How Many Podunk Local DAs Ought to Arrogate Themselves Federal Election Police?

For anybody that has read me here, or followed me on Twitter, you know I have maintained from the start that Fani Willis, and her “investigation” is a complete joke.

Have also maintained the Trump conspiracy actions in Arizona were as bad as Georgia, if not worse.

Apparently the national media has caught on to what informed Arizonans have known from the start.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey was hit up by Trump (so was the then Secretary of State).

So, why is the ladder climbing Fani Willis the only local DA trying to enforce federal election law, much less her completely bogus RICO posit?

There are now people in Arizona clamoring for this horse manure. Thanks to Fani Willis and her self serving showboating garbage.

Fulton County, where Fani Willis is the local DA, has approximately 1.1 million county residents. Maricopa County, where all significant acts in AZ occurred, has nearly 5 million.

So, should every pissant local county prosecutor arrogate upon themselves to control and charge federal election crimes?

No. Nor should local AGs. Leave this to the Feds.

Things are getting just absurd.

130 replies
  1. vigetnovus says:

    Speaking of absurd, and since you mentioned Twitter, bmaz, it looks like Musk has accomplished what he was installed to do. Twitter is now completely defunct, and Musk says the only way to save it is to pay up.

    If you haven’t heard, unless you are a blue check and pay up, you’re only allowed to access 600 tweets a day.

    And with RSS access finally being completely cut off ~3 days ago, that means no more surfing Twitter anonymously.

    Makes me wonder what bad thing is about to happen that information in real time needs to be controlled by the media gatekeepers.

  2. Unabogie says:

    Republicans are doing it. So I guess our choice here is to write sternly-worded letters to the NYT, and maintain our fealty to the Rule of Law™ as it’s used against poor people, or use the same laws in the same ways to prosecute egregious felonies done by the rich and powerful. I know which way I’m leaning here. Honestly, it makes me like Fani Willis all the more for this.

  3. wasD4v1d says:

    Seems to me the elected DA’s have one eye on the election calendar, and the other eye on the election calendar.

      • J. Lintecume says:

        Maybe if the DOJ had actually gone after Trump and his toadies conspiracy to overthrow the GA election, Fani Willis wouldn’t be doing what she’s doing. She isn’t prosecuting federal election law violations, she prosecuting GA state election laws, and using the GA RICO laws for the conspiracy. By the way, the GA RICO laws are the same as NY’s RICO laws. The guy wrote the federal, the NY, and the GA RICO laws is on Willis’ team. He lives in Savannah, so it might not be the BS you seem to think it is because he’s supporting her.

        Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. “J. Lintecume” is your third user name; you’ve also commented as “j.lintecume” and “j lintecume” which the site recognizes as different names. Please also omit any information in the URL field if you do not have your own webpage address to share. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • Doctor Cyclops says:

      They may hunger for headlines, but they also may avoid politically charged cases. I met a Queens, NY ADA who told me how gun-shy his office was to prosecute the Hasidim because they represented such a large voting bloc.

      • wasD4v1d says:

        Which is a window as to the eyes on the re-election prize; it doesn’t appear to me that DA’s attract donor money (donors are more likely regarded with suspicion by DA’s). A couple successful elections provide leverage or a stair riser for higher office, as now-governor Maura Healey has recently done here in Mass. There was definitely some performance art while she waited out Charlie Baker.

  4. David Brooks says:

    I thought her instructions to Georgia law enforcement to “cancel all your leave but I’m not telling you when. Sometime in summer. Maybe” was just a grab for headlines. Perhaps she wanted to get it in before Smith took away all the short attention spans, although I wouldn’t think she was privy to his schedule at the time.

  5. emptywheel says:


    You’re ignoring the MI case(s), which include an even podunkier county.

    From my understanding of the crimes under investigation, the choices TO INVESTIGATE stem from the kinds of crimes in question. Not to mention the fact that a once and potentially future President faces different liability in the states, and there’s no reason to let state crimes go ignored.

    I used to know a guy who was really adamant that the Feds should not bigfoot local crimes, in fact.

    • Karl M Bunday says:

      Thank you for saying this. State prosecutors have their jurisdiction, and federal prosecutors have their jurisdiction. It is yet to be seen what will be charged and what the outcome of trials will be.

    • BRUCE F COLE says:

      And the “different liability” in states includes the fact that any finding of guilt is immune to a POTUS pardon, and the GA gov doesn’t have that power. A state board of pardons does, however, but it is subject to process that an executive pardon isn’t, necessarily.

      • bmaz says:

        Oh goody. Let everybody in every local city and county little jurisdiction charge Trump everywhere for every thing. How far do you want to stretch law for your derangement syndrome? Do you have any concern for longer term effects? I cannot see that you do, in the least.

        • Unabogie says:

          Can you be specific here?

          Please provide a list of “every thing” Trump has done that could be charged criminally on the state level, then provide reasons why those crimes (as per your own assessment) should not even be investigated, let alone charged.

          I agree there is a level of derangement syndrome happening here, just not how you’re describing it.

        • timbozone says:

          Uh, Trump is being investigated for possible election laws he broke in Georgia… It is the right of states and local jurisdictions to protect their elections from national political interference when the interference includes strong-arming locals.

        • BriceFNC says:

          Agree completely. All crimes in every locale should be prosecuted! A kid down my block is behind bars for possession of an ounce of weed-in three years he will get out! Why not hold white big shots in important positions to the same level of legal responsibility?

        • bmaz says:

          What a load of garbage. Maybe your point ought be that not every two bit crime should not be prosecuted instead of every one.

        • BriceFNC says:

          Why not hold white big shots to the same standards as minority youth– particularly minority males?

          Why not?

    • Justlp34 says:

      2 things – there is a recording that we have all heard from Georgia, not so for Arizona (although we do have video of Trump calling – with a hail to the chief ring tone no less – while Ducey was signing the certification) AND state crimes can’t be pardoned by the president.

  6. Peterr says:

    First serious question: what makes these federal crimes as opposed to state crimes?

    Second serious question: in the event that there are both state and federal crimes violated at the same time, what are the procedures for determining who would prosecute which crimes, in which order?

