In this Episode:
On this week’s episode, we’re continuing our series unpacking the litigation and criminal charges that have been levied at former president Donald Trump: The Trump Indictments. Earlier this month, Trump was indicted once again—this time, on 13 charges related to his role in interfering with the 2020 election results in Georgia. The case marks the former president’s fourth indictment, and over 90 charges of criminal activity. He turned himself in to authorities in Fulton County, Georgia on Thursday, August 24.
Prior to the release of the Georgia indictments, we spoke with professor Anthony Michael Kreis about why the case matters—and what it means for the rest of the cases currently being leveled against the former president.
- “Indictments Seek to Hold Trump Accountable for Threatening U.S. Democracy and National Security,” Ally Dickson, Ms. magazine, Jul. 14, 2023.
- “Indictments and Incitements: Threats of Violence Surround Trump Arrest,” Jackson Katz, Ms. magazine, Mar. 22, 2023.
- LISTEN: “How Trump Made Political Violence Mainstream (with Rep. Leslie Herod)” — On the Issues with Michele Goodwin
00:00:13.6 Michele Goodwin:
Welcome to 15 Minutes of Feminism, part of our “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin” at Ms. magazine platform. We are so happy to be back in flow with you after taking our little break. And up next is a pre-recorded interview that we did with Professor Anthony Michael Kreis in anticipation of the Georgia indictments coming down. It’s part of our Trump indictments series, and boy does Professor Kreis nail it—we were so happy to be in conversation with him, and everything that he predicts is exactly what we’ve learned in the last week. And so we’re going to be getting back on the line with him again. But sit back and take a listen to this episode. And we are so happy to be in conversation with all of our listeners. We appreciate you all around the country and around the world as we continue this Trump indictment series and launch our back to school episode and review the Supreme Court’s last term. So sit back, take a listen, and we really appreciate each one of you
Welcome to 15 Minutes of Feminism, part of our On the Issues platform at Ms. Magazine and Ms. Studios, and we count the minutes in our own feminist terms, and we jump right in on this show, because we want to tackle the most compelling issues of our times, and to get right to it with our guest.
And so, in this week’s episode, we are continuing our series, unpacking the litigation and criminal charges that have been levied at the former president Donald Trump, and we call this the Trump Indictment Series. Now, the former president has been indicted, again, on additional counts from the Department of Justice, 37 felony counts for allegedly mishandling sensitive government materials and obstruction of justice.
These were documents that were categorized as classified. What’s more, the former president faces an ongoing investigation into his role in interfering with the 2020 election results in Georgia, with prosecutors indicating that charges in this investigation could be coming sometime as early as August, and so, what can Americans expect from these future rounds of potential charges, most specifically in this particular episode, thinking about the state of Georgia?
And so, helping me to sort this out is a person who has followed these issues closely in the State of Georgia, and that is Professor Anthony Michael Kreis. He is a professor of law and political science at the Georgia State University where his research examines the relationships between social change and the law, focusing on the interconnection between American political history and the development of law over time. I couldn’t be more honored and pleased than to present you with our conversation. So, sit back, and take a close listen.
Anthony, it’s such a pleasure to be with you. Thank you so much for joining us. This is really a troubling time for our nation, in many regards. We are just after, but with ongoing trials, involved January 6 and the attack at our capitol, the attempted coup / insurrection that took place, and in the backdrop of that, we have both litigation and also criminal charges that have been levied against the former president Donald Trump. It’s anticipated that, perhaps, in the State of Georgia, the president may be indicted, the former president may be indicted, and I know you are following this closely. Can you tell us about what you’re finding in Georgia?
00:03:16.9 Professor Anthony Michael Kreis:
Yeah. So, I think what we have to understand is that the evidentiary trail is pretty strong in Georgia in terms of how deeply involved the Trump campaign was in attempting to coerce state officials, to persuade state officials, to arm-twist everybody, from the secretary of state to the speaker of the house to the governor, to just thwart the will of the people of Georgia who voted for Joe Biden, and I think what we’re seeing is a really strong narrative that’s being constructed by the district attorney, at least from what we can tell, that shows that Donald Trump was almost singularly focused on Georgia.
