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Trump’s violent rhetoric echoes the fascist commitment to a destructive and bloody rebirth of society

Former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric has regularly bordered on the incitement of violence. Lately, however, it has become even more violent. Yet both the press and the public have largely just shrugged their shoulders.

As a political philosopher who studies extremism, I believe people should be more worried about this.

Mark Milley, the outgoing chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, is guilty of “treason,” Trump said in September 2023, just for reassuring the Chinese that the U.S. had no plans to attack in the waning days of the Trump administration. And for this, Trump says, Milley deserves death.

And back in April, Trump said that his indictment by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg would result in “death and destruction.” Then, in early October, Trump urged people to “go after” Letitia James, the New York attorney general who filed suit against him for business fraud.

Trump’s prior rhetoric is also now on record as having inspired many of those convicted to engage in insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

But it is not just government officials whom Trump suggests be targeted for extrajudicial killings. Mere shoplifters should be killed too. “Very simply, if you rob a store, you can fully expect to be shot as you are leaving,” Trump said to cheers at the California Republican Party convention in September.

With some wielding weapons and wearing protective gear, rioters clash with police on the steps of an entrance to the U.S. Capitol.

Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Brent Stirton via Getty Images News

More than crazy bluster

This rhetoric may seem like crazy bluster, which is no doubt why many people appear prepared to ignore it. But put in its historical context, what Trump is doing is echoing views that are part of a long tradition of illiberal and outright fascist thought. For fascists have always seen the use of violence as a virtue, not a vice.

First, this is the natural result of the way that fascist communities define themselves. According to Carl Schmitt, a prominent Nazi and for a time the official legal theorist of the party under Adolf Hitler, one builds and maintains a community by identifying and vilifying its enemies. And in this kind of highly polarized environment, the threat of violence always hangs in the air.

Second, among fascists, machismo is much admired. Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, whose own outrageous rhetoric has also encouraged violent behavior by his supporters, simply “beamed” when Russian President Vladimir Putin praised him for his masculinity.

Trump often acts as a sycophant for Putin too, and machismo also is a big part of Trump’s own public persona.

Third, fascists are obsessed with purity. They long for a world where they can live among their own racial, ethnic, religious and ideological kind on land they view as exclusively theirs.

But in the real world, people are too intermixed for this to occur naturally. True purity of community is an aspiration that can be made real only through violence and subjugation. Hence the Holocaust,genocide and ethnic cleansing, and other more limited attacks on minority and immigrant populations.

Violence as noble and intoxicating

Fascists, then, see violence as noble and intoxicating. For example, Julius Evola, a far-right intellectual active in Italy from 1920 to 1970 and the author, among other things, of “Fascism Viewed from the Right” and “A Handbook for Right-Wing Youth,” writes that violence “offers man the opportunity to awaken the hero that sleeps within him.”

Today, Evola is a favorite of the alt-right, and he suggests that a hero’s death is preferable to a life built on liberal compromise. “The moment the individual succeeds in living as a hero,” Evola writes, “even if it is the final moment of his earthly life, weighs infinitely more on the scale of values than a protracted existence consuming monotonously among the trivialities of cities.”

The ultraconservative Catholic authoritarian and opponent of the French Revolution Joseph de Maistre, who is recognized as one of the intellectual forefathers of fascism, goes even further.

“The whole earth, perpetually steeped in blood, is nothing but a vast altar upon which all that is living must be sacrificed without end, without measure, without pause, until the consummation of things, until evil is extinct, until the death of death,” Maistre writes. Indeed, without an executioner, the man who kills other men, Maistre claims society could not exist. For violence is necessary to satisfy “men’s natural desire to be destructive,” he writes; it leaves them feeling “exalted and fulfilled.”

With the Washington Monument in the background, a group of protesters march.

Patriot Front – labeled a ‘white supremacist group’ by the Anti-Defamation League – marches in Washington, D.C., in May 2023. Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Social disruption and destruction

These comments make clear that fascists see violence as something to be used for more than just personal retribution and intimidation. It is to be used to create wider social disruption and destruction. Not only are individuals to be subject to attack, but institutions and norms as well.

Consider “The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy,” a work by two amateur historians popular on the far right.

The book is actually a restatement of Evola’s theory of historical regression, set forth in his “Revolt against the Modern World.”

The idea is that history moves in cycles, the first one being the best and each one thereafter representing a further decline. The fourth cycle is the worst, and it ends only when all existing social institutions are destroyed. This, in turn, is an application of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s idea that “one can build only in a space which has been previously razed to the ground.”

Then history will reset and cycle once again.

Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon admires these ideas so much he made a movie about them.

Trump appears to embrace these ideas too. “When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell, and everything is a disaster, then you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be, when we were great,” he says.

Viewed in this context, not taking Trump’s violent rhetoric more seriously seems dangerous indeed.

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Praying for Putin: Spies in Cassocks Threaten the West


The Kremlin’s increasing use of Russian Orthodox priests as spies and propagandists is a security threat that the West should counter more decisively.

Bulgaria and North Macedonia have expelled Russian and Belorussian clerics for acts contravening their national security, and in the US the FBI has warned Russian and Greek Orthodox churches that the Kremlin’s intelligence services may be using them to recruit agents.  

Analysts have long warned that the Kremlin employs the Orthodox Church as a tool for advancing its foreign policy and infiltrating European Union (EU) and NATO member states. According to declassified archives, the head of the Church, Patriarch Kirill, worked for both the KGB and its successor, the FSB.  

Kirill has wholeheartedly supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, portraying it as a holy war against “Nazis”. During a sermon in September 2022, he reportedly told Russian soldiers that “sacrifice in the course of carrying out your military duty washes away all sins.”  

Kirill sought to justify Putin’s war, saying it was essential to “defend God’s truth” and that Russians and Ukrainians were “really one people” joined by a “common national identity.”  

The Church has served as a sharp power tool for Putin’s foreign policy over other issues as well. In 2018, during a visit to Bulgaria, Kirill used the commemoration of the 140th anniversary of the 1877-78 Russo-Turkish war, which set Bulgaria on a path to independence, to scold Bulgarian President Rumen Radev for showing “ingratitude” to Moscow.  

The Kremlin envoy had been enraged by a speech from Radev in which he expressed gratitude to the Romanian, Ukrainian, Russian, Belarussian, Finnish, Polish, and Lithuanian soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the war. Kirill called this a “wrong historical interpretation” and said Russia alone deserved thanks for liberating Bulgaria from Ottoman rule.  

His words amounted to a high-handed and clearly political, intervention in the affairs of Bulgaria with a propaganda message designed to amplify divisions in Bulgarian society (where there is a traditional pro-Russian segment of the population), and to assert Russia’s desired image as the sole defender of the Christian world.  

Although the close ties between the Kremlin, its intelligence services, and the Orthodox Church are well-documented, Western governments have hesitated to sanction high-ranking clergy to avoid accusations of violating religious liberty.  

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The EU attempted to freeze Kirill’s assets and ban him from entering the bloc for his support for the invasion and propagandist behavior, but Hungary blocked the decision, declaring it to be against “fundamental principles of religious freedom.”  

Others argued that religious freedom cannot be used as an excuse for violating state sovereignty and territorial integrity, nor as a justification for wars of aggression. In addition, Putin’s Russia has shown over and over again that it does not care about religious freedom.  

Bulgarian authorities expelled the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Sofia, Archimandrite Vassian Zmeev, who was expelled from Skopje for alleged involvement in Russian espionage.  

Bulgaria’s State Agency for National Security said Zmeev and his colleagues had been involved in “the implementation of various elements of the Russian Federation’s hybrid strategy to purposefully influence socio-political processes in the Republic of Bulgaria in favor of Russian geopolitical interests.”  

In response, Moscow expressed “outrage” and the Russian Patriarch accused the Bulgarian authorities of Satanism. Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov fired back: “Russian priests were not expelled, only people who worked against the national interests of Bulgaria.” 

The West should expose and punish Russia’s hypocrisy in its abuse of religion, and the EU and US should follow the UK’s lead and sanction the Russian Patriarch. Clearly worded political and economic sanctions would make clear that the problem is not Kirill’s religion but the transformation of his church into a mouthpiece for the Kremlin.  

It is Moscow’s use of Russian priests as propagandists and spies that violates religious freedom, not the countries that remove them. 

Impunity is what emboldens the Kremlin to continue weaponizing religion in order to divide and destabilize democracies. The West should expose Russia’s hypocrisy and sanction the propagandists and spies masquerading as clergy.  

Dessie Zagorcheva holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from Columbia University. She specializes in international security with a focus on Russia and Eastern Europe. Her current research examines NATO’s response to Russian sharp power.  

Europe’s Edge is CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

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CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America.

