Of the three prosecutors who have charged former president Trump with crimes, two of them — Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Fulton County, Ga., District Attorney Fani Willis— are African American. Letitia James, New York’s Black attorney general, is pursuing a civil fraud case with the potential to crush the Trump Organization. The race of the people bringing them shouldn’t matter, except it clearly matters to Trump, who has lambasted them all using racist dog whistles, writes Georgetown University law Prof. Paul Butler in the Washington Post. Trump reserves a particularly race-inflected venom for the Black government lawyers who threaten his liberty and wealth. He called Bragg a “Soros-backed animal” and James a “political animal.” Quite a word, that. His nickname for James is “peekaboo,” which rhymes with a racist slur.
Trump lied that Willis was in a relationship with an alleged gang member she is prosecuting. In an email after Trump’s indictment in Fulton County, his campaign said that Willis came from “a family steeped in hate” and highlighted the fact that her first name is Swahili. Trump repeatedly attacks Bragg, Willis and James as “racists.” It’s a transparent attempt to rile up his base against Black prosecutors who have the gall to focus on him, Butler says. His incitements aim to remind his supporters who the real criminals supposedly are — Black and Brown folks. As a Black federal prosecutor, Butler says he got used to some people questioning his competency and taking umbrage when his defendants were elite Whites. Like other Black male prosecutors, in the courtroom, Butler was sometimes mistaken for the defendant. He says his revenge against the haters was winning my cases. He hopes that Bragg and Willis’s leadership in holding Trump accountable will inspire Black people to become lawyers and to run for district attorney. As of 2015, approximately 95 percent of elected district attorneys were white.