    The laws that govern the conduct of elections — ALL elections, save those of the electoral college — are state laws. The allegations at issue here appear to be attempts to violate the procedures established by the state of Georgia for counting of ballots, as well as the overall certification of the election.

    Is there a federal element? Absolutely. But how does that relieve a local prosecutor from investigating crimes that may have taken place within their jurisdiction?

    • Ravenclaw says:

      To which one may add: If Trump or one of the wannabe clones assumes the office of president 18 months from now, any existing federal prosecutions will be discontinued and any convicts may well be pardoned. But I’m sure state-level prosecutors would be unaffected, and I *think* the president lacks power to pardon state-level convictions.

      I’m basically with bmaz on the NYC prosecution, which was for a low-level offense that would often go unpunished, but I can see reasons for pursuing cases in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan that involve serious violations of election laws. Not that bmaz needs or wants my approval! This is his area of expertise, not mine. But couldn’t one of these state-level teams suspend their own cases if Smith’s DoJ team indicted on the same evidence?

      • bjet says:

        There is a thing where state law overrides federal law where the state’s law is more protective of rights than federal law, which is a double-edged sword. NAL, don’t know or recall the details.

      • jonMontague says:

        Margo, are you the amazing theorist of speculative microtonal approaches to medieval music whose work I read a lot of in the 1990s? How curious to spot you here!

        • Margo Schulter says:

          Yes. As I recall, the Petite policy applies to federal prosecutions when dual sovereignty comes into play.

          Elsewhere, it was commented that a state court’s interpretation of its state Constitution will not be reviewed by SCOTUS, although a state court’s reading of the federal constitution favorable to a criminal defendant may be reviewed.

  7. paulka123 says:

    I do not claim to understand all of the idiosyncrasies and minutiae of a federal vs a state investigation (IANAL, though I try to follow the various investigations and politics through a variety of news outlets), but I did read this past week that the DoJ is just now interviewing the GA Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, 2.5 years after the “perfect phone call”.

    I am just an ordinary citizen and admittedly I am very worried about our Democracy and the efforts of certain political figures apparent attempt overthrow the 2020 election-most obviously on January 6, 2021 (perhaps I am overly concerned). But I simply cannot put into perspective the logic in it taking 2.5 years to interview one of the apparent central figures in what was reported by the press to be an effort to threaten a State Secretary of State into “finding votes”. All of my concern coalesces around what appears to be a delay in interviewing Mr. Raffensberger, which causes me anxiety as I see primary season approaching and a November 2024 election where Mr. Trump could very well be reelected.

    As an outsider, it seems that despite all of Ms. Willis’ issues, at least she is doing something.

    • Doug_Fir says:

      Paulka, I wonder if DOJ resources were tied up with the +/-1000 Jan 6 prosecutions and since much of that has now been settled they’re reallocated towards the bigger fish?

    • eyesoars says:

      Hear, hear!

      I too don’t understand the roots of bmaz’s antipathy towards Fani Willis.

      It may be entirely well-founded. However, the state of Georgia does not, as far as can be ascertained, appear to be investigating the potential crimes there. Indeed, with the various legislative actions, they appear to be obstructing such prosecutions, and with the GOP administration there, it seems likely that they’re deliberately refraining from investigations, as many of the major movers in GOP circles in GA are involved, with varying degrees of culpability.

      Nominally, that would leave this up for federal investigations and prosecutions. As pointed out, elections and election laws are administered by the state, and federal prosecutions allow the possibility for future pardons by a corrupt president, should his perfidy be successful.

      I presume that state laws can be prosecuted by the feds as part of their efforts. I assume (!) however, that they can also be pardoned by the president. This would seem to leave the country between a rock and a hard place when it comes to enforcing elections justice.

  8. Ralph H white says:

    I’ve heard a lot of negative comments from bmaz about the Georgia prosecution, but since I’m not a trained legal individual I’d like to hear the charges and specific reasons they are not warranted. If he has laid out his reasoning already I apologize for missing it.

    • RipNoLonger says:

      I’m not sure bmaz’s objections are about the actual prosecution – he seems much more focused on the prosecutor and her failings. I’ll expect an expletive-laden response, unless it just contains his famous ‘lol’.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        I don’t like how Fani Willis operates either. She seems to interpret her role far more politically than I prefer–all the public appearances and announcements, all the teasing of future developments.

        But she has a legal job too, and seems to be pursuing it. We haven’t seen charges from her office yet, so I would say it’s premature to judge whether in *this* complex case she is serving her state’s laws and her constituents’ interest in upholding them.

        I have disagreed with her means of pursuing and securing previous charges, so for me the jury is out.

    • LouieFoster says:

      It really struck me as having an ad hominem basis. I don’t know diddly about Fani but what I’ve read never suggested self-aggrandizing motives.
      As for over-prosecuting DJT, let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.

  9. Georgia Girl says:

    Speaking as a white Southerner who lived through the Civil Rights movement, I would say, bmaz and some commenters here just don’t get it. People down here would say bmaz is calling D.A. Fani Willis an “uppity N—” in code. But I put his attitude down to regional prejudice and good old-fashioned elitism. It remains to be seen if Willis has done anything that endangers the Special Counsel’s investigation. bmaz has not made the case that she has, but it’s plain that he’s implying that she doesn’t “know her place” in the legal hierarchy.

    FYI, Georgia has 10+ million people to Arizona’s 8+ million. Metro Atlanta has 6+ million people. Georgia’s gross domestic product is nearly twice that of Arizona’s. And Fulton County is hardly podunk, having been an international banking center for decades. More important, Dr. Martin Luther King’s church, Ebenezer Baptist, is on Auburn Avenue in Fulton County.

    In December 2021, when Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Raffensberger looking for more votes and used his minions to organize the fake electors scheme, he attacked the election system of Georgia and, by extension, the right to vote. I would love to hear from anyone at Emptywheel who has/had relatives who were beaten or died trying to get the right to vote and/or cast a ballot, but you can believe that there are plenty of people in Fulton County who have not-so-distant memories of those times. What Rudy Giuliani did by targeting Fulton County election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss was experienced by African American residents of Fulton County as a direct assault on their community. Fani Willis is using her powers as a prosecutor under Georgia law to defend the integrity of the vote here in Georgia.