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Russia monitoring US priority between Israel and Ukraine | Opinion

As anticipated from the outset, Russia’s launch of what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine has had a profound impact on the global balance of power, reshaping international priorities on multiple fronts. Furthermore, the consequences of current Israeli attacks in Gaza are increasingly evident, extending beyond the region’s geographical boundaries.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was quick to confirm his absolute support for Israel and its right to defend itself, following Hamas’ launch of Operation “Al-Aqsa Flood” last week. However, Ukrainian support for Israel was surprising since the latter refused to provide Kyiv with the Iron Dome system to confront Russian air attacks, whether by drones or missiles. Israel also did not join the Western sanctions regime against Moscow. Yet, Ukrainian politicians have realized that support for Israel is a priority for all American administrations. Washington is set to allocate the largest share of military, economic and diplomatic support to defend Israel. In stark contrast, major disagreements have erupted in the U.S. Congress over support packages for Kyiv, in light of the crisis of raising the debt ceiling and fears of closing federal institutions.

It is known that Israel did not implement the sanctions imposed by the West on Russia against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, and flights and trade exchanges between the two sides continue.

Officials in Tel Aviv have been clear that their caution regarding the Ukraine crisis is due to the desire to maintain the margin of maneuver that Israel enjoys in Syria. Any provocative stance taken by Moscow could reduce its ability to launch airstrikes inside Syrian territory to prevent Iran from establishing itself there and to thwart its attempts to transfer weapons to Hezbollah.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was quick to point out the failure of the United States’ Middle East policy after Operation Al-Aqsa Flood. Zelenskyy, regardless of his support for Israel, faces an uncertain situation should tensions in Gaza escalate, particularly if Israel launches a ground military operation, as its duration is unpredictable. This situation is not in Ukraine’s interest and could weaken Western support for Kyiv, given the priority shift toward Israel. The Middle East crisis may divert international attention away from the Ukraine crisis.

Divided preoccupations of the U.S.

Washington’s preoccupation on two fronts, supporting Ukraine and supporting Israel in two wars, is in Russia’s interest because it will make Ukraine’s importance decline among Western parties, militarily, politically, medially and diplomatically.

The longer these conflicts last, the more this will be in China’s interest if it wishes to move to implement a military scenario in Taiwan, as Washington will not be able to control all of these files at the same time. There is also a primary goal for Russia, which is to weaken the Western world order, a project with which its allies in China and Iran agree with.

The expansion of confrontations within the framework of the Arab-Israeli conflict tests Washington’s image as the world’s premier military power and its ability to support its two allies, Israel and Ukraine, in two separate wars at the same time.

In the short and medium term, Russia gains from the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, given its immediate impact on the Ukraine front. However, looking ahead to the long term and the potential for the conflict to broaden, this might not align with Moscow’s interests, particularly if Iran becomes involved in the confrontations. Such involvement could compel Moscow to lean toward one of the parties, which is something Russia currently aims to avoid. An escalation in intensity could even result in a direct conflict between Iran and Israel, risking the stability of the Russian presence in Syria.

Russia’s failure to achieve most of its declared military goals at the beginning of its military operation in Ukraine made it resort to a strategy aimed at prolonging the war, and it began to engage in a long war of attrition inside the Ukrainian arena, against the entire Western coalition.

Both sides in Ukraine war banking on time now

At the beginning of the war, expectations were of rapid success for the Russian forces, but that did not happen.

There is no doubt that the unparalleled Western support for Ukraine, and the intelligence coordination to confront the Russian attack, enabled Kyiv to repel Russian forces in several regions of the country. Moreover, the Western weapons and sanctions raised the morale of the Ukrainians, who felt that they were not fighting the war alone.

In addition, the false intelligence information and reports that reached the Russian leadership before the war were contrary to the reality inside Ukraine.

Despite the success of Russian forces in destroying a large sector of Ukrainian infrastructure, we do not witness their efforts to overthrow the Ukrainian government at present. It is also true that Ukrainian steadfastness in the face of Russia means exhausting Moscow and incurring more military and material losses. However, Russia is engaged in an attrition strategy, aiming to erode Western support for Ukraine, relying on several key factors, the most important being the economic crisis, the escalation of a global food crisis, and the division among Europeans regarding the diplomatic resolution of the Ukrainian crisis.

Today, both parties in the conflict in the Ukrainian arena are betting on the time factor to exhaust the other party. It seems that the world is watching an ongoing war without achieving its goals in the foreseeable future, and the return of the historical conflict in the Middle East to the forefront of events is in Russia’s favor vis-a-vis its Western opponents for the reasons mentioned above.

A new world order is in its early stages of formation, whatever the outcome of the ongoing conflict between Russia and the Western alliance, the Ukraine arena today is only one of its fronts. However, the question is about the nature of the next stage: Will the new world order be born completely? Or a premature or possibly deformed newborn?

