of a federal pardon because it is a state case. The RICO statute carries a minimum of five years in prison and those convicted also cannot be pardoned by the governor.

"Given the 5 year min for RICO, lots of opportunities for folks to flip and cooperate," wrote NYU Law Prof. Melissa Murray.

"Unlike Trump, the other defendants aren't wealthy.  They aren't raising money from donors to pay their legal bills," added former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. "Most people have their lives turned upside down by an indictment, and plead guilty to avoid ruin."

Some TrumpWorld allies appear to already be cooperating. The indictment cites 30 unindicted co-conspirators involved in the scheme.

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"The phrase "unindicted co-conspirator" shows up at least 89 times in the Fulton County indictment of Trump & others. Fani Willis may have some important cooperating witnesses," tweeted former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance.

Trump was also charged in connection to the election scheme by special counsel Jack Smith and has pleaded not guilty to all charges. But some of Trump's alleged co-conspirators in the case are already starting to turn on each other, according to Rolling Stone.

Some of Trump's alleged unindicted conspirators in the case have "sought to distance themselves from the efforts of others, implicitly heaping the blame for any potential criminal conduct onto fellow participants in Trump's attempted coup," according to the report.

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"It is the 'please don't put me in jail, put that other guy in jail' strategy that was sure to come up at some point or another," one attorney working in Trump's orbit told the outlet.

Attorneys for Giuliani and Chesebro have sought to blame others on the campaign's legal team or in Trump's orbit. And Trump's own lawyers have signaled that they plan to argue that Trump relied heavily on the "advice of counsel."

"The possibility that one of Trump's former advisers could turn state's witness and testify against either him or his aides or close associates is already apparent to the twice-impeached former president," Rolling Stone reported. "This summer, Trump has asked some of his political and legal advisers to name who—especially among those investigated or questioned by the special counsel's office—they believe to be the most 'vulnerable' and likely to crack under pressure from prosecutors."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Donald Trump Fani Willis John Eastman Kenneth Chesebro Politics Rudy Giuliani Sidney Powell