Column: Trump prosecutor Fani Willis to meddling MAGA Republican Jim Jordan: Butt out, sir!


Last month, House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, a die-hard MAGA Republican who does not let the U.S. Constitution stand in the way of defending his leader, sent Fulton County, Ga., Dist. Atty. Fani Willis a list of demands for documents and information related to her racketeering investigation and indictment of former President Trump and his many, many co-conspirators.

He accused her of timing the indictments to impair Trump’s presidential campaign. He implied that her office had inappropriately used federal funds for the investigation. And he alleged that she had improperly coordinated with Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith, who has charged the former president with conspiring to subvert American democracy and with illegal handling of classified documents.

“Please provide this information as soon as possible but not later than 10:00 a.m. on September 7, 2023,” Jordan wrote.

Did Willis reply by Jordan’s deadline?

Did she ever.

“Chairman Jordan,” she wrote on Sept. 7, “I tell people often ‘deal with reality or reality will deal with you.’ It is time that you deal with some basic realities.”

First, and most important, she told the pugnacious former Ohio State assistant wrestling coach to butt out.

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“Your attempt to invoke congressional authority to intrude upon and interfere with an active criminal case in Georgia is flagrantly at odds with the Constitution,” Willis wrote. “That violation of Georgia’s sovereignty is offensive and will not stand.”

Jordan’s attempted interference is hardly unexpected. His behavior, as the New York Times noted during the House Democrats’ first successful Trump impeachment, was “part pit bull, part rat-a-tat auctioneer.” He is nothing if not performative, appearing in Congress with his sleeves rolled up, ever ready to pin his political enemies to the mat.

On Thursday, turning to the federal case against Trump, Jordan tried to ratchet up pressure on special counsel Smith. He announced he was launching an investigation into whether Smith’s office tried to extort from a lawyer by implying his application for a judgeship would be looked upon favorably by the Biden administration if his client, Trump Mar-a-Lago employee Walt Nauta, became a cooperating witness.

Read more: Editorial: Georgia’s indictment of Trump is a legitimate probe of a dangerous demagogue

“Please provide this material as soon as possible but no later than 5 p.m. on September 21, 2023,” wrote Jordan.

I will have my popcorn ready.

But back to Fani Willis.

Her response to Jordan was notable not just for the way she shut him down but for her volubility. “While settled constitutional law clearly permits me to ignore your unjustified and illegal intrusion into an open state criminal prosecution,” she wrote, “I will take a moment to voluntarily respond to parts of your letter.”

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She gives Jordan the “Explain like I’m 5” treatment (a popular request on Reddit). Noting that Jordan is not a lawyer, she asks him to allow her “the opportunity to provide a brief tutorial on criminal conspiracy law.”

The timing of the Georgia RICO indictments, she wrote, is the result of uncooperative witnesses who required subpoenas to compel their cooperation. Nor should Trump’s status as a political candidate make him immune from criminal prosecution. After all, he was “fully aware” of her investigation at the time he announced his candidacy.

“Here is another reality you must face,” she said. “Those who wish to avoid felony charges in Fulton County, Georgia, should not commit felonies in Fulton County, Georgia.”

My favorite portion of her letter comes at the end, where she suggests that instead of wasting everyone’s time (my words), he might use his status as chairman of the Judiciary Committee to engage in “productive activity.”

Read more: Calmes: Republican leaders are making the GOP an unindicted co-conspirator in Trump’s attack on democracy

He could, she offered, lead an effort for increased federal funding to states and cities for victim-witness advocates, the “grossly underpaid” professionals who take care of victims and witnesses in prosecutors offices. He could push for greater federal grant funding so that the country’s backlog of untested rape kits could be cleared. (DNA from 40 serial rapists, she said, was discovered in 1,500 untested Fulton County kits dating back to the 1990s, thanks to limited federal funds.) He could find money for overwhelmed state crime labs that are unable to complete timely tests on seized drugs, including fentanyl, or on firearms used in violent crime? How about expanding the Credible Messengers program, which matches kids in legal trouble with adult mentors who have turned their lives around?

Or maybe, just maybe, she wrote, Jordan might want to urge the Department of Justice to investigate “the racist threats” that she and her staff have received because of her investigation.

Willis, who is Black, has been deluged with verbal assaults and death threats — not just from random Trump-loving racists, but from the former president himself, who has described her as a “rabid partisan” and “racist.”

She has weathered the storm with grace.

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“It’s not what they call you, it’s what you answer to,” she recently told Maria Boynton, host on a popular Atlanta radio station. Although her name has been bandied about as a potential Democratic gubernatorial candidate in purpling Georgia, Willis said she’s dreaming of a future away from politics.

Now halfway through her first four-year term, she’d like to serve two more, then kiss the law goodbye.

“After that,” said Willis, 52, who has brought dozens of homicide cases, “I want to be a person who throws parties. I figure I’ve seen the worst of life, now I want to go do something where everybody is happy.”

I’d hire her in a heartbeat.

@robinkabcarian

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.





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