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An Israeli ministry, in a ‘concept paper,’ proposes transferring Gaza civilians to Egypt’s Sinai


JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli government ministry has drafted a wartime proposal to transfer the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people to Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, drawing condemnation from the Palestinians and worsening tensions with Cairo.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office played down the report compiled by the Intelligence Ministry as a hypothetical exercise — a “concept paper.” But its conclusions deepened long-standing Egyptian fears that Israel wants to make Gaza into Egypt’s problem, and revived for Palestinians memories of their greatest trauma — the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of people who fled or were forced from their homes during the fighting surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948.

“We are against transfer to any place, in any form, and we consider it a red line that we will not allow to be crossed,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said of the report. “What happened in 1948 will not be allowed to happen again.”

A mass displacement, Abu Rudeineh said, would be “tantamount to declaring a new war.”

So far more than 8,000 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians, have been killed since Israel went to war against Hamas after its Oct. 7 attack.


The document is dated Oct. 13, six days after Hamas militants killed more than 1,400 people in southern Israel and took over 240 hostage in an attack that provoked a devastating Israeli war in Gaza. It was first published by Sicha Mekomit, a local news site.

In its report, the Intelligence Ministry — a junior ministry that conducts research but does not set policy — offered three alternatives “to effect a significant change in the civilian reality in the Gaza Strip in light of the Hamas crimes that led to the Sword of Iron war.”

The document’s authors deem this alternative to be the most desirable for Israel’s security.

The document proposes moving Gaza’s civilian population to tent cities in northern Sinai, then building permanent cities and an undefined humanitarian corridor. A security zone would be established inside Israel to block the displaced Palestinians from entering. The report did not say what would become of Gaza once its population is cleared out.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report. But Egypt has made clear throughout this latest war that it does not want to take in a wave of Palestinian refugees.

Egypt has long feared that Israel wants to force a permanent expulsion of Palestinians into its territory, as happened during the war surrounding Israel’s independence. Egypt ruled Gaza between 1948 and 1967, when Israel captured the territory, along with the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The vast majority of Gaza’s population are the descendants of Palestinian refugees uprooted from what is now Israel.

Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah El-Sissi, has said a mass influx of refugees from Gaza would eliminate the Palestinian nationalist cause. It would also risk bringing militants into Sinai, where they might launch attacks on Israel, he said. That would endanger the countries’ 1979 peace treaty. He proposed that Israel instead house Palestinians in its Negev Desert, which neighbors the Gaza Strip, until it ends its military operations.

Yoel Guzansky, a senior fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said the paper threatened to damage relations with a key partner.

“If this paper is true, this is a grave mistake. It might cause a strategic rift between Israel and Egypt,” said Guzansky, who said he has consulted for the ministry in the past. “I see it either as ignorance or someone who wants to negatively affect Israel-Egypt relations, which are very important at this stage.”

Egypt is a valuable partner that cooperates behind the scenes with Israel, he said. If it is seen as overtly assisting an Israeli plan like this, especially involving the Palestinians, it could be “devastating to its stability.”


Egypt would not necessarily be the Palestinian refugees’ last stop. The document speaks about Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates supporting the plan either financially, or by taking in uprooted residents of Gaza as refugees and in the long term as citizens. Canada’s “lenient” immigration practices also make it a potential resettlement target, the document adds.

At first glance, this proposal “is liable to be complicated in terms of international legitimacy,” the document acknowledges. “In our assessment, fighting after the population is evacuated would lead to fewer civilian casualties compared to what could be expected if the population were to remain.”

An Israeli official familiar with the document said it isn’t binding and that there was no substantive discussion of it with security officials. Netanyahu’s office called it a “concept paper, the likes of which are prepared at all levels of the government and its security agencies.”

“The issue of the ‘day after’ has not been discussed in any official forum in Israel, which is focused at this time on destroying the governing and military capabilities of Hamas,” the prime minister’s office said.

The document dismisses the two other options: reinstating the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority as the sovereign in Gaza, or supporting a local regime. Among other reasons, it rejects them as unable to deter attacks on Israel.

The reinstatement of the Palestinian Authority, which was ejected from Gaza after a weeklong 2007 war that put Hamas in power, would be “an unprecedented victory of the Palestinian national movement, a victory that will claim the lives of thousands of Israeli civilians and soldiers, and does not safeguard Israel’s security,” the document says.


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Israeli forces move farther into Gaza as the push against Hamas enters a 5th day

A girl looks on as she stands outside a building that was hit by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli forces fought with fighters from the militant group Hamas in central Gaza on Tuesday, as Israel’s ground campaign in the embattled territory continued into its fifth day.