He just could not believe that he lost Georgia, and that, because he was so focused on it, that there was just this very robust effort to overturn the election here, and in many ways, the opposition to the real election results here in Georgia kind of led the predicate for January 6, to say, or at least to argue that Congress had a duty to reject our electoral votes and the votes of other swing states. So, I think it, you know, remains to be seen what’s been uncovered by the special purpose grand jury and the DA here, but we do know that she has a lot of information.
00:04:43.8 Michele Goodwin:
So, for our listeners who are abroad and elsewhere, who may not be in the thick of what’s happened in the United States, can you tell us a little bit about what seems to be alleged in terms of wrongdoing by the former president in Georgia?
00:05:00.7 Professor Anthony Michael Kreis:
Yeah. So, there’s a number of different strands of potential liability here from the 2020 election. So, I think what everybody, or most people, are probably aware of is the phone call that Donald Trump made to the secretary of state here in Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, where he essentially demanded 11 thousand votes and change in order to swing the election, and so, there’s an argument there that that alone could constitute solicitation of election fraud, and to be very blunt, if I had done that or any other citizen in Georgia had done that, they would already been seeing a prison sentence, right? So, there’s a strong claim that something criminal happened there.
00:05:42.6 Michele Goodwin:
You’re referring to that one which…that recording, which many people heard all across the country and around the world where the president, not for, you know, 30 seconds or a minute, but is really spending some time on the phone trying to persuade the secretary of state, at that time, to give him, essentially, 11 thousand more votes.
00:06:05.6 Professor Anthony Michael Kreis:
Right. I mean, essentially, Donald Trump said there’s no harm in recalculating, and by recalculating, he really meant fraudulently changing the voter tallies, which I’m still not entirely certain how he thought or envisioned that would happen, but it’s still an unlawful thing to do to ask state officials to make a fraudulent election result entry. So, that’s kind of one bucket.
The other big question, I think, is in terms of the kind of harassment campaign that Donald Trump undertook of poll workers here in Fulton County. You know, I think a lot of folks who watched the January 6 hearings might be familiar, you know, with Ruby and Shaye Moss and the kind of harassment campaign that was undertaken to allege that they had done something criminal and stuffed ballots and the like, which is, of course, not true whatsoever.
So, there’s a potential there that they engaged in some kind of unlawful harassment, and there’s also, I think, a broader claim that Donald Trump and his allies attempted to just generally subvert the lawful administration of election. Now, I think the other thing that’s different or important to note about the Georgia case is that it’s not just about Donald Trump. There is probably, or possibly, at least, a conspiracy-based charge, which might bring in other people, like Rudy Giuliani or John Eastman or other kinds of folks, who were central players in the reelection campaign.
And of course, there’s the fake electors, right, the people who pretended that they were the duly elected or the duly elected electoral college representatives from the State of Georgia in support of Donald Trump. So, I don’t think it’s just going to be charges against Donald Trump, if charges do get brought by the district attorney. I think we’re going to see a lot more defendants, and they will be defendants who many members of the American public and people around the world are familiar with.
00:08:13.6 Michele Goodwin:
So, with this, the pushback from the former president has been that, in these cases where criminal charges are being brought or pursued, that this is really a witch hunt against him. That this is a witch hunt that, perhaps, is rooted in racism. He’s made references that, in both Georgia and also New York, those prosecutors happen to be African American, and there’s been some innuendo around that.
So, what’s your response to that, particularly given the fact that many of his followers…I mean, he has a very strong following, and right now, is actually leading in the polls, at least from what we’re able to gather, amongst other republican contenders. So, pushback if this is about racism, or at least there’s innuendo from the former president that that’s what this is about.