    Speaking as someone who lived in Birmingham when 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed, I say more power to Fani Willis. As for her “grandstanding” by putting Georgia law enforcement on notice about possible coming indictments, it just might be a courtesy to law enforcement because people in the Secretary of State’s office and the Fulton County Registrar’s office have received death threats throughout this case. It would also be a courtesy to Willis’s targets, giving them time to secure competent legal representation. As in the Mar-a-Lago case, that’s not always easy to do, and it won’t be easy to do in Fulton County. There are plenty of good Republican attorneys in Atlanta who never liked Trump — even if they would never say so at the Piedmont Driving Club.

    • Rayne says:

      Thank you for that perspective.

      There’s one more element which doesn’t translate well to white culture. But Black American culture still relies on oral tradition; it looks performative to most whites of European heritage but the spoken word and its delivery is essential, important beyond literature, music, and theater. One only needs to look at the difference between white-dominant Baptist church services and Black-dominant church services to see some of this tradition.

      With Fulton being a Black majority county, we should expect to see more communications delivered not in writing alone but spoken to the media by the DA as the county’s top law enforcement officer.

    • montysep says:

      Hear, hear!

      Also noted that the DA from Manhattan who is more often than not grouped along with Fani Willis as a subject of bmaz’ disdain is also Black.

      • CovariantTensor says:

        IMO bmaz’s attacks on Bragg and Willis are over the top and at least partly ad hominem, but implying they are racist is a cheap shot.

        I do believe that the states’ power to conduct federal elections largely in a manner of their choosing (but not to the extent that was recently shot down by the SCOTUS) as enumerated in the Constitution means it’s perfectly appropriate for a local DA to investigate and charge election violations alleged to occur in his or her locale. With the added bonus of being immune to presidential pardons, which are sure to happen if the R’s win the WH in 2024. If it’s Trump, he will absolutely try to pardon himself.

        I’m inclined to agree with bmaz, without the bovine scatological reference, about Bragg’s case. The legal theory that a misdemeanor gets promoted to a felony if there’s an underlying other crime is such a stretch as to be seen by a large segment of the population as a witch hunt. Public perception, and faith in the justice system, do matter.

        • bmaz says:

          Thanks …. I think. I had plenty of issues with Bragg’s predecessor, the oh so lilly white Cy Vance Jr. And a whole history of local county attorneys here in Arizona. And in California. And other places. My concern is effective and appropriate use of the criminal justice system. And the truth is it is about a hell of a lot more than just Trump.

        • Savage Librarian says:

          My questions would be about the potential for a State case to eventually make its way to the US Supreme Court. So, while State courts are the final arbiters of state laws and constitutions, their interpretation of federal law or the U.S. Constitution may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court may choose to hear or not to hear such cases.

          1. I can imagine Trump appealing to SCOTUS, if even on the grounds that the GA constitution violated aspects of the US Constitution.
          2. Would a state court’s appellate process that included an appeal to SCOTUS be a lengthier process than just handling everything through the federal system?
          3. If such a state case did go to SCOTUS, would it still be considered a state case? Or would it be considered federal just by virtue of going to SCOTUS?
          4. If it would be considered federal, would it then be an avenue for potentially allowing for pardons in the future?

        • montysep says:

          An experienced NY attorney was asked to consider the Bragg charges and the inclusion of another underlying crime to raise the level to a felony.

          That attorneys’ view was that it was nothing extraordinary. Just a pretty typical instance of overcharging in the jurisdiction. In the majority of cases the end result was a plea agreement to the lesser charge. Trumps obstinacy doesn’t always work in his favor.

    • Peterr says:

      I think there are two issues here. One are the legal questions about jurisdiction and investigations, and the other is about how the DA is conducting herself in terms of public statements and interviews. Bmaz can speak for himself (obviously!) but my sense is that he is much more concerned about the latter rather than the former. I don’t think that this is race-related for him, but rather a desire to keep prosecutors focused on the law and not their own PR.

      Yes, bmaz and I disagree on Fani Willis and her investigation, but I don’t at all believe that race is a part of the disagreement.

      • Savage Librarian says:

        Of course I can’t speak for bmaz either, but I agree that this is not a racial issue with him. I do think it is a jurisdictional issue for him, though. And that’s why it seems like personal issues, because various political, local prosecutors are in positions to shine lights on their own actions. It’s not a stretch to see how that can be used to enhance their resumes. That is not in the best interest of the rule of law and professional ethics, though, because it messes with the concept of neutrality.

        Like the J6C withholding witness testimony from DOJ, the actions of local entities can interfere with federal prosecutions. I think that is one of bmaz’ concerns. Speaking for myself, I can say that I believe behavior similar to this was very harmful to my own civil case and caused me a great deal of grief. It took a lot of time, money and perseverance to remedy the mess it made. But life is experiential. So, it’s easier to see when it happens to you.

        Like I’ve said before, my case was moved from state to federal court. It was a jurisdictional issue, based on legal matters. I think that’s all bmaz is saying. Let DOJ and Jack Smith do their jobs.

        • sohelpmedog says:

          I think one should be careful before accusing someone of racial animus just because the object of their animus happens to be black.

          The more pertinent similarity between Willis and Bragg is not that they’re black, but they are local prosecutors investigating / charging the former president for state crimes when the feds are investigating and charging him for what appears to be broader and more serious federal crimes.

          However, the ad hominem attacks on them is not helpful.

          I haven’t seen any evidence presented here showing that Willis is making things more difficult for the DOJ. For all we know, DOJ and Willis are cooperating. DOJ may welcome the additional resources.

          Moreover, the application of state law to federal elections is not a simple matter.

        • ToldainDarkwater says:

          I certainly think *I* should be careful of charging someone, specifically some other white person, with racial animus. But that’s because I’m white, I grew up white in this country and so help me, I’m still rooting out attitudes I absorbed from the culture. So, I’m sort of one of those people in glass houses.

          I also think – and here I’m addressing myself only to other white people – that you and I should take care to not frame our remarks in a way that easily fit the mold of saying, “that N- is uppity”. Mostly that can be accomplished by withholding disdainful color, and being critical, but retaining respect. I’m not a lawyer, but I’m sure all of you who are lawyers know how to do this.

