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Trump & the KKK Act: Carol Anderson on Reconstruction-Era Voting Rights Law Cited in Trump Indictment

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Image Credit: Bill Hennessy

On Thursday, former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to trying to overturn the results of his 2020 election loss. 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. We speak with Carol Anderson, author of One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy and White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, about Trump’s attempt to wipe out the votes of Americans of color and the intimidation of Black voters and election workers. “This is the kind of terror that is reminiscent of what happened during Reconstruction that led to the KKK Act that Trump is charged with,” says Anderson. “That kind of terror was the intimidation of Black people who were exercising the right to vote.”

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

AMY GOODMAN: Former President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to four felony charges over his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Trump entered the plea Thursday in the same federal district court in Washington, D.C., where more than a thousand of his supporters have faced criminal charges over the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Prosecutors led by special counsel Jack Smith requested a speedy trial, while Trump’s legal team asked the magistrate judge for more time to review documents and evidence in the case. It’s part of Trump’s legal strategy to delay the criminal cases against him until after the 2024 election, which he hopes he’ll win and then could pardon himself. Trump’s first pretrial hearing is set for August 28th.

Trump spoke after the arraignment.

DONALD TRUMP: When you look at what’s happening, this is a persecution of a political opponent. This was never supposed to happen in America. This is the persecution of the person that’s leading by very, very substantial numbers in the Republican primary and leading Biden by a lot. So, if you can’t beat him, you persecute him or you prosecute him. We can’t let this happen in America.

AMY GOODMAN: Going forward, the legal proceedings in this case will be presided over by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, an Obama appointee who has issued some of the toughest sentences for the January 6 rioters, often going beyond what the prosecutors asked for. Judge Chutkan is Black, as are many of those now prosecuting Trump — Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, New York Attorney General Letitia James, Fulton County DA Fani Willis. They’ve all received racist threats.

Meanwhile, the Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat, who’s also Black, said Tuesday the former president would not receive any special treatment if Trump is indicted in Georgia, where he’s being investigated for election interference. Labat said, quote, “It doesn’t matter your status, we have mugshots ready for you.”

A key part of the election interference charges Trump faces relate to a Civil War-era rights law that protects the right of citizens to have their votes counted.

For more, we go to Atlanta, where we’re joined by Carol Anderson, professor at Emory University, author of many books, including One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy.

Professor, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. First of all, why don’t you just respond to the overall indictment and President Trump’s appearance yesterday in the Washington, D.C., court, pleading not guilty?

CAROL ANDERSON: The indictment was a long time coming, and it reaffirmed the belief in the rule of law, which it looked like for so long that he would be able to once again skate through, escape the consequences, being held accountable, for his assault on American democracy. And so, seeing him there, watching the sketches as they were coming through, listening to the journalists talking about what was happening in that courtroom, it was like, “Finally, finally, finally.”

AMY GOODMAN: And so, talk about what legal analysts are now describing as a very elegant, streamlined series of charges, only four. They don’t, by the way, include seditious conspiracy or insurrection. Talk about the significance of each one.

CAROL ANDERSON: So, what Jack Smith has laid out is the conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, the conspiracy to basically subvert a political legal process for the United States. And the one that really attracts me is the conspiracy against rights, which is the right to vote, because underlying the Big Lie was the big lie of voter fraud. And that big lie of voter fraud was targeted at communities, at cities that have sizable Black and minority populations, and it was trying to delegitimize the votes of those American citizens.

And so, this is so streamlined because there are six — in that indictment, there are six unindicted co-conspirators, but they’re not on the charge itself. It is the United States of America v. Donald J. Trump. And so, that’s to make sure that this thing is clean, it’s smooth. There are none of these pieces like we have with Mar-a-Lago with multiple defendants, with classified documents, that this thing can go through. So, the defense’s claims of “we’re having an inordinate amount of discovery that we have to go through, of the documents and the witness testimonies that the prosecutor has amassed,” so much of that they already have from the January 6th committee hearings. What’s new, for instance, is Mike Pence, who went before the grand jury and told about his conversations with Trump.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to talk about Georgia, where you are. You’re a professor at Emory University in Atlanta. It was mentioned something like 48 times. Now, I’m talking about this federal indictment, not what’s happening right now. I mean, a grand jury is meeting today once again in Atlanta, and those charges might come down anytime from the DA, Fani Willis. But Georgia being mentioned 48 times in the federal indictment, and then, of course, Michigan mentioned scores of times, as well. Talk about the significance of what happened in Georgia and how that relates to the federal issue.

