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Black Voters Matter Co-Founder: Trump’s Georgia Indictment Is “Step Forward” in Defending Democracy

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We’re joined in Atlanta by LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, to discuss Donald Trump’s latest criminal indictment. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is charging Trump and more than a dozen of his allies with plotting to steal Electoral College votes during the 2020 presidential election. “There was an attempt to disenfranchise voters in the state of Georgia,” says Brown, who also describes Trump’s targeting of poll workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss and how Georgia’s status as one of five states where the governor cannot grant pardons will affect the upcoming trial. “If he is convicted in the state, he is going to jail.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

We continue our coverage of the Georgia grand jury’s decision to indict former President Donald Trump and 18 of his allies, stemming from the sweeping investigation by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis into their attempt to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia — the fourth time in just over four months a grand jury has indicted Trump as he runs for president again. It comes after former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty in another case of trying to overturn the results of his 2020 election loss. Earlier this month, Trump appeared before a magistrate judge in Washington’s federal courthouse two days after he was indicted. A key part of the election interference charges Trump faces relates to a Civil War-era rights law that protects the right of citizens to have their vote counted.

For more on all of this, we go to Atlanta, where we’re joined by LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund. After news of Trump’s indictment in Georgia, Brown said on social media, “We told y’all that Georgia was going to handle Trump. This is what happens when you come for us. We return the energy,” LaTosha Brown says.

Well, welcome back to Democracy Now!, LaTosha Brown. If you can talk about the significance of what has taken place in your county, in your city, in the capital, Atlanta?

LATOSHA BROWN: Thank you, Amy, for having me.

But I do think that this is a great step forward for voters of Georgia, that fundamentally at the core of this, that voters in Georgia were being disenfranchised. There was an attempt to disenfranchise voters in the state of Georgia. And I think what’s really interesting in this story is that part of what has brought this about has been voters and what I call democracy defenders, who have literally leaned in, having the courage to actually call this to account and call Trump and his cronies into account. You know, what was catalytic in this whole investigation was voters who led in Coffee County and said, “Hey, something is wrong. Something is wrong with this count.” The count initially came up 50 votes off, and then there was another vote, and they said, “Oh, no, no, no, something is wrong with the machine.” But that was because there were voters who were literally making sure that their votes were going to get counted and make sure that there was no funny business happening. And so, as a result, what you saw is democracy defenders saying, “No, no, no, something is wrong,” that they actually raised the alarm and the red flags.

We also see Fani Willis, who actually has had the courage — this is someone who has demonstrated the courage to go after Trump and the other 18 defendants, quite frankly, because they have tried to overthrow an election, which would disenfranchise millions of voters in the state of Georgia. And so, we’re happy that she’s had the courage to lean into that, even though she’s been a target of attacks. We’ve seen Trump, even in his recent campaign ad, attack her, to put vicious lies, but also to try to put a focus on attacking her, because that’s what he does. He does the art of chaos and the art of distraction, that he makes an enemy of someone, or the appearance of an enemy of someone, so that he doesn’t have to be accountable for his own actions.

In addition to that, we know the story of the election workers, that I think we see in this indictment, as well, which was Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss and her daughter, that here you have two women that were simply doing their job, that have endured all kinds of attacks because they were simply doing their job, and Trump and Giuliani targeted them out.

And so, I think this is a real step forward around how do we build a multiracial, strong representative democracy. We have to defend, making sure that we’re defending the democratic practices, and we have to have democracy defenders that are on the frontline saying, “We’re going to make sure that we have elections that have integrity, and elections that every single vote is counted, and those that seek to actually undermine that will be held to account.”

AMY GOODMAN: LaTosha Brown, I want to turn to Ruby Freeman, going back to the January 6th hearing, the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol hearing. State and local officials described threats and harassment they faced from Trump and his campaign to overturn the election. Among them was who you just referenced, the Black election worker and her mother in Georgia whose lives were forever changed when Trump and Rudy Giuliani claimed the women helped to rig the vote when he lost their state. This is Ruby Freeman, the mom.

RUBY FREEMAN: There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere. Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States to target you? The president of the United States is supposed to represent every American — not to target one. But he targeted me.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Ruby Freeman. Let’s get to the core of this, LaTosha Brown. She was an election worker, as was her daughter. This is about voting. Georgia is historic for the fight for the vote for each and every person. One of the people who have been indicted in this 19-person indictment is Trevian Kutti. Trevian Kutti was the publicist tied to the intimidation of the women. Describe what happened and why this is so significant and historic and fundamental to U.S. democracy.

LATOSHA BROWN: You know, Ms. Freeman says that people came to her house, that they came to her house and asked her to actually make a statement that was not true, to say that there was something wrong with the election. She has been harassed. She can’t go and shop, she and her daughter. She has actually experienced all kinds of traumatic experiences because of being targeted.

You know, I think it’s really interesting that one of the consistent things that Trump does, while he does go after his opponents, he’s vicious with women. We’ve seen that all across the board, that he has actually zoned in on being very vicious with women. And what we’ve seen is we’ve seen a recent wave of attacks particularly targeted at Black women, if I look from Fani Willis to Ruby and her daughter, that there has been an attack that he has always waged against how do you underpin and really use intimidation as a factor to get what it is that you want.

And so, we have to really recognize that these are workers. This is an election worker that was simply doing her job to make sure to maintain the integrity of the election, that this is what I call a democracy defender, someone we should be lifting up. But instead, her life has been forever changed because this man and these other conspirators literally went through extraordinary lengths to be able to intimidate and to box her and to undermine her credibility in the community.

AMY GOODMAN: And, I mean, to be clear, Trump mentioned Ruby Freeman 18 times —

LATOSHA BROWN: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: — during his call with the Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger.