          The military has a concept of “we salute the uniform, not the man”, which motivates why they go through motions of respect even though the individual maybe doesn’t deserve it. I think an analogous policy regarding criticism of black people (but for me, pretty much all people) is appropriate.

        • bmaz says:

          Yes. And it has nothing to do with racism. To argue otherwise is absurd. You take your prosecutors where you find them, especially when elected.

        • bmaz says:

          Lol, are you new here it kind of appears you may be, so okay), I have never said anything different.

        • Jared Shoemaker Jr says:

          No you said her investigation was a joke, called her a ladder climber and a self serving shit heel. Pretty much the opposite.

        • bmaz says:

          You are an absolute liar. I said Willis is a ladder climber. And self serving. But never a shit heel. Do not come on this blog and lie out of your ass. You do not need to agree with what I say, but do not LIE about it.

        • Jared Shoemaker Jr says:

          You know what? I stand corrected. It wasn’t a self serving shit heel you called her, but a self serving shit. Yeah that’s a ton better. Sorry for adding in an extra word to your insult

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      Georgia Girl, you make valuable points. I spent my early childhood in Raleigh, NC, where my parents were civil rights workers (volunteer) and I was the only “Negro” child in the private kindergarten they sent me to. (Some people would mistake me for white, but it was a legal distinction at the time.)

      In public school for first grade, I experienced direct racism for the first time, but my parents’ deep commitment had prepared me for conflict. Let’s just say I leaned in when confronted with a chance to re-fight what white kids down there called the War Between the States. (That was then. Now it’s the War of Northern Aggression.)

      I am highly sensitive to the issues you raised. I have been on this site for some years now, scrapped with bmaz myself, and do not believe his opinions here are motivated by racism.

      bmaz is a defense lawyer. My own research (for a book about true-crime TV) has made me highly aware of prosecutorial overreach in all its many forms. I think that–along with specifics in these cases that I wish he would explain in more detail when he has time–is what informs his vitriol.

  10. Southern Exposure says:

    Given the unfortunate political influence that overwhelmed responsible action by the DOJ during the last administration and the explicit promise to do it again if Trump returns to power, I cannot understand how anyone would see Trump potentially facing state charges as a bad thing. Add in a)Trump’s abuse of the pardon privilege and b) the statements by several GOP candidates that they will pardon Trump and c) Congress’ clear attempts to meddle in the DOJ investigations and indictments of Trump and I for one am thankful that Fani Willis is pursuing this, whether she grandstands or not.

    Fani Willis is hardly the first DA to seek publicity and have ambition and she won’t be the last. If she can make the case and effectively prosecute it, she can sing her praises all she wants as far as I am concerned. And if she achieves justice and derails the Trump train, I’ll declare a Fani Willis day in my house every year if it makes her happy.

    • Robot-seventeen says:

      This is the biggest problem IMO. Trump’s likely defense after facing as many as 50-80 counts (who knows ??) of federal violations is going to be a political play in the next election. DoJ has repeatedly shown they can be bent due to pressures not incurred by state prosecutors. I often wonder how federal prosecutors who settle 90 plus percent of their cases would fair versus an experienced state prosecutor who actually takes cases to trial.

  11. I Never Lie and am Always Right says:

    In the tax area it is rare for a state to pursue criminal charges when the Feds are also pursuing criminal charges. But such dual prosecutions occur from time to time (had it happen once to a client). Typically that happens when there is egregious conduct.

    I have no problem with Willis pursuing criminal charges against anyone who ostensibly violated Georgia law. But I’ll reserve judgement on Willis as a prosecutor until we know more than we know now.

  12. Arianity says:

    “should every pissant local county prosecutor arrogate upon themselves to control and charge federal election crimes?”

    If it’s within their jurisdiction, yeah, probably? Especially if there’s potential state crimes. That’s kind of their job. It’s not really arrogating if it was already within their purview. It’s an intended (good) feature of a federalized system.

    I can’t comment on how she’s handled this particular case, but the fact that she charged when others didn’t seems like a point in her favor, and against the rest. She should be treating it seriously, not using it as a career boost, but she shouldn’t be ignoring it either.

    As far as Arizonan’s clamoring for it, it probably has nothing to do with Fani and more to do with a general sense of wanting the legal system to function (which it may yet, but to date has been rather lacking). Especially given the past few years of legal hot potato prosecutors (including federal ones, when it comes to Individual-1) have played.

  13. H.P. Saucecraft says:

    Longtime lurker, first-time commenter. I’ve been depressed and frustrated by bmaz’s put-downs of Fani Willis. He’s been asked many times to set out clearly for us monobrowed IANALs exactly why her case is garbage, and he never has. He questions her right to act at all in this matter – better left to the big boys, eh? Willis seems to me to be doing an extremely complex job both courageously and well, and if she gets a little publicity from that it’s no cause for resentment, but approval and support. I don’t think bmaz is racist, and I take his word for it that he’s a shit-hot trial lawyer, but his continued potty-mouthed curmudgeon act (a gussied-up cross between Wilf Brimley and Ty Cobb) is not only tiring but offensive.

    • bmaz says:

      It is always swell to see “Longtime lurker, first-time commenter” people lobbing in. I have relentlessly explained my view, you just don’t care, and do not like it.

      I care more about the health of criminal law as a whole than I do Trump.

      • David Brooks says:

        I for one have been very grateful for your emphasis on the longterm health of criminal law and defense of the prosecutorial process in the face of strong emotionally based desires to throw every book in the law library at Trump.

        But like apparently some others I still can’t distill your systemic arguments out of your diatribe against Willis per se.

        • bmaz says:

          Well, if you believe in your first paragraph, you do not issue your second paragraph.

          I am not here to be popular opinion. I am here to be somebody that has done this forever as a profession.

        • H.P. Saucecraft says:

          “I have relentlessly explained my view, you just don’t care, and do not like it.”

          You have relentlessly expressed it, but not once, as far as I can see, explained it. Perhaps I (and many others) missed it? Please provide a link to where you explain (as oppose to tell us you have explained) why the Willis action is garbage. If, like us, you can’t find one, please go ahead and tell us again. I do care, which is why I am *cough* lobbying in.

          “I am not here to be popular opinion [sic]. I am here to be somebody that has done this forever as a profession.” Oh dear. Please get over yourself.