CAROL ANDERSON: Yes. So, Georgia was targeted — targeted hot, heavy and hard — by the Trump regime. So, you have that infamous phone call from Trump to Brad Raffensperger, who was the secretary of state, where Trump is saying, “All I need is 11,780 votes. Just find me 11,000 votes,” and Raffensperger pushing back, saying, “The data don’t support that. We don’t have those numbers.” And Trump is just demanding that Raffensperger overturn the will of the voters here in Georgia and just conjure up some votes and plug a number in there that says that Trump won the 16 Electoral College votes out of Georgia.

When that didn’t work, they also had the fake elector scheme, where you have — the legal electors are already meeting in the statehouse, as the law requires. Then, the fake electors then sneak into the statehouse on December 14th, and they’re meeting there, and they actually sign a document that says that they are the electors from the state of Georgia and that they then cast their 16 Electoral College votes for Donald J. Trump. And then they send that document to the federal judge, to the president of the Senate and to the head of the National Archives, giving the aura that this is legitimate, when it is actually illegitimate.

And then you have Mark Meadows coming into Georgia at a counting center as a recount is happening over absentee ballots. I mean, hard, hot and heavy pressure on Georgia to overturn the will of the voters.

And let me be really clear about the will of the voters. Ninety percent of Black voters in Georgia voted for Joseph Biden. Almost 70% of Hispanic voters in Georgia voted for Joseph Biden. And more than 60% of Asian American voters in Georgia voted for Joseph Biden. So this attempt to wipe out those votes is wiping out the votes of sizable blocs of minority voters, who did not vote for Donald J. Trump.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to talk about the issue of violence, because Donald Trump’s defenders are continually saying — I’m thinking of people like Kevin McCarthy — right? — the House speaker — saying, “He’s just being accused of thought crimes, things he thought or said, and anyone can say or think things.”

But this is The Atlantic journalist Adam Serwer, who was pointing out on social media, “The indictment makes clear that Donald Trump and his accomplices planned to seize power by force and then maintain that power through the mass murder of American citizens by their own military.”

The indictment says this: “Also on January 4, when Co-Conspirator 2 acknowledged to the Defendant’s Senior Advisor that no court would support his proposal, the Senior Advisor told Co-Conspirator 2, '[Y]ou're going to cause riots in the streets.’ Co-Conspirator 2 responded that there had previously been points in the nation’s history where violence was necessary to protect the republic.”

If you could respond to that, Professor Anderson, and also the significance, of course, of Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, who you just mentioned, who might well have flipped right now and be working with Jack Smith?

CAROL ANDERSON: Absolutely. So, you have not only Eastman, but you also have Jeffrey Clark of the Department of Justice being warned that this attempt to override the election, overturn the will of the voters, would lead to folks being out in the streets, would lead to riots. And the response was, “Well, that’s what the Insurrection Act is for.” So, there was a willingness to use the U.S. military against American citizens who were protesting for their rights, protesting, fighting for this democracy, protesting because the will of the voters had been overturned by a cabal of co-conspirators, a cabal who were in league with Donald J. Trump. And so, that willingness to use violence to overturn democracy is — it just tells you how deeply embedded this drive was to keep him in power, and the disregard they had for the lives of American citizens, who withstood a pandemic, a deadly pandemic, to go and vote, who understood that democracy was on the line and were willing to do what they needed to do.