00:09:08.7 Professor Anthony Michael Kreis:
Yeah. So, I think when we think about what happened in Georgia in 2020, we also have to put it somewhat in the light of history, too. In Georgia, what we saw in 2020 was a remaking of a winning electoral coalition, a winning coalition that included black voters from Atlanta, suburban often…you know, suburban voters who are white voters, but also a very diverse mix of voters.
And some voters from the excerpt in counties who are kind of traditionally republican voters came together and support not only Joe Biden, but we elected Senator Warnock, and we elected Senator Ossoff in that same cycle, and that’s a really tremendous change from the status quo from what Georgia had been kind of used to, which was, you know, white suburban voters voted for republicans and republicans always won.
And so, when I think about, for example, reconstruction, right, when you have a kind of really robust, multiracial coalition win and exert political power, the first thing that, you know, white southern redeemers always said was, oh, there’s fraud. Election fraud, election fraud. It can’t possibly be that this coalition could have the amount of political sway that the ballot tallies suggest that they actually do, and I think that’s partially why Donald Trump, for the entire 2020 election season, focused on Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, right, in saying look at this fraud, which was not there.
And so, I think this narrative that race is playing a part in the prosecution or the investigation, I mean, it’s true because he believes it, right? I mean, in the sense that, like, part of the reason why he was so focused on Atlanta was because of his own racial grievances, right? So, I think it’s really kind of a fascinating insight into Donald Trump’s psyche. I think it also is a really…it’s a very sad, but also not a unique…or I should say not a new phenomenon in American political history, either.
And I think that we really need to kind of take all of that into account from a kind of 40-thousand-foot-level view when we think about why things happened the way they did. Why the focus in Georgia? Why was Donald Trump so, you know, just in disbelief that he couldn’t win Georgia, right? I mean, I think the fact that it’s a deep southern state also played a part in this just utter disbelief and this entitlement that resulted, right, the conversation he had with Brad Raffensperger, right?
He felt entitled to win, which is just so… it’s hard for me to kind of understand and wrap my head around that, but I think, like, his thinking around all that, race is just so…you know, it’s just an inextricable factor in his thinking, and so, the fact that he’s kind of taking the reverse perspective now and saying, oh, well, you know, I’m only being investigated for this reason and that reason, I mean, it’s not a surprise, given the background and given how we got to where we are with this investigation and the controversy surrounding the 2020 election.
00:12:23.7 Michele Goodwin:
Well, it’s interesting to think about how this also pans out, because I want to ask you about how do you think that this particular indictment will impact what…or the other indictments are going to impact what happens in Georgia, vice versa, but I do note that, with speaking with Australian media, you mentioned that…you know, you said, you’ll see I think in every step that he possibly can, the former president and his team will try to push this off as late as into 2024 or 2025, as long as they can, you mentioned, and so, I do want to touch on that and then about, you know, how the other indictments will affect what takes place in Georgia.
But is your sense that even though we’ve had the civil litigation involving E. Jean Carroll and a victory for her…she’s now suing again, it looks like, and even though we’ve had indictment in New York, and then you’ve mentioned that, possibly, as early as August, perhaps, we might be seeing something in Georgia, but for many of our listeners and people who are paying attention to this, they might think, well, this will be resolved soon. You get an indictment, and then the trial starts. It doesn’t have to last into or begin a year or two later, but your sense is that this is going to begin…or at least he’ll try to push this into later into 2024 / 2025?
00:13:52.1 Professor Anthony Michael Kreis:
Yeah. So, I think it’s very complicated, in part, because…so, right now, we’ve got a placeholder date for the documents trial, which Judge Cannon has set, for now, in mid-August, August 14. Now, that’s just not going to happen, but it seems to me, right, that given how many pretrial motions we’ll probably see and the issues that generally surround national security matters and security clearances that need to be approached and all the rest.