According to Palestinian witnesses, Israeli troops have entered Gaza from its north and east. Israeli military officials have reported skirmishes between Hamas fighters and Israeli soldiers. An NPR producer in central Gaza reported the presence of an Israeli tank and bulldozer located south of Gaza City on Salah al-Deen, the main highway that runs north-to-south through the Gaza Strip.

All the while, Israel’s unrelenting airstrike campaign over the entirety of Gaza has continued. Airstrikes hit at least 300 targets in Gaza during the past day, Israel said Tuesday.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have evacuated from the northern half of Gaza, packing into any available shelter in the south. Schools, hospitals and mosques are all sheltering hundreds of people, and private homes are crowded with dozens or more. In total, 1.4 million Palestinians have been displaced from their homes, the U.N. says.

Israel continues to deny that its current operation is a “ground invasion,” referring it only as an “expanded operation” or a “new phase” in the war despite the continual presence of its troops in Gaza.

On Tuesday, Israel claimed the death of Nasim Abu Ajina, a Hamas fighter whom Israel said helped lead the Oct. 7 attacks, in which some 2,000 Hamas fighters flooded across Gaza’s border and killed 1,400 people and kidnapped hundreds of others. Abu Ajina “directed” the portion of the assault in two Israeli towns just north of Gaza, a statement from Israel’s military said.

In recent days, the number of Hamas hostages reported by Israeli officials has increased, due to what officials describe as complications with identifying foreign citizens. The total number of hostages now stands at 240, Israel says. Five have so far been freed.

More than 8,300 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, including more than 3,400 children — a number that exceeded the total number of children killed across the world’s conflict zones each year since 2019, according to the humanitarian group Save the Children.

Israel will not agree to a cease-fire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a press conference Monday. He compared the calls for a Israeli ceasefire to asking the U.S. to cease hostilities after 9/11 or Pearl Harbor.

At least 10 Americans are being held hostage by Hamas, officials say. And hundreds of American citizens remain trapped in Gaza.

The U.S. has representatives in Doha participating in negotiations over the release of the hostages and the safe exit of Americans from Gaza, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been in “close contact” with Qatari officials in the effort, according to the State Department. Hamas controls the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and has blocked foreign citizens from leaving, officials say.

“There continue to be significant hurdles to doing both,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said at a Monday press briefing. “There is no higher priority, from the President on down.”

Greg Myre contributed reporting in Tel Aviv.

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With Racketeering Charges, Georgia Prosecutor Aims to ‘Tell the Whole Story’

Prosecutors have found racketeering laws to be powerful tools in targeting not only foot soldiers in a criminal enterprise, but also high-level decision makers.

Donald J. Trump speaks behind a lectern at night.

Former President Donald J. Trump at a campaign rally in support of Georgia’s Republican senators before their runoff election in January 2021.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Aug. 15, 2023Updated 8:19 a.m. ET

For more than 50 years, prosecutors have relied on a powerful tool to take down people as varied as mafia capos, street gangs like the Crips and the Bloods, and pharmaceutical executives accused of fueling the opioid crisis.

Now a prosecutor in Georgia is using the state’s version of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO, to go after former President Donald J. Trump, who along with 18 of his allies was indicted on Monday on charges of participating in a wide-ranging conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia.

One power of RICO is that it often allows a prosecutor to tell a sweeping story — not only laying out a set of criminal acts, but identifying a group of people working toward a common goal, as part of an “enterprise,” to engage in patterns of illegal activities.

Fani Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., is using a RICO indictment to tie together elements of a broad conspiracy that she describes as stretching far outside of her Atlanta-area jurisdiction into a number of other swing states, a legal move made possible by the racketeering statute. Her investigation also reached into rural parts of Georgia — notably Coffee County, where Trump allies got access to voting machines in January 2021 in search of evidence that the election had been rigged.

Signaling its breadth, the indictment brought Monday night laid out a number of ways the defendants obstructed the election: by lying to the Georgia legislature and state officials, recruiting fake pro-Trump electors, harassing election workers, soliciting Justice Department officials, soliciting Vice President Mike Pence, breaching voting machines and engaging in a cover-up.

“RICO is a tool that allows a prosecutor’s office or law enforcement to tell the whole story,” Ms. Willis said at a news conference last year.

Her challenge will be to convince jurors that the disparate group of 19 conspirators charged in the indictment — including a former president and a local bail bondsman, a White House chief of staff and a former publicist for Kanye West — were all working together in a sprawling but organized criminal effort to keep Mr. Trump in power.