        • David Brooks says:

          Thank you again for helping me clarify. First paragraph was intended in the context of wishing for Smith to charge in NJ, DC, at least, and maybe heap on a superseding indictment every time Trump opens his yap. I get why not.

          But I still don’t have full clarity on why State charges can’t also be pursued, discounting where possible Willis’s specific actions.

        • Ralph H white says:

          Doing something forever as a profession in no way guarantees you are correct in your views and estimations of issues within your profession. I have no idea of your record in criminal law, but I do know of plenty of longtime professionals who have exemplary records in their fields that are wrong, make serious mistakes and allow personal feelings and, or arrogance to cloud their judgement. Doctors, Scientists, Professors and Coaches are a few of the professionals I have had personal experience with in these regards. At times resulting in dire consequences regarding my well-being.
          Again, I have no personal knowledge of your career, I am only stating that doing something “forever” is not a guarantor of correctness. Longevity has it’s advantages quite often in providing perspective, but in my 75 years on this rock I’ve witnessed very experienced folks being wrong countless times over long periods.

        • bmaz says:

          Well, as a lawyer, experience actually does count. You have it or you don’t. I may be right or wrong. But have been there for decades. I will stand by what I have said,

      • Scott_in_MI says:

        “I have relentlessly explained my view, you just don’t care, and do not like it.”

        This is your first byline post on Willis. And if multiple continuing readers are expressing confusion about the content of your critique, then maybe you haven’t articulated your thoughts as effectively as you suppose.

        • eyesoars says:

          I strongly concur. The enmity comes through loud and clear and often. The reasoning for it, not at all, except that bmaz in some sense thinks she’s an upstart “speaking out of school”; the reason(s) why he thinks that are entirely unexplained and/or opaque to me.

        • bmaz says:

          Oh, no, there is no “enmity”. Just an understanding of the situation. One that a lot do not like. It does not matter whether Willis is black, white or purple. People whine about the “rule of law” but do not give a shit about actual law. Go stand in a courtroom for a week, much less a month or two.

        • eyesoars says:

          Again, not that you owe an explanation, but any detailed reasoning about why you detest Fani Willis and implicitly assert that she is “grandstanding” and failing to uphold the law is absent.
          IANAL, nor am I a paralegal or other law-trained individual in any capacity. But I do read indictments and trial transcripts, &c from time to time, even outside of the postings I regularly read here at emptywheel.
          You’ve mentioned in passing that you’re familiar with her and/or people who’ve worked with her, but beyond that the source of your distaste for her is, at least to me, entirely opaque.
          Obviously, I’m speaking only for myself. But I’m also clearly not alone. You also don’t owe us an explanation, but your writings appear to make many of us wonder.
          I read here largely to understand the issues and educate myself on the legal and political background behind various political and national security related prosecutions. When I don’t understand something, it’s natural to ask why. And I really don’t understand why here. It’s entirely possible I’m stupid and missing something obvious to you. But my sense is that that’s not the case, and I’m not alone in puzzlement.

      • Rwood0808 says:

        “I care more about the health of criminal law as a whole than I do Trump.”

        Would that be the criminal law system that has allowed a career criminal like trump to escape justice for decades?

        It’s long past time to admit that the current system is incapable of handling someone like trump, and with corruption increasingly made legal it probably never will be.

      • NickBarnes says:

        I’ve only been here for a year or so, and don’t have time to read every post, so I must have missed these relentless explanations. I’ve seen loads of very negative comments by bmaz about Fani Willis and the GA investigation, but all the ones I can recall simply describe her or it in insulting ways. This post is typical: he describes her as “ladder climbing” “self serving”, “pissant”, “showboating”, and so on, and the investigation as “a complete joke”, “completely bogus” and “garbage”. These are all very familiar attacks from bmaz. But he doesn’t explain here why a Georgia DA shouldn’t investigate an apparent conspiracy by people inside and outside Georgia to interfere with Georgia elections.

        Yes, of course, there are federal connections and implications in the case. But most of the apparent targets are in Georgia, many of the apparently criminal acts took place in Georgia, and they appear to be crimes under Georgia law. I genuinely want to know why a Georgia DA shouldn’t investigate them. What criteria should she use to decide that? How is it all supposed to work? As a furriner I’m seeking information here.

        Can someone more attentive than me please post a link to some of these “relentless” explanations by bmaz (or, for that matter, by someone less aggressive) telling us _why_ we should share his absolute disdain for Willis and her investigation? I see that I’m not the only commenter asking for this.

        • bmaz says:

          I’m sorry. You self admittedly have not paid attention, but now demand an explanation?

        • NickBarnes says:

          I’m not demanding anything. I’m just adding my voice to the growing chorus – most of this comment section – politely asking for this information.

          Most posts here are full of information, and informed, argued, analysis. That’s why I come here.

  14. RitaRita says:

    Didn’t Fani Willis start her investigation at a time when it was not apparent that DOJ was doing much of anything other than pursuing J6 rioters? The Brad Raffensberger-Trump extortion phone call and the threats of violence against election officials may have made it difficult for Fani Willis to ignore, even if she weren’t a publicity hound. I hope that she is cooperating with DOJ.

  15. pablointhegazebo says:

    Ha ha & LOL.
    You guys have it all wrong. We all know that SCOTUS has a fat, greasy thumb on the scales and will decide what’s right when the time comes. But I am enjoying the discussion.

    • Ravenclaw says:

      I don’t think this makes a whole lot of sense. There would need to be a substantive question of constitutional law, to begin with. That might well have been the case had a conviction been obtained of a sitting president, but what constitutional principle raises doubt about a conviction of a private citizen, unless there are serious problems with the way in which evidence was obtained and/or handled? Remember: out of about 5,000 cases appealed each year, the supreme court hears about 100. And even if they do, we aren’t looking at one “greasy thumb,” but at nine justices, at least four of whom would give short shrift to any of the crazy arguments team Trump generates, so they’d need to convince all five of the rest. Okay, they’d get Thomas. Maybe Alito. But the three Trump appointees seem to have a *little* more judicial integrity. (Emphasis on “a little” there.)

    • wa_rickf says:

      The current make-up of the SCOTUS court not only decides cases on flimsy evidence of late, but they’re also now cool with deciding cases based upon completely made-up hypotheticals – thus rendering societal major changes and making the LGBTQ+ community second class citizens based upon the sincerely held beliefs on a business owner.