You know, there’s no way that that trial’s going to happen before mid-’24 anyway, and then we have the DoJ’s considerations about, well, what happens if Donald Trump is on his way or has secured the nomination, the republican nomination for president, because then there’s this precedent that, no, we don’t want to engage in anything that might be seen as election meddling or kind of interfering with the election process. So, that becomes a whole problem. The trial in New York is currently set for late March.
You know, how do you set numerous trials when Donald Trump, as every defendant truly has the right to…you know, needs the time to create…to consult with lawyers and to make sure that he has a strong defense, and then, of course, if you add additional indictments incoming in August, perhaps, in Fulton County, right, how do you work that into the schedule, and how do you kind of square all those different trials with the political calendar as it heats up in middle and late 2024?
So, you know, it’s a mess, and I don’t envy anybody who’s trying to figure out or predict how this is exactly going to play out, but I think what you’ll see is Donald Trump make the argument that, well, we need time between all these trials, and we can’t have these trials in the middle of the political campaign season, because that would be impermissible interference with that, and so, it’s just going to stretch out longer and longer.
And the final thing I think, too, is he’s really betting, perhaps, on the federal case that he can win the presidency again and then just, essentially, either pardon himself or order the Department of Justice to be done with it and not bring the case forward anymore. Of course, he can’t do that in New York, and he can’t do that in Georgia because there are state-level cases, but I think, you know, he’s really betting on the political calendar being his best friend in this entire process.
00:16:15.5 Michele Goodwin:
Oh, that’s very helpful, that response, because I was going to ask you, how do you think that the indictments will, in fact, impact the 2024 election cycle, which is, essentially, already underway?
00:16:30.7 Professor Anthony Michael Kreis:
Well, the polling doesn’t really seem to suggest that there’s a whole lot of movement, at least among core Trump supporters in the primary, given the really strong accusations and allegations that’ve been made in the federal indictment. What we do see in some of the polls is, at least, that there’s parts of the republican electorate that aren’t really core Trump supporters, but are probably, right, in the general election, push come to shove, would be Trump supporters. That those voters do feel that these are serious allegations and do find them to be credible.
Now, that’s important, but at the end of the day, you know, elections in the United States, for the most part, are binary choices, right, because of the nature of our political process, and so, how will those voters…you know, will they eventually come home to Donald Trump if Donald Trump becomes the republican nominee? And when he’s got 40, 45, 50, 55% of the vote support in the primary, depending on what poll you look at, there’s a pretty good, high probability that Donald Trump will be the republican nominee, barring some major catastrophe or maybe a change of events.
And of course, he seems to be fundraising pretty well off of it, as well. So, you know, Donald Trump, I think one of his greatest assets in his political life has been to play the victim and to play the grievance card and to kind of tap into this idea that he’s part of this besiege, an increasing, you know…almost on the verge of becoming a minority, and this feeds in that narrative.
So, you know, it’s terrible if you really consider that the possibility of Donald Trump going to jail, if you’re Donald Trump, you know, but if you’re looking at it from a purely political perspective, it’s kind of an advantageous change in the dynamic for him, and that’s part of the reason why he keeps going and doing these interviews, right? What sane person, to be frank, would be under indictment and under potential indictment in more jurisdictions and then go on Fox News and go on CNN and basically confess to crimes, right?
It’s because he thinks he can get away with it and his ticket to getting away with it is securing the republican nomination and hopefully, from his view, securing the White House again. So, you know, I don’t know how it’s going to play out with the electorate, but I certainly think, or I think we can figure out from Donald Trump’s behavior, his reaction in the post-indictment weeks, over the past few weeks, that he sees it as an advantage, to some extent.