State and federal prosecutors have found that they can use RICO laws to effectively make such arguments, and Ms. Willis has done it before. So has Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the defendants, who made his name trying racketeering cases against mafia families decades ago as a federal prosecutor in New York.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, at the Fulton County courthouse in Atlanta last year.Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

Clark D. Cunningham, a law professor at Georgia State University, said the indictment “shows the incredible power brought to bear against Trump by using Georgia’s racketeering law,” noting that in addition to the 19 people charged, it encompassed “as many as 30 unindicted co-conspirators — over 160 separate acts in all.”

But RICO laws have their detractors. Some critics say that the laws have granted too much power to prosecutors, allowing them to indict dubious members of “organizations” that are in some cases barely organized.

“Because RICO is so expansive, and so open, as a tool, it allows people to be caught in its dragnet that are nothing like the people who were originally intended” when the laws were first developed more than 50 years ago, said Martin Sabelli, a past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Another potential pitfall for a big RICO case is that it may become too complex for jurors to follow. As Michael J. Moore, the former U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, put it on Monday night: “When you fish with too big a net, you risk getting tangled up yourself.”

Some of the defendants were already accusing Ms. Willis of overreaching. A spokeswoman for Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who was charged in the case, said Ms. Willis was “exceeding her powers by inserting herself into the operations of the federal government to go after Jeff.”

Mr. Trump’s legal team said, “We look forward to a detailed review of this indictment which is undoubtedly just as flawed and unconstitutional as this entire process has been.”

Mr. Trump and his allies have argued that their efforts to challenge his 2020 election loss in Georgia were well within the bounds of the law. Indeed, Mr. Trump has been laying the groundwork for his defense for months, arguing repeatedly that there was nothing illegal about his now-famous call to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, on Jan. 2, 2021.

In that call, Mr. Trump told Mr. Raffensperger he hoped to “find” the 11,780 votes he needed to win Georgia.

But the RICO indictment forces Mr. Trump to push back against a broader allegation — that he was part of a multipronged criminal scheme that involved not only calls to state officials, but the convening of bogus pro-Trump electors, the harassment of Fulton County elections workers, and false statements made by Trump allies, including Mr. Giuliani, before state legislative bodies.

The Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, where the fake electors gathered in 2020.Credit…Audra Melton for The New York Times

In Georgia, RICO is a felony charge that carries stiff penalties: a potential prison term of five to 20 years, a fine or both.

Racketeering statutes are an outgrowth of New York City’s long history of combating corruption and organized crime. The word “racketeer” itself is derived from the “racket” at boisterous Tammany Hall fund-raising dinners where it was an expectation, among crooked politicians, that anyone who hoped to get a piece of city business would buy tickets.

Under Mr. Giuliani’s leadership in the 1980s, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York used RICO to prosecute powerful mobsters like Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno of the Genovese crime family, and Anthony “Tony Ducks” Corallo of the Lucchese family. But Mr. Giuliani also used the federal statute to prosecute white-collar business cases.

Ms. Willis may rival Mr. Giuliani in her deep well of experience with RICO charges. She made her name as an assistant district attorney by bringing a sprawling RICO case against educators in the Atlanta public school system in 2013 in the wake of a cheating scandal, and has used Georgia’s version of the law repeatedly since then.

In the 2013 case, a group of Atlanta educators were accused of inflating standardized test scores and giving a false sense of academic progress. At the time, there was concern that the state was applying a law known for targeting the mob to a group of modestly paid public schoolteachers, most of whom were Black.

“I think it’s overkill,” the Atlanta lawyer Bruce H. Morris told The Los Angeles Times. “RICO was originally designed for organized crime.”

Ms. Willis has said defending the integrity of the education system — and children’s right to an education — was paramount. The trial ended with 11 defendants being found guilty of racketeering, with some convicted of other crimes.

After being elected Fulton County’s top prosecutor in 2020, she has continued to be aggressive in using RICO to prosecute other cases, particularly in her fight against street gangs. The best known is the ongoing RICO conspiracy case against the group Young Slime Life, headed by the Atlanta rapper Jeffery Williams, who performs as Young Thug.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis made her name as an assistant district attorney by bringing a sprawling RICO case in 2013.Credit…Audra Melton for The New York Times

The indictment charges that members of the group, known as YSL, committed the crime of conspiracy to violate the RICO act, and that certain members are responsible for crimes like murder, aggravated assault and armed robbery. Defense attorneys maintain that the group is merely a musical collective.

In an analysis of the case for the pop culture website Complex, Andre Gee, a music and culture writer, blasted Ms. Willis for wielding RICO as an overly broad dragnet.