      Fanni Willis stepped up to the plate to investigate 2020 election interference in the State of GA that the GOP dominated executive branch of GA has, apparently, turned a blind eye to. At best, DA Willis has gathered information that is available for use by the DoJ should they decide to involve themselves into obvious election interference which most of us have heard for ourselves in the infamous January 2, 2021 Raffensperger where Trump attempted to persuade Raffensperger to change the election results in Georgia in Trump’s favor.

      Given that states run federal elections, it is my IKINAL opinion, that DA Willis has done the right thing.

      • David Brooks says:

        I think I see something of bmaz’s point here. For a community that (probably) sees the dangers of ISL theory, just turned back for now in the NC case, it is at best unhelpful to be seen adopting a state-based approach to litigating a federal election case. Are there other state-specific laws that are primary charges in the investigation?

        [Moderator’s note: Please confirm your email address has changed. Previous comments under this username used a different address making you appear to be sockpuppeting — or someone is spoofing user identity. /~Rayne]

        • David Brooks says:

          My apologies, Rayne. I have to stop commenting from the phone: a few levels of nesting and the window is too narrow to proofread, and switching to landscape is a good way of completely losing my place. I’ll have to restrict myself to the big screen.

          Yes, that was me. I hope I match up now.

      • bmaz says:

        Hi there. No, it is not “given” that states “run federal elections”. You may, or may not, recall several SCOTUS opinions that point otherwise. And, if you think the baloney Willis is pulling is assisting DOJ, instead of the opposite, you might be mistaken. Other words could be inserted.

        • wa_rickf says:

          The infamous January 2, 2021 Raffensperger where Trump attempted to persuade Raffensperger to change the election results in Georgia in Trump’s favor is an attempt to commit a crime – the crime of election interference: changing the outcome of an election.

          ANALOGY: An attempted robbery of a bank is still a crime even if the robber walks away empty-handed.

          So far, the GA executive branch has done nothing about this crime that most of us heard Donald Trump attempt to commit. Trump was only unsuccessful because Raffensperger wouldn’t go along with it. The Fulton County DA has done something about this crime that Trump has committed. Kudos to her.

          The DoJ is welcome to the the Fulton County DAs notes and interviews, I have no doubt – if they choose to pursue the matter.

        • bmaz says:

          Lol, thank you much for the helpful “ANALOGY”. Can you splain more law to me?

          And, no, DOJ does not have the Fulton County Rule 6 material that I am aware of.

        • wa_rickf says:

          I am confused by your comment that states don’t run federal elections as I found this citation:

          Congressional Authority to Direct How States Administer Elections
          November 27, 2000 – December 4, 2014

          In the United States, states have primary responsibility for the administration of federal elections. The federal government, however, has significant authority to determine how these elections are run, and may direct states to implement such federal regulations as the federal government provides. This authority can extend to registration, voting, reporting of results, or even more fundamental aspects of the election process such as redistricting. This report focuses on Congress’s constitutional authority to regulate how states administer elections.

  16. Bay State Librul says:

    The health of criminal law is two-tiered, and beyond a medical miracle.
    For the last 6-7 years, we have all seen the signs of a patient in extremis with flu-like symptoms.
    (Court delays, delays, delays, delays, Court appeals, appeals, appeals, frivolous, frivolous, frivolous interpretations of law, and crazy mixed-up excuses made by members of the bar)
    Welcome to criminal law in 2023.

    • bmaz says:

      Oh, it is only the last “6-7 years”? Then you have not been paying attention for decades.

      • AirportCat says:

        Leonard Leo and the Federalist Society haven’t been just working the referees, they have been training and hiring them for years.

      • P’villain says:

        The Federalist Society was actively indoctrinating law students when I got my JD in the 1980s.

        When Bork was denied a SCOTUS seat, they went to war.

  17. Georgia Girl says:

    Thank you, Rayne, for noting the specifically cultural dimensions of Fani Willis’s communication through the media. The spoken word was a lifeline in slave and Jim Crow culture, at once a mode of worship, celebration, and resistance, and remains so today for a still embattled group.

    I would add that with the decline of local newspapers and the continued spottiness of rural broadband, a significant segment of Georgia’s African American population still gets its news from TV. Willis’s appearances before the media are therefore part of getting the word out. Willis has “skin in the game” in a way I suspect that most of the Special Counsel’s staff never has. She doesn’t have the luxury of “speaking through her filings.”

    Willis’s investigation also has an effective political dimension because it pressures Georgia’s state and local officials to avoid active interference in elections, which was not the case when Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp refused to resign as Secretary of State when he ran for Governor in 2018.

    Like some commenters here, I am still waiting for bmaz to explain why Willis’s investigation was inappropriate if unsightly, but his responses so far tend to invective and airy dismissal.

    • bmaz says:

      What a complete load of crap. If you have not read, nor understood, my objections to Willis, you are lying.

    • Unabogie says:

      Like some commenters here, I am still waiting for bmaz to explain why Willis’s investigation was inappropriate if unsightly, but his responses so far tend to invective and airy dismissal.

      Indeed. If there are previous explanations that delve into the law and precedent, it would be trivial to link to those. And it would be helpful and welcome. I’m always open to rethinking my opinion about things, but calling me names won’t do it.

      • LouieFoster says:

        It seems clear at this point that bmaz has no intention of producing any explanation or data to justify his diatribe. I’m new here too, so I accept my “idiot” role bmaz, but as for the respect I had for you prior, I can’t listen your attacks any longer.

    • SatanicPanic says:

      I’ve been lurking here a couple years (technically my second comment) and I agree- I don’t remember bmaz ever making it clear what his issue is. Maybe it was more than two years ago? All I can guess is that she talks too much .

  18. sohelpmedog says:

    Dr. Heckel and Mr. Very Thin-skinned Hide:
    How can we reconcile the “invective and airy dismissal” of bmaz with the bmaz’ who just days ago penned a friendly and fun post , entitled “Frontman?”
    How is it that words on a page, digitally displayed, can get folks’ knickers into such knots?