00:19:15.6 Michele Goodwin:
You know, on this show, we always ask our guests about a silver lining, and to be honest, as host, it’s hard to ask that of you, given what we’re talking about and the gravity of a conversation about indictment of a former president based on information that has been publicly shared. I mean, the call that you mention that’s been heard around the world where the president is soliciting 11 thousand more votes, but I am wondering how we should be thinking about this in light of so many people concerned about our democracy? Are the indictments perhaps a response to fighting to make our nation a stronger democracy, that even a former president can’t be above the law?
00:20:09.8 Professor Anthony Michael Kreis:
Yeah. So, I often think…because, in part, I am trained in political history. As a political historian, I often think about these things in terms of political history, and I think, looking back, there’s really two major points in American history where we did things wrong. The first one, the easier one to talk about, is the pardoning of Richard Nixon by Gerald Ford. When I grew up in, you know, middle school and high school, I guess the bottom line was always, oh, what a great thing for the country that he tried to help heal the nation.
And you know, Gerald Ford was really willing to take that political hit, possibly, in order to make sure that we could move on, and that sounded great, until we realized that, no, what it really did was just give a permission slip to people like Donald Trump to go and do terrible things while in office and believe that they could get away with it because they were, in fact, above the law.
So, I think that there’s some, I think, improvement or you know, movement away from that narrative, and a new lesson might be being forged, you know, as we speak that might be very much beneficial to our democracy, and the second part of American history that I often think about, more often than anything else, is reconstruction, and you know, so often, reconstruction, South Carolina and Louisiana, North Carolina, Virginia.
Folks got away with election denialism and using election denialism to foment racial violence and to stoke broad political distrust and political violence, and they got away with it, and the promise of reconstruction was lost, in large part, because nobody had to answer for their misdeeds, and so, I think that there’s a lesson to be brought from that era, too, where, you know, the violence that occurred on January 6, which was a direct result of the kind of election denialism.
And you know, truly, the racially-based kind of grievances that fueled that election denialism, that if we are going to be a healthier society and to move on and to grow from this very dangerous moment, that people have to be held to account for their wrongdoings, and so, I would hope that these indictments speak to that, but it’s really hard to say because, at the end of the day, we might have indictments, but indictments only go as far as the evidence takes us and as far as, you know, potentially, a conviction will get us, right?
If somebody is able to come and just walk away from all of this and say, oh, you know, that was an unfortunate few weeks, but I’m not really going to suffer any long-term consequences, then I’m not sure if we’ve achieved much. So, that’s a really open question, and it’s one that, you know, I’m both hopeful for, but I’m very anxious about the state of our democracy and how this plays into that going forward.
00:23:23.5 Michele Goodwin:
I want to thank you, Professor Anthony Michael Kreis. Thank you so much for joining us at Ms. Magazine and Ms. Studios for a really important conversation. Thank you.
00:23:35.3 Professor Anthony Michael Kreis:
00:23:36.5 Michele Goodwin:
Guests and listeners, that’s it for today’s episode of On the Issues with Michele Goodwin at Ms. Magazine. I want to thank each of you for tuning in for the full story and engaging with us. We hope you’ll join us again for our next episode where you know we’ll be reporting, rebelling, and telling it just like it is. For more information about what we discussed today, head to MsMagazine.com, and be sure to subscribe.
And if you believe, as we do, that women’s voices matter, that equality for all persons cannot be delayed, and that rebuilding America and being unbought and unbossed and reclaiming our time are important, then be sure to rate, review, and subscribe to On the Issue with Michele Goodwin at Ms. Magazine in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, wherever it is that you receive your podcast.
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This has been your host Michele Goodwin reporting, rebelling, and telling it just like it is. On the Issues with Michele Goodwin is a Ms. Magazine joint production. Michele Goodwin and Kathy Spillar are our executive producers. Our producers for this episode are Roxy Szal, Oliver Haug, and also Alison Whelan. Our social media content producer is Sophia Panigrahi. The creative vision behind our work includes art and design by Brandi Phipps, editing by Will Alvarez and Natalie Holland, and music by Chris J. Lee.
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