“It’s an ugly, precedent-setting maneuver in the war on rap that can only happen because the law allows her to be creatively predatory with their definition of a ‘corrupt organization,’” Mr. Gee wrote.

Some experts have argued that applying RICO charges in a criminal case allows prosecutors to use the laws’ often stiff penalties to pressure defendants marginally connected to criminal groups to take plea bargains. In the YSL case, Ms. Willis’s office obtained pleas from a number of defendants, securing admissions along the way that the group was indeed a criminal street gang.

The Young Thug case, taking place in the same courthouse that may eventually host Mr. Trump, has shown how unwieldy a large racketeering case with multiple defendants can be: Jury selection, which began in January, has yet to be completed, and has been rife with hiccups and scandals.

Noting that Ms. Willis is hoping for a trial within the next six months, Christopher Timmons, an Atlanta trial lawyer and former prosecutor experienced in RICO cases, said the timetable seemed to be “ambitious.”

“Six months to start a RICO trial is lightning fast,” Mr. Timmons said in an email early Tuesday. “They usually take a year to put together. That suggests the D.A.’s office walked into the grand jury room knowing what their case will look like at trial.”

Even though RICO laws now go far beyond mob-busting, their origins in fighting the New York mafia can still work against defendants in the court of public opinion.

But a good defense lawyer can sometimes use the laws’ association with the mob to their client’s advantage. That was the case in 2013, when one of Mr. Trump’s current lawyers in Georgia, Drew Findling, was defending a sheriff in the suburbs of Atlanta who had been accused of corruption and was facing state RICO charges.

In his closing argument at trial, Mr. Findling, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, ridiculed state prosecutors for not reaching out to federal authorities if they truly believed they were dealing with a criminal on a par with the nation’s most infamous gangsters.

His client was acquitted.

Richard Fausset is a correspondent based in Atlanta. He mainly writes about the American South, focusing on politics, culture, race, poverty and criminal justice. He previously worked at The Los Angeles Times, including as a foreign correspondent in Mexico City. More about Richard Fausset

Danny Hakim is an investigative reporter. He has been a European economics correspondent and bureau chief in Albany and Detroit. He was also a lead reporter on the team awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News. More about Danny Hakim

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Giddy Hillary Clinton Can’t Stop Giggling Amid Donald Trump’s Indictments on ‘The Rachel Maddow Show’


Hillary Clinton was in a giddy mood shortly after a Georgia grand jury slapped ex-President Donald Trump with another indictment in relation to the 2020 election interference case. While appearing on Monday’s (Aug. 14) episode of The Rachel Maddow Show at the same time the news was announced, the Former First Lady couldn’t hold back her laughter.

“I can’t believe this,” Clinton said through giggles as she settled into her chair.

When Rachel Maddow admitted that she wasn’t expecting to speak with the politician under such circumstances, Clinton cheekily replied, “Nor me, Rachel. It’s always good to talk to you. Honestly, I didn’t think that it would be under these circumstances. Yet another set of indictments.”

Clinton, who lost to Trump in the 2016 election, was scheduled to appear on the MSNBC show to discuss a recent op-ed she wrote. While she may have been smiling from ear-to-ear at the start of the segment, she soon turned serious when Maddow asked if she feels any bit of satisfaction since “most of the country” didn’t believe her warnings that Trump “was going to try to end democracy.”

“It’s hard to believe. I don’t feel any satisfaction,” Clinton said. “I feel great — just great profound sadness that we have a former president who has been indicted for so many charges that went right to the heart of whether or not our democracy would survive.”

— Acyn (@Acyn) August 15, 2023

The former Secretary of State added that it’s a “terrible moment for our country to have a former president accused of these terribly important crimes,” before pointing out that there is satisfaction in knowing that the justice system is “working.”

“The only satisfaction is that the system is working,” she said. “That all of the efforts by Trump and his allies and enablers to try and silence the truth and undermine democracy have been brought into the light. And justice is being pursued.”

Trump is currently facing another 13 counts which include “violating Georgia’s anti-racketeering law, conspiracy, false statements and asking a public official to violate their oath of office,” according to The New York Post. Moreover, 18 of his allies were also indicted — including his former attorneys Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis and Kenneth Chesebro.

“I hope that we won’t have accountability just for Donald Trump and if there are others named in these indictments along with him for their behavior but we will also have accountability for a political party that has just thrown in with all the lies and the divisiveness and the lack of any conscience about what has been done to the country,” Clinton said elsewhere in the interview.

The Rachel Maddow Show airs on Monday nights at 9/8c on MSNBC.

