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How Fani Willis Trumped Jack Smith
No one likes a scene-stealer--particularly a longtime DOJ apparatchik now forced to share the limelight with an ambitious newbie county D.A..
All of a sudden, Jack Smith’s case against Donald Trump related to January 6 and the former president’s alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election looks so…small.
The special counsel’s paltry four-count indictment on mundane conspiracy and obstruction charges undoubtedly lacks the “wow” factor that animates the 41-count indictment handed up Monday night by a Fulton County, Georgia grand jury accusing Trump and others of concocting a conspiratorial plot to overturn the Peach State’s 2020 election. To say Fani Willis, the Democratic district attorney who initiated the sprawling investigation one month after taking office, threw everything at the wall to see what would stick is an understatement.
More like Willis threw buckets of chum at the bloodthirsty sharks populating the corporate news media and Democratic Party voter base who are desperate to see not just Trump in handcuffs but everyone around him. And she’s relishing each moment.
Jack Smith’s indictment is downright dull in contrast to the action-packed movie script presented in Willis’ 98-page document. While both prosecutors clearly lifted plenty of material from the now defunct January 6 select committee, Willis brought the flair and punch that Smith, for the most part, did not.
Nearly every villain—a total of 18 with 30 other individuals cited as “unindicted co-conspirators”—in Trump World is assigned a feature role in Willis’ production. Rudy Guiliani, Sidney Powell, John Eastman, and Jeffrey Clark, some of the commentariat’s most despised figures, make frequent cameos. (All four are cited as unnamed co-conspirators in Smith’s indictment.)
It is a play in several acts—161 to be exact. Willis enumerated 161 “over acts” largely consisting of tweets, phone calls, voicemail messages, and speeches to bolster her racketeering case against Trump. Many “acts” occurred outside of Georgia, apparently allowable under the state’s broader version of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
“The enterprise operated in Fulton County, Georgia, elsewhere in the State of Georgia, in other states, including, but not limited to, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and in the District of Columbia,” Willis claimed.
A cursory review of the 161 “over acts” reveals that less than half describe conduct relative to Georgia. For example, Willis included this text sent by former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to Representative Scott Perry (R-Pa.) in November 2020: “Can you send me the number for the speaker and the leader of PA Legislature. POTUS wants to chat with them.” That message, according to Willis, acted “in furtherance of the conspiracy.”
Aside from racketeering, Willis’ screenplay involves lots of dramatic moments: impersonating a public officer, forgery, solicitation, perjury, computer theft, and “influencing” witnesses round out her indictment.
Stealing the Stage From Smith
Even Willis’ post-indictment press briefing outshone Smith’s rambling, nervous public statement following Trump’s indictment on August 2. While an unkempt Smith only spoke for about two minutes, Willis—camera-ready and flanked by well-dressed members of her investigative team—preached for more than seven minutes as the clock almost struck midnight. She dramatically read the full name of each defendant; even mispronouncing Meadows’ last name as “mettles” didn’t slow Willis’ groove.
With a big smile and to laughter, Willis told reporters she would take questions “prior to going to sleep.” She confirmed her office planned to prosecute all 19 defendants at one trial and wants a trial to commence within the next six months. Willis would not, however, answer whether she had been in contact with the special counsel’s office.
And Willis’ theatrics aren’t over by any stretch: all eyes will remain fixated on the Fulton County courthouse until the end of next week. “As is the normal process in Georgia law, the grand jury issued arrest warrants for those who are charged,” Willis announced. “I am giving the defendants the opportunity to voluntarily surrender no later than noon on Friday, the twenty-fifth day of August, 2023.”
Smith must be kicking himself for not doing the same.
So, what will the special counsel do next? Given Smith’s immense ego—despite a spotty record of prosecutorial success—it’s hard to see a scenario where he allows Willis to hog the spotlight for the next several months. The special counsel’s court battles about protective orders and Truth Social posts will fade to the back page amid the spectacle of a 19-ring circus in downtown Atlanta.
Further, it’s only a matter of time before cable news “legal experts” start to question why Willis brought a wide-ranging, multi-state conspiracy indictment and Smith has not. Of course, Smith still is waiting to indict the six unnamed “co-conspirators” in his January 6 indictment against Trump, five of whom are known defendants in Willis’ case. But now Smith will be under pressure to add those defendants, and possibly new charges, to Trump’s existing indictment.
Hell hath no fury like a seasoned federal prosecutor forced to take a back seat to some fame-seeking greenhorn county D.A. Smith, undoubtedly, already is plotting his countermove.