    [Moderator’s note: Policing contributors and moderators here is a no-no. Please focus on the topic of the post in your comments or move on. /~Rayne]

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      Thank you, SL. When bmaz argues that state prosecutors should leave these cases to DOJ, I wish he would address the issue of pardons.

      Other commenters have mentioned it, but I want to single it out. Given the terrifyingly strong possibility that on 20 January 2025 we will see Trump–or another Republican who’s already promised to pardon him–sworn in as president, common sense indicates that state charges resulting in convictions promise the only legal fallback option when it comes to accountability.

      Doesn’t that alone make a strong enough argument in favor of local prosecutors pursuing these cases? Or at the least, investigating and gathering evidence?

      DOJ can’t go everywhere simultaneously; it seems to me that the process prior to charging might add value beyond its original purpose. That seems like it might be happening with Georgia election officials testifying for Jack Smith’s grand jury.

      • Judith Gran says:

        Yes, pardons of federal crimes is a huge issue, and I agree with you about the “terrifyingly strong possibility.” I am glad that Georgia has a Board of Pardons that the governor does not control.

        I practice civil rights law, not criminal law, but in cases in which DoJ and I have represented co-plaintiffs, usually the United States and a plaintiff class, I have seen how DoJ (specifically, the Civil Rights Division) can change positions on a dime when leadership or political circumstances change. I’ve had a case in which we were waiting outside a courtroom in Nashville where the judge had set a hearing, and the DoJ lawyer showed up and let us know, apologetically, that DoJ had changed its position while he was on the plane. In another case, in Connecticut, DoJ reversed course in the middle of examination of a witness. Literally. I think Jack Smith is doing a great job, but I am leery of putting all one’s eggs in one basket, when that basket is the DoJ.

        I admire Fani Willis and from where I sit, she’s shown professionalism and courage. And I have searched as best I could for the critiques of her work that bmaz insists he has posted here, but I cannot find anything beyond vague put-downs and name-calling.

        I apologize if my user name isn’t the one I’ve used before, but it’s been a long time since I posted anything here, and I don’t remember the name I used before. I don’t know if the site’s software makes it possible to retrieve the name one used before, but if so, I haven’t figured out how to do it.

        [Welcome back to emptywheel. This is the same name you used on your last comment last year — you’re all set. Thanks. /~Rayne]

        • bmaz says:

          Oh, heck yes, let’s put those eggs “in the basket” of a local DA that represents a whole one million county residents. Good plan. I just did a search for you, and found nothing “Judith”.

          You are literally commenting on a post I wrote. How good are you search skills? Thanks for playing.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          Judith Gran, your comment made me wonder: is there no overlap between civil rights law and criminal law? IANAL. My eccentric personal life had me writing legal briefs and sitting at a plaintiff’s table in Connecticut courthouses for most of a year, however, and since then I’ve paid a lot of attention to how the system works–and doesn’t.

          I have noticed DOJ changing course on cases, and suspected the underlying cause to be a change in political affiliation of those at the top. John Durham’s unimpeded freefall (losing the two cases brought to trial) surprised me given that context. Do you think Biden/Garland were giving him enough rope to hang himself?

        • bmaz says:

          I have no idea who Judith Gran is. But have been around a bit, and, yes, criminal attys are often civil rights attys.

  19. Georgia Girl says:

    Thank you, Savage Librarian. I have not posted here that long. I will read them with interest.

  20. AnderNeo says:

    If Fanni Willis was a republican prosecutor going after Biden, bmaz would be saying the same thing about her.

    Would you bmaz critics even care what he was saying, would you be insinuating racism? Of course you wouldn’t.

    Go see your doctors, you have a bad case of TDS.

    [Moderator’s note: I’m going to note that the range of your static IP address in Ashburn VA issued by a business ISP correlates with that of another user here. This once I will treat it as a coincidence. /~Rayne]

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      AnderNeo, I’ve never seen you here before. If this is your first post, welcome to EW and please keep contributing. If you’ve posted already, then I’m sorry I missed it.

      Could you please refrain from using acronyms like “TDS” here on EW? This one has a highly politicized meaning based on its coinage. Unless you redefine it (contextualize it) for readers here, our first reaction is to assign that original meaning.

      Either you do intend that, in which case you must own it, or you don’t intend that, in which case you need to explain what you *do* intend.

      As I see it, “TDS” has simply gotten way too imprinted by those who coined it as a political weapon. If you want to claim it for another cause, you really need to explain your revision.

      This does not apply to all, or even most, acronyms! When readers here encounter “IANAL,” for example, we have (acquired; it took me some time) a shared understanding of what it means. Same for FWIW, LMAO, DOJ, and all variations of lol. LOL.

  21. H.P. Saucecraft says:

    Lawyers make cases through persuasive argument backed by evidence. bmaz continues to bluster and cuss. When repeatedly asked to explain why Fani Willis deserves his invective and why her case is “garbage” he resorts to name-calling and copy-paste claims that he has already made his case clear. He has not. He will not. Where’s the persuasive argument (which is what I thought trial lawyers were supposed to be good at), and the evidence, that Willis is anything but a good official doing her job?

    This is not personal. I (and I suppose many others) have respect for bmaz’s lifetime of experience and would appreciate any effort he could make to clarify the situation rather than further muddy with more of his charmless signature kiss-offs.

  22. Spencer Dawkins says:

    If I’ve learned anything from watching Trump, it’s that his gift of breaking laws in every jurisdiction that’s available makes it difficult for anyone to figure out where he should be charged …

  23. Narpington says:

    I don’t know, bmaz, how am I to distinguish this from the oh so many “Garland is useless, Trump will never face justice, it’s all one big club and you ain’t in it” defeatist comments elsewhere?

    Should she not have bothered in the hope the Feds would? What’s the timeline of her knowledge of their intentions? Have her actions harmed, helped or encouraged theirs? There is a salient point that federal charges can be dropped by the next administration if they haven’t ended.

    You almost reach the conclusion that other local DAs should have investigated sooner.

  24. Joberly1954 says:

    I read the *WaPo* story on President Trump’s call to then-AZ Gov Ducey. I see a difference between the chronology of the former president’s calls to Ducey in AZ and to Secretary of State Raffensperger in GA.