LATOSHA BROWN: Yes. She’s had to have security. She is afraid to stay in her home, that it made a target. And he knows that. You know, part of what I think he has done — and look at the playbook. This is a playbook that he has always used. This is a playbook that you shoot the distraction. You create a distraction, right? He’s the art of chaos — chaos is the point — and literally target this particular person. And it’s almost like he sics folks on, say, “This is the person who’s wronged me.” And as a result, this woman’s life has been completely shifted. And she feels unsafe. She says that she can’t even sleep at night because of how many threats that she and her daughter have both received.

AMY GOODMAN: OK, we have to tell some secrets out of school here. You were part of the BeyHive last night. You were at the Beyoncé concert. She has been singing to massive audiences for three nights in Atlanta, right? Our team was texting you as you were right there and you were putting out pictures of yourself and your friends. But I actually wanted to know: Was there any response there to what was taking place just down the road?

LATOSHA BROWN: You know, we were at the height. It was almost end of the concert. And let me just say that, I mean, I am a political wonk, so my phone was blowing up. I was getting all — and I had been watching it. But let me say, we were at the high point of the concert, where Beyoncé was riding a horse and flying in the air, and people were having a wonderful, beautiful time. What I saw in Georgia last night, that’s the Georgia that I desire and I deserve, that I saw so many people really stand in a space of joy and happiness. And we had a good time.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about President Trump coming to campaign in Georgia, in your state, the state he said he won, which is the state, of course, that he lost against President Biden? How will he be received? Because it’s the Republican leadership that took him on in Georgia.

LATOSHA BROWN: Yeah, I think that’s part of it. I do think there has been Republican leadership that took him on to some extent — right? — because they saw him as a threat for, I think, some of the — because we do have moderate Republicans in the state. But let’s be honest: There were also other voters who were really sick and tired. There were independent voters and other voters who were sick and tired of the chaos. And so, I don’t think that this was just around the Republicans showing some heart, because the truth of the matter is they have been very bad with voter suppression themselves. They found legal ways to really be able to actually disenfranchise people. And I think that that’s what the distinction was. Right? So, they are, by far, not heroes, in my opinion, right? Because they have undermined this process in many, many ways. I think he went a bridge too far. And so, what you saw is you saw them separating themselves from him. So I think he’s going to have a hard road in Georgia. We saw that in the last election, and I think it’s only getting worse.

AMY GOODMAN: And the issue that Trump supporters are raising constantly, aside from Hunter Biden, is that this is like one of the bluest counties in the state of Georgia, which has many red counties, so of course this is where it’s brought. But let’s be clear about Fulton County and the DA, Fani Willis, the DA of Fulton County: This is where all of the alleged crimes took place that she is charging them with, right? Didn’t she famously say she wished this wasn’t in her county so she didn’t have to do this? But the call with Raffensperger, who was there in Atlanta — and you can take it from there.

LATOSHA BROWN: Oh, absolutely. The crime — he did the crime, that at the end of the day there is an assumption that what happened in Georgia, most of the activity, was really rooted in Fulton County. That’s where the capital is. That’s where the majority of votes in the state are. He knew that. You know, when he called Raffensperger, because he knew that, he knew what he was asking. He knew what he was asking around “Where can I find these votes?” And this is where the activity took place. I think it’s really ironic, you know, that what he did is he targeted — while he targeted this area, this is the area that’s going to call him to account.

And let’s not disconnect that with what we’ve seen him do in other places, from Michigan, what we saw in Michigan, what we saw in Wisconsin, what we saw in Georgia, that there was this call, that in many ways that what you saw in those counties, particularly that had sizable African American populations and African American voters, that there was some attempt to undermine the process and disenfranchise the voters in that area. The outcome and the result is that it has impacted the disenfranchisement — it could have impacted the disenfranchisement of voters in the entire state. But, yes, it happened in Fulton County. Fulton County is going to hold him to account.

AMY GOODMAN: And that issue that he cannot pardon himself in Georgia because these are state crimes. In most states, the governor could pardon him.

LATOSHA BROWN: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: But not in Georgia. And this goes back to a, decades ago, Klan governor, who was so corrupt that he was selling pardons. So the state of Georgia took the pardon ability out of his hands and gave it to a pardons and parole board. Can you talk about the significance of this? So, even if there was a Republican governor who supported him, that person couldn’t pardon Trump.

LATOSHA BROWN: You know, if he is convicted in the state, he is going to jail for a minimum of five years. He is going to jail, and the other conspirators that are part of this case. The bottom line is there is no pardon process. I think this makes it distinctively different. He’s been now indicted in four different courts. And I think what you see here is the inability in Georgia, because it is a part of Georgia statute, the inability for him to be pardoned, even a pardon in the state. And so, he is going to — Georgia, I think, has the most stature, I think, of all the cases. I think it’s the place that he has the biggest problem.

But it’s also the place that he was very, very comfortable in committing the crime. This is the man — let’s not forget, this is the man that called and said he wanted us to find — he wanted Raffensperger to find him some votes. We all know what that meant. We all know what that means. And so, I think it is appropriate that this would be the place that he has to face the music that he created.

AMY GOODMAN: LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter Fund. Can I ask you one last question?

LATOSHA BROWN: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re saying Trump’s going to have to face the music. What’s your favorite Beyoncé song?

LATOSHA BROWN: “Cozy.” “Comfortable in my skin / Cozy.” “Cozy.”

AMY GOODMAN: Well, thanks so much for being with us.

LATOSHA BROWN: Thank you for having me, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Next up, we speak with longtime consumer advocate, former presidential candidate, Ralph Nader, who says special counsel Jack Smith’s January 6th indictment of Trump should include insurrection. Stay with us.

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