So, in terms of violence, I also have to talk about Rudy Giuliani coming down here to Georgia for three legislative hearings, where he spews — he and his team spew a bevy of lies about dead people voting, but particularly about Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman, two Black poll workers in Fulton County at State Farm Arena, that Rudy Giuliani equated, made equivalent, with drug dealers, passing around USB ports as if they were heroin, as if it was heroin and cocaine, so linking election workers, Black election workers, with drug dealers. And then those two women receive enormous death threats, death threats that are so horrific that it causes Ruby Freeman to — the FBI warns her that she has to leave her home for protection. That’s the kind of violence that this kind of cabal was willing to generate in order to keep Donald Trump in power against the will of the voters. That’s why Georgia is so prominent in this discussion.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to talk about what’s just happened, the latest news with Rudy Giuliani, Professor Anderson. In recent weeks, Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said he will not contest, so he’s admitting that he lied, that he will not contest that he made, quote, “false statements” about those two Georgia election workers in the aftermath of the 2020 election. I want to go through exactly what you’re talking about. Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, a mother and daughter, are suing Giuliani for defamation for accusing them of manipulating ballots in Fulton County, Georgia, on Election Day 2020. The Georgia elections board found Giuliani’s statements to be false and unsubstantiated, according to an investigation by the Georgia elections board. This is California Congressmember Adam Schiff introducing video of Giuliani’s remarks during that hearing in the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the Capitol.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF: I’d like to show you some of the statements that Rudy Giuliani made in a second hearing before the Georgia state legislators, a week after that video clip from State Farm Arena was first circulated by Mr. Giuliani and President Trump. I want to advise viewers that these statements are completely false and also deeply disturbing.

RUDY GIULIANI: Tape earlier in the day of Ruby Freeman and Shaye Freeman Moss and one other gentleman quite obviously surreptitiously passing around USB ports as if they are vials of heroin or cocaine. I mean, it’s our — it’s obvious to anyone who’s a criminal investigator or prosecutor they are engaged in surreptitious illegal activity, again, that day. And that’s a week ago, and they’re still walking around Georgia lying.

AMY GOODMAN: The Black former Georgia state election worker that Giuliani is referring to also testified before the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack. This is Shaye Moss being questioned by California Congressmember Adam Schiff.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF: How did you first become aware that Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, was accusing you and your mother of a crime?

SHAYE MOSS: I was at work, like always, and the former chief, Mr. Jones, asked me to come to his office. And when I went to his office, the former director, Mr. Barron, was in there, and they showed me a video on their computer. It was just like a very short clip of us working at State Farm, and it had someone on the video, like, talking over the video, just saying that we were doing things that we weren’t supposed to do, just lying throughout the video. And that’s when I first found out about it. …

REP. ADAM SCHIFF: In one of the videos we just watched, Mr. Giuliani accused you and your mother of passing some sort of USB drive to each other. What was your mom actually handing you on that video?

SHAYE MOSS: A ginger mint.

AMY GOODMAN: So, there you have Shaye Moss. And the way their lives were turned upside down, Professor Anderson, I mean, men coming to their homes demanding they come out, talk about the significance of this. And now it’s shown that the tape is doctored, and Giuliani is admitting that he lied.

CAROL ANDERSON: Right. And this is — and so, this is the kind of terror that is reminiscent of what happened during Reconstruction that led to the KKK Act that Trump is charged with, because that kind of terror was the intimidation of Black people who were exercising their right to vote, the intimidation of Black people who believed that they were American citizens, the intimidation of Black people who were engaged in the electoral process. This is what was happening based on a lie, where Giuliani admits that he lied.

Even worse, I have to say, is that these lies about election fraud, about massive rampant voter fraud, becomes the basis for the voter suppression laws that many states, like Georgia, then put in place. So, you’ve got an incredible array of laws in place, pieces of those laws dealing with absentee ballots, dealing with drop boxes, dealing with mobile voting units, dealing with places like State Farm, that Fulton County was able to use to deal with the fact that it had to close 90 polling places, and so this was a way to provide a way for people to be able to vote. So, the state using Rudy Giuliani’s big lie and Donald Trump’s big lie to justify shutting down access to the ballot box to minority communities, because the vast number of drop boxes that were shut down after the passage of S.B. 202 were in the Atlanta metropolitan area. So it went from over a hundred drop boxes to fewer than 25 drop boxes.