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Death toll rises to 10 in powerful explosion near capital of Dominican Republic


SAN CRISTOBAL, Dominican Republic (AP) — The death toll from a powerful explosion near the capital of the Dominican Republic rose to 10 on Tuesday as firefighters searched through smoldering rubble, authorities said.

More than 50 people were injured

in Monday’s explosion at a bustling commercial center in the city of San Cristobal, located just west of Santo Domingo. At least 36 of the injured remained hospitalized, according to Joel Santos, minister of the presidency.Local media reported that an additional 11 people are missing.

President Luis Abinader was expected to travel later Tuesday to the site, where authorities were still trying to extinguish a fire amid collapsed buildings and charred vehicles.

The country’s 911 system said the explosion occurred at a bakery in the city’s center, a bustling area known as “Old Marketplace” where people buy goods ranging from vegetables to clothes. The fire then spread to a hardware store next door and a nearby furniture store.

Among the victims is a four-month-old baby who died from head trauma and a woman who worked at a bank, officials said.

Santos said the government is launching an investigation to determine whether the business where the explosion occurred was operating under the proper regulations.

It wasn’t clear what caused the explosion, and authorities have not provided a preliminary estimate of damages.

“Unfortunately, these catastrophes have an order of priority: save lives, save assets, ensure that the incident is extinguished and then assess damage,” Santos said at a press conference.

San Cristobal, the birthplace of dictator Rafael Trujillo, was the site of another explosion nearly 23 years ago. An arms depot exploded in October 2000, killing at least two people and injured more than two dozen others, forcing authorities to evacuate thousands.


Associated Press reporter Dánica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico contributed.

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‘Pouring kerosene on the fire’: Trump ramping up dangerous combo of ‘fear, chaos and violence’

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Former NY mayor, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani reacts to Monday night’s indictment in Fulton County


ATLANTAFormer New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has issued a statement in response to being indicted Monday night in Fulton County along with former President Donald Trump and 17 others. The former president and others were indicted in relations to efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.


Giuliani is facing 13 counts. He released a statement early Tuesday morning:

“This is an affront to American Democracy and does permanent, irrevocable harm to our justice system.

It’s just the next chapter in a book of lies with the purpose of framing President Donald Trump and anyone willing to take on the ruling regime.

They lied about Russian collusion, they lied about Joe Biden’s foreign bribery scheme, and they lied about Hunter Biden’s laptop hard drive proving 30 years of criminal activity.

The real criminals here are the people who have brought this case forward both directly and indirectly.”

– Rudolph W. Giuliani

Giulinai is a former US attorney who was elected as the mayor of New York City in 1993. During his stint as mayor, he guided America’s largest city after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He was dubbed “America’s mayor” due to his leadership in helping the city recover from the terrorist attack that killed more than 2,000 people in the World Trade Center towers.


During his time as a lawyer and before he became mayor, Giuliani made his name using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization statute (RICO) to prosecute organized crime and was one of the most effective prosecutors in American history in taking down the Mafia and cleaning up New York City. He is also known for taking down Wall Street executives like Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken.


After leaving New York City Hall, Giuliani started his own security consulting firm and largely stayed out of the public eye. He resurfaced when he threw his support behind then-presidential candidate Trump in 2016.

He served as Trump’s personal lawyer and reportedly led the legal efforts in several states to keep Trump in power after the 2020 election. Additionally, he is accused of making multiple false allegations of election fraud before state legislative committees in December 2020 and creating a bogus slate of Trump presidential electors. 

Giuliani also accused two Black election workers of fraud saying “they look like they’re passing out dope, not just ballets.” In late July, Giuliani conceded he made false statements about those election workers. 

Giuliani was made aware last year that he was a target of the lengthy investigation in Fulton County. He sought to avoid testifying to the special grand jury that initially heard the case but was ordered to appear in Atlanta last August despite claims that he could not fly safely because of a heart condition. He testified in Atlanta on Aug. 17, 2022. 

Giuliani was also mentioned 4 times in the Jan. 6 indictment of Trump. However, Trump was the only person indicted. 


List of charges faced by Giuliani:

  • 1 – Violation of the Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act
  • 2 – Solicitation of Violation of Oath by public officer
  • 3 – False statements and writings
  • 6 – Solicitation of violation of oath by public officer
  • 7 – False statements and writings
  • 9 – Conspiracy to commit impersonating a public officer
  • 11 – Conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree
  • 13 – Conspiracy to commit false statements and writing
  • 15 – Conspiracy to commit filing false documents
  • 17 – Conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree
  • 19 – Conspiracy to commit false statements and writings
  • 23 – Solicitation of violation of oath by public officer
  • 24 -False statements and writings