    For AZ: President Trump’s calls to Gov. Ducey (not those of his staff, including Vice President Pence) came before or right up to the time the governor certified the AZ election results on Nov. 30, 2020. So far as I know, there was no ask by Trump himself of the governor after Nov. 30 to interfere with what Ducey already certified.

    For GA: the president’s call on Jan 2nd, 2021, came six weeks after Raffensperger and Gov. Kemp certified the results on Nov. 20th.

    Raffensperger took that call in Fulton County so that is where the alleged election interference took place. We all heard the president ask for election interference on the tape and we all heard him threaten Raffensperger with a criminal action by not doing so.

    In AZ, we don’t have a tape and there does not appear any interference with a certified election that might cause a prosecutor to investigate Trump for the Nov. 30th call to Ducey.

    Note: post-certification in all the states, the fake electors scheme was a separate (Dec 9, 2020-Jan 6, 2021) gambit to convince the state legislators in AZ (and in six other states) to take their own election interference actions.

    • P’villain says:

      Don’t forget that Trump literally called Ducey during his press conference to announce his certification of the AZ results. Ducey theatrically declined the call.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        I also saw it reported that Ducey did not record the call during which Trump pressured him to challenge the results in AZ.

        The election chief in Maricopa County got two calls from Trump. He didn’t pick up. Just let it ring. I can’t stop trying to imagine what that was like.

  25. Longtime_Lurker says:

    IIRC, bmaz’s issue with both Willis & Bragg (and AG James) is that they CAMPAIGNED, then won, on “getting Trump,” before having done any investigation, or seeing any evidence — and that is offensive as hell to the rule of law. As a NY lawyer, I personally disagree with bmaz’s substantive critiques of Bragg’s case (I think he misunderstands NY’s Crim SOL, and two minutes on Lexis reveals that yes, PL 175 is used in this way). However, I don’t disagree with him that it’s a perversion of justice to identify a political target, then get the evidence together. Running their campaigns the way they did gives the appearance that they are not just following the evidence, which is a shame.

    • Rayne says:

      they CAMPAIGNED, then won, on “getting Trump,” before having done any investigation, or seeing any evidence

      It would be nice to see evidence in the form of screenshots, videos, links to examples of the “getting Trump” as a campaign promise. Most readers here do not live in GA or NY and have not seen this material.

      There’s a difference between telling potential/current constituents a prospective/current prosecutor will investigate and follow all leads if there is probable cause related to [Some Individual] and “I’m going to nail [Some Individual] for [X]” as campaign rhetoric. Those of us outside GA and NY don’t have enough material presented to make the distinction.

      • Ralph H white says:

        I lived in Georgia most of my life, but in Mexico the last nine years. However, I read the Atlanta papers everyday and don’t recall an anti-Trump crusade, or focus during her campaign. She did mention addressing election interference.

      • NickBarnes says:

        This is interesting. Trying to research Willis’s campaign in 2020 is difficult from the UK because the AJC – probably the best source – has a geo-block on Europe (because GDPR says they can’t sell my eyeballs in the way they want). From what I _can_ see, her 2020 campaign was mainly about the corruption of the former DA (Howard). See this, for example:

        Nothing about Trump in that.

        • Rayne says:

          Might need to use a VPN with a US server for that kind of research. Thanks for looking!

        • sohelpmedog says:

          Willis was elected DA in November, 2020.
          The Trump-Raffensperger call took place on Jan 2, 2021.
          Wilis opened her investigation in February, 2021.
          I have not found in the course of a cursory internet evidence of Willis targeting trump during her campaign.
          Leticia James, now the NY Attorney General, did campaign on going after trump if she were elected.

        • Rayne says:

          Yeah, but this bit in first graf of that article validates the timeline between her election and when she was first confronted with the Trump-to-Raffensperger phone call:

          Late on the first Sunday of 2021, news broke of President Donald J. Trump’s call with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger of Georgia, asking him to “find 11,780 votes” to help contest the 2020 election. The next morning — Monday, Jan. 4 — was Fani Willis’s first day in the office as the district attorney for Fulton County, which encompasses most of Atlanta, as well as suburbs like Sandy Springs, East Point and Alpharetta. “Not the second day,” she told me when I met with her in November. “My very first day in this office — in that conference room, it’s all over the TV.” She found herself hoping that the secretary of state might have been “in another county when it happened,” she said, laughing darkly. He was not. And so, Willis said, “I’m stuck with it.”

          All the other crap that happened like the harassment of the Black women poll workers (including the involvement of Kanye West’s publicist) had also been steadily coming to light after Willis was elected. How should the DA’s office assure a majority Black community that their elections and election workers will be safe going forward?

        • bmaz says:

          I don’t know. Maybe a local DA just should not take it upon herself on day one. What a load of crap. If the local county attorney here had done what Willis has, I would be screaming 20X louder.

          But I know I am just island out here that has long known things national media is suddenly catching up to. Let’s do the time warp again.

      • ButteredToast says:

        I’ve briefly checked on Bragg’s campaign. According to a NY Times article from November 2, 2021, titled “Alvin Bragg Wins, Becoming First Black D.A. in Manhattan” (

        Mr. Vance’s investigation into Mr. Trump and his business is ongoing; Mr. Bragg has faced questions about it throughout his campaign and will continue to do so. Though he cited his experience of having sued the former president over 100 times while at the state attorney general’s office, Mr. Bragg has said he will follow the facts when it comes to the current inquiry.

        This PolitiFact article (https: //www.politifact. com/article/2023/apr/12/heres-what-manhattan-district-attorney-alvin-bragg/) contains quotations and some videos from Bragg’s campaign. IMO, there’s definitely room to criticize, but saying that he “campaigned, then won on ‘getting Trump'” (Longtime_Lurker’s words) is a stretch.

        On the DA’s campaign website, the “Achievements” and “Year One” pages do not mention Trump at all. The page headed “News” does contain a link to an article about the Bannon indictment (https: //www.alvinbragg. com/news/steve-bannon-charged-with-money-laundering-for-we-build-the-wall-scam-that-targeted-trump-supporters) and a radio interview in which Bragg comments only very briefly on Trump-related matters (https: //gothamist. com/news/voters-should-not-be-disregarded-alvin-bragg-reflects-on-first-year-as-manhattans-da). I haven’t yet searched the Wayback Machine to see what the site said during the actual campaign.

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