Merry Christmas, America: Georgia’s gift to Trump is a lump of coal in his stocking

When the history books about Donald Trump are written – and believe me, there will be many – Georgia will have earned a place of pride. It’s only a mild exaggeration to say that Georgia has been to Trump what Waterloo was to Napoleon, what Saratoga was to King George and his redcoats, what Gettysburg and Pickett’s Charge were to the Confederacy.

Georgia, more than any other place in the country, was where it all went bad for Trump, and he knows it.

It was Georgia where the mythology of Trump first gave way to the reality of Trump, where his excesses finally had electoral consequences, where a few of his fellow Republicans showed the guts to stand up to him, where those same few Republicans proved it was possible to survive his anger and spite, and where voters first showed a willingness to punish the feckless cowardice of candidates who groveled too openly at Trump’s feet.

It hasn’t come easy. That must be part of the story too, because important things rarely are. Trump maintains a considerable fan base in the state, and as investigations continue, we’re learning the extraordinary, anti-constitutional lengths that Republican state legislators and members of Congress were willing to go to defy the votes of Georgia citizens and keep Trump in power. Those efforts failed, and overall these past two years have been Georgia’s finest moment, when the motto on its flag – “Wisdom, Justice, Moderation” – proved more than words.

The defiance began, of course, in November of 2020, when Trump lost the state by 11,780 votes. He had clearly taken Georgia for granted, and the shame and humiliation of defeat in a previously deep-red state rattled him, shaking him to the point that he lost whatever small sense of proportion he once possessed.

“There’s no way I lost Georgia,” he ranted in his now infamous post-election phone call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “There’s no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes.”

In re-reading that conversation, I count almost two dozen times that Trump insisted there was no way, simply no way he could have lost Georgia:“We won very substantially in Georgia. You even see it by rally size, frankly. We won the state and we won it very substantially and easily. I think I probably did win it by half a million.”

“We won the election,” he insisted at another point. “As the governors of major states and the surrounding states said, there is no way you lost Georgia. As the Georgia politicians say, there is no way you lost Georgia. Nobody … everyone knows I won it by hundreds of thousands of votes.”

“Well Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong,” responded Raffensperger, ever the engineer.

A few days later, in a runoff on Jan. 5, 2021, Georgia voters who hadn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate in 20 years elected two of them in a single day, again as a rebuke to Trump. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock ran good, smart campaigns, but it was Trump who gave them their narrow margins of victory, who sabotaged the two Republican incumbents by demanding that they support his effort to overturn the election.

David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler certainly did as Trump ordered – anything to please the boss — but Georgia voters just weren’t having it. In 2022, voters in states such as Arizona, Pennsylvania and Nevada also rejected candidates who echoed Trump’s “Stop the Steal” nonsense, but it happened here first, when it mattered most.

His thirst for vengeance unsatiated, Trump then tried to make examples of Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, who had committed the unpardonable sin of placing loyalty to the Constitution over loyalty to Trump. He hand-selected submissive primary challengers to those who had dared defy him, believing that his grip on Georgia Republican voters was still strong, that they would show him the blind loyalty that Kemp and Raffensperger would not.

Instead those GOP voters — with strategic assistance from more than a few Democrats – reaffirmed their commitment to a government of laws, not of men, in the process shattering Trump’s aura of invincibility. Raffensperger won his GOP primary by 19 points; Kemp won by 52 points. Last week, Georgia did it once again, rejecting Trump’s hand-picked Senate candidate, Herschel Walker, as not just inadequate but insulting.

Georgia’s role in protecting American democracy may have yet another important chapter. We don’t know what Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis will decide once all the evidence has been gathered and assessed, but Georgia may also become the first place in which Trump is held legally and criminally accountable for his actions.

That would put a pretty little bow on the thing.

So, in conclusion …

Merry Christmas, America, and you’re welcome.


Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

Marjorie Taylor Greene moves in same circles as Trump’s antisemitic dinner guests

We should talk a bit about Nick Fuentes, the far-right leader who recently dined with Donald Trump and Kanye West at Mar-a-Lago. News accounts have described Fuentes as an anti-Semite, but that does not fully capture the vileness of the man or the danger that Trump courts by giving him credibility.

According to Fuentes, American Jews are disrespectful ingrates who need to show more humility toward Christian Americans who have so far allowed them to be in this country. He admits that anti-Semitism has a history of erupting quickly into something ugly and violent – he’s actually happy about it, calling it the “silver lining” of anti-Semitism – but also argues that “there’s a reason for that, and the reason is them, OK?”

In other words, it’s the Jews’ fault.

“When it comes to the Jews, every society where the sh– has gone down with these people, it always goes from zero to 60,” Fuentes says. “It never starts with ‘they’re burning all the Talmuds in Paris,’ OK? It never starts that way. But frequently, it seems to end that way, and it gets there very rapidly.”

Fuentes says such things not in horror, but with the anticipation of a child awaiting Christmas. And just as Jews are responsible for causing anti-Semitism, in his mind they are responsible for stopping it too.

