Georgia on My Mind

The National Commission [investigating the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack] finds the attack on the United States on September 11, 2001. was, above all, a failure of imagination. Washington Post/July 22, 2004

What the Commission meant was the U.S. national security apparatus never imagined the three key elements leading up to the attacks on the Twin Towers and Pentagon. One, the homeland would be the target of such a coordinated terrorist playbook. Two, hijackers could be suicidal. Three, passenger airplanes could be turned into guided missiles. In short, no one anticipated things that never happened before.

The same thing occurred in 1963. At the time of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, it was a federal crime to threaten a U.S. president through the mail but not to actually kill one. This anomaly in the federal statutes was responsible for the chaos at Parkland Hospital when Secret Service agents assumed custody of the president’s body. Agents forcibly removed the coffin, after pushing aside the Dallas County medical examiner, Dr. Earl Rose, who claimed, regardless of the victim, he was required to perform the official autopsy.

Which brings us to late last night when a Fulton County, Georgia grand jury voted to indict Donald Trump and 18 other co-conspirators on 41 violations of the Georgia state law involving 161 separate acts. While most legal pundits focused on the breadth of the indictment, former U.S. attorney and member of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team Andrew Weissmann made the following observation.

The Georgia indictment differed from special counsel Jack Smith’s similar filing related to crimes surrounding Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. He suggested Smith had to be creative when matching Trump’s actions with specific federal statutes. Why? Because the founding fathers and members of Congress for 233 years never anticipated a president of the United States would solicit the aid of a public official to commit a crime. Not the case in the State of Georgia. Weissman pointed to charge #5 in the indictment. “SOLICITATION OF VIOLATION OF OATH BY PUBLIC OFFICER/O.C.G.A §§ 16-4-7 & 16-10-1.”

A person commits the offense of criminal solicitation when, with intent that another person engage in conduct constituting a felony, he solicits, requests, commands, importunes, or otherwise attempts to cause the other person to engage in such conduct.
GA Code § 16-4-7 (2020)

In what can only be described as “20/20 foresight,” the addition to the Georgia criminal code could not better characterize Trump’s “perfect phone call” to secretary of state Brad Raffensperger or Rudy Giuliani’s presentation to a Georgia Senate subcommittee. In both cases, the defendants request public officials to violate their oath of office, with the intent those individuals “engage in conduct constituting a felony.” The same applies to Trump staffers who solicited the help of Coffee County elections official Misty Hampton who subsequently authored a “letter of invitation” to Trump attorneys authorizing examination of the county’s voting systems.

Recently, individuals who advocate televising Trump’s federal trial related to the January 6th indictment have invoked Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ proposition, “Sunlight is the best of disinfectants.” The same can now be said of moonlight, though the lesson will probably be lost on the current chairs of the House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees. Jim Jordan and James Comer claim their hearings into weaponization of the deep state are justified due to their interest in legislative solutions. They should start by taking a page out of the Georgia criminal code, making “solicitation of violation of oath by public officer” a federal crime with stiff minimum penalties.

A lesson I learned early in my years as a state government official or with the National Governors Association is “celebrate a victory, even when someone does the right thing for the wrong reason.” If they feel they need to justify amending the U.S. code to mirror the Georgia statute, Jordan and Comer could claim it was written in response to actions by civil servants in the Biden Justice Department. However, residents of Earth One (as opposed to the MAGA-verse) will know at whom the new provision is directed.

For what it’s worth.