Why Trump’s New ‘Mob Boss’ Case Will Be So Hard to Shake

Trump can’t try to pardon himself for this one, or order the prosecutors to stand down, if he wins the presidency again. Even Georgia’s governor can’t let him off the hook.

Former President Donald Trump’s latest criminal case will be a particularly tough one to thwart, even if he wins the next presidential election.

Trump was charged in Atlanta, Georgia late Monday night in a sweeping racketeering case along with 18 others over their alleged attempt to steal the Peach State’s presidential election in 2020. The fact that Trump’s now been charged with serious crimes at the state level means he can’t even try to pardon himself if he wins the White House again—because a president can only pardon federal crimes.


This time, high-profile advisors also joined him, including lawyers Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and “kraken” lawyer Sidney Powell. 

Trump faces 13 counts, including a violation of the state’s racketeering act (known as Georgia RICO), soliciting a public officer to violate their oath and conspiracy to commit forgery. The 98-page indictment lays out a litany of activities that amount to a sprawling plot to negate President Joe Biden’s victory, including various acts from Trump’s notorious phone call urging Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” exactly enough votes for Trump to win the state, to an attempt to send a slate of fake electors to Congress.

Trump’s already been charged in two federal cases by Special Counsel Jack Smith. Legal experts say that if Trump wins the 2024 presidential election, he might be able to stymie the prosecution by ordering the Department of Justice to stand down, or by making a legally-untested attempt to pardon himself. He’s also a defendant in a false-documents case in New York that likely would not result in prison time even if he’s convicted.

But Georgia also makes it particularly difficult for local authorities to pardon away crimes. The pardon power in Georgia falls to a five-person panel, not the governor. And the rules say a defendant is supposed to serve at least five years of their sentence first, before they qualify for a pardon. 


All that is bad news for Trump—because the case he just caught in Georgia comes with a minimum five year sentence if he’s found guilty. In a late-night press conference on Monday, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said a conviction in this case would not mean probation.

“RICO charges [have] time that you have to serve,” Willis said. “It’s not a probated sentence.” 

She added that she’s planning to ask the judge to set a trial date “within the next six months.” 

Georgia RICO

The new charges rely on Georgia’s racketeering law, which was originally designed to take down organized crime. Lately, the law has been used against alleged gangs and even the rapper Young Thug

Georgia RICO is the junior cousin of the federal RICO statute, an anti-mafia law created in 1970. In a nutshell, both laws prohibit anyone from using an organization to commit a series of crimes. This indictment accuses Trump, Giuliani, Meadows, Eastman, Powell and others of effectively forming an ad hoc “criminal organization” after Trump lost the election, which operated for a while towards a single purpose—attempting to secure Trump’s victory in Georgia by illegal means.

The original federal RICO statute was designed to make mob bosses accountable for crimes they ordered someone else to do, by letting prosecutors brand the entire organization as an ongoing criminal enterprise. After the federal law was passed, 33 states followed suit with their own versions. Since then, the applications of Georgia’s RICO law have expanded beyond traditional organized criminal networks. 

Building unorthodox Georgia RICO cases just happens to be Willis’ signature move. Before she was elected Fulton County’s top local prosecutor in early 2021, Willis was best known for leading a racketeering case against 12 public school teachers in Atlanta accused of falsifying their students’ scores on standardized tests to improve their schools’ standing. At the time, she argued that the teachers violated Georgia’s RICO law by using the school system, a “legitimate enterprise,” to engage in widespread cheating. Eleven educators were convicted.  

Trump’s attorneys blasted the prosecution for allegedly relying on politically biased witnesses in the grand jury process, and for somehow letting a mysterious document detailing the case against Trump become public earlier on Monday, before the charges were formally announced. 

“The events that have unfolded today have been shocking and absurd,” attorneys Drew Findling, Jennifer Little and Marissa Goldberg wrote in a statement. “We look forward to a detailed review of this indictment which is undoubtedly just as flawed and unconstitutional as this entire process has been.”

Willis said on Monday night that Trump and the rest of the defendants now have until Aug. 25 to turn themselves in for arraignment.