AMY GOODMAN: And I wanted to ask you about the people involved in these cases, those who are bringing them, judging them. The judge in the new D.C. case is Black. That’s U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, Jamaican American. Now many of those prosecuting Trump are Black. Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, New York AG Letitia James, Fulton County DA Fani Willis have all received racist threats. And then you have Patrick Labat, the Fulton County sheriff, saying, “He’s going to get a mugshot if he’s charged in our courts.” Can you talk about the significance of this, and then particularly Fani Willis and Labat, who they are, since you’re in Atlanta?

CAROL ANDERSON: So, this is why you have this — also this kind of massive pushback about Trump can’t get a fair trial in D.C., he can’t get a fair trial in Manhattan, he can’t get a fair trial in Fulton County, because of the Blackness of those spaces and because Black people and Black elected officials are seen as illegitimate. Think about Trump with birtherism, with Obama. That was an attack on Obama’s legitimacy, legitimacy as an American citizen, legitimacy as an elected political official.

When Blackness becomes illegitimate — so, I think about Mo Brooks, the congressman out of Alabama, who said that if we only count the legal votes, then Trump would be in his second term. So, those legal votes are white people’s votes. The illegal votes are those from African Americans. And so, therefore, folks like Fani Willis, folks like Judge Chutkan, folks like Tish James, folks like Alvin Bragg, they’re not legal, they’re not legitimate, so they can be discounted.

So, when you get a charge that says, “I want a change of venue from D.C. to West Virginia,” that is sending the signal about the illegitimacy of Black people as American citizens. This, again, is what happened after the Civil War, where the Ku Klux Klan rose up and said, “These aren’t American citizens. The 14th Amendment does not apply to them. The 15th Amendment does not apply to them. We can do to them whatever we want.” And that’s what you’re seeing replicated here in the 21st century.

AMY GOODMAN: So, now, Professor Anderson, there’s a lot being made of: All Trump wants to do at this point — I mean, he’s made history every time here, and now the third indictment, and we’re expecting to see the fourth any day now in Atlanta — is delay these trials, so that if he were to become president, or he had an ally who became president, he could be pardoned. But a president can only pardon on federal crimes.


AMY GOODMAN: You’ve got Fani Willis in Atlanta. That is not federal; that’s state. So, if you can talk about what we’re about to see in Atlanta, the grand jury now meeting today?

CAROL ANDERSON: Yeah. So, one of the things that Fani Willis has been really clear on, she’s like, “We’re ready to go.” And so, that means, for me, that an indictment is coming soon. And Fani Willis doesn’t play. She does not play. And so, you can expect to see a really crisp, clean trial, with locked-in evidence. And if he is convicted here in Georgia, if an indictment comes down and he is convicted, then it means that he won’t be able to pardon himself.

And so, part of what I also want to push back on is the assumption that Trump will win the next election. I saw a recent poll that 63% of Americans do not like Donald Trump. And what that means then is that we have the power as American citizens to make sure that this man, who attacked American democracy, who attacked the foundations of the rule of law, does not regain power and have the ability to insert himself in a place where we have an autocracy, where even the memory of a democracy will be abolished. We have the power to stop this thing by registering to vote and by getting out to vote and ensuring that Donald Trump is not the next president of the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Carol Anderson, I want to thank you for being with us, professor at Emory University, author of many books, including One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy.

Coming up, we look at Niger, a week after a military coup ousted the country’s president. One of the coup leaders in Niger has received U.S. military training, had met with a top U.S. officer at the U.S. drone base in Niger just last month. U.S.-trained officers involved with something like 11 coups in Africa over the last decade or so. Stay with us.

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Blowback in Africa: U.S.-Trained Officer Overthrows Pro-U.S. Leader in Niger, Site of U.S. Drone Base

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