The Jews, he says, “had better start being nice to people like us. Because what comes out of this is going to be a lot uglier for them and a lot worse for them than anything that’s being said” on his show. And by being “nice,” he means among other things that Jews should stop talking about the Holocaust.

“I’ve heard enough about this Holocaust, I’ve heard enough about it. I don’t want to hear one more time about it. …. You want to hear about a Holocaust, how about Jesus Christ being crucified? That was a real Holocaust.”

Clearly, such a man should not be dining with a former American president. Trump has tried to claim that he did not know who Fuentes was, that he was an uninvited guest whom West had brought along. That isn’t much of an excuse, given that West, also known as Ye, is himself an avid and by now well-known anti-Semite with whom presidents should not dine.

Furthermore, and most telling, if Trump finds such ideologies repulsive and hateful, all he has to do is say so. He has not shown himself a shy man; when he disagrees with people he doesn’t hesitate to put them on blast. Yet in this case he has remained silent. At minimum, he acts afraid of offending and alienating Jew haters, because he wants their continued support.

Others in the Republican Party and conservative movement also seek that support. And it’s not just Trump of course. Earlier this year, Georgia’s own Marjorie Taylor Greene spoke at a political convention that was organized and hosted by Fuentes, who introduced her to the crowd by lauding the leadership of Vladimir Putin.

She got a huge applause. Like Trump, Greene brushed aside criticism of her appearance with Fuentes by claiming not to know about his ideology, as if she makes a habit of accepting speaking invitations to unfamiliar groups.

And of course, Greene has her own well-documented history of anti-Semitism. In 2018, for example, she “speculated” that the wildfires then ravaging California had been started with space-based lasers deployed by the Rothschilds banking family as part of a plot to destroy hundreds of thousands of acres of real estate so they could buy it more cheaply. Wacko, but that’s what she said. As recently as June of this year, Greene announced that she had hired another far-right figure with a long history of anti-Semitism, Milo Yiannopoulos, as an unpaid intern in her congressional office.

As it turns out, Yiannopoulos plays a bit role in this latest controversy involving Trump. During the Mar-a-Lago dinner, West told Trump that he too was contemplating a run for president in 2024, a discovery that Trump did not take well and led to some friction. Afterward, West’s spokesman and campaign manager attacked Trump, accusing him of “continuing to suck the boots of the Jewish powers-that-be who hate Jesus Christ, hate our country and see us all as disposable cattle according to their ‘holy’ book.

“We’re done putting Jewish interests first,” the spokesman said. “It’s time we put Jesus Christ first again in this country. Nothing and no one is going to get in our way to make that happen.”

That spokesman was Greene’s former intern, Yiannopoulus. That’s the type of person with whom Greene chooses to surround herself.

In a healthy political climate, continued association with vicious anti-Semites would get a person “canceled,” to borrow a term. In Greene’s case, her presence in Congress is a humiliation and embarrassment for Georgia, but it doesn’t seem likely to change. Despite her behavior, or more likely because of it, she is highly popular in her district, defeating a qualified, well-funded opponent by more than 30 points.

And even after her appearance with Fuentes, Georgia Republicans have rushed to bask in her popularity. Herschel Walker, for example, campaigned alongside Greene in late October, an association that he needed far more than she did.

Fuentes is right: Historically, anti-Semitism goes from zero to 60 very quickly. And while I can’t see the speedometer from where I’m sitting, we’re a long way from zero, going faster in a bad direction than I ever would have thought possible, and we’re picking up speed.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

Top Republicans embrace Marjorie Taylor Greene’s violent rhetoric

In a recent campaign video, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican from Georgia, likened Democrats to destructive feral hogs allowed to range free and destroy the American countryside.

But Marjorie had a solution:

As the camera followed her, she grabbed a rifle and climbed aboard a waiting helicopter, where she tracked down and shot a fleeing hog. In the next scene, quite pleased with herself, Greene posed next to her dead prey and invited supporters to enter a free drawing, with the winner accompanying her on her next hog-killing expedition.

In a healthy political climate, members of both parties would unite to condemn such a message. But that is not the climate in which we live. To the contrary, lest anyone have moral qualms about the message of such a video, Greene offered an answer for that too. At a Trump rally in Michigan this month, she told the crowd that “we are all targets now though, for daring to push back against the regime…. I am not going to mince words with you all. Democrats want Republicans dead and they have already started the killings.”

So … kill or be killed.

It would be nice to be able to dismiss that talk as the rantings of a loon, which on one level it is. But the rantings are being delivered by a loon invited to speak at a series of rallies by the former president of the United States, a man who remains the favorite for becoming the GOP presidential nominee in 2024, which implies a high level of support for such sentiments.

And instead of shunning Greene and condemning her remarks, other top Republicans are embracing her, happy to bask in her malevolent glow. JD Vance, the GOP’s Senate candidate in Ohio, has appeared alongside Greene at campaign events, as have Doug Mastriano, the extremist GOP candidate for governor in Pennsylvania, and many others. Far from a pariah, she’s the GOP’s new “it girl,” the one everybody wants to be seen with.

In fact, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has made it clear that if Republicans gain control of the House and make him speaker, he would reward Greene with a much more prominent role in party leadership

“I think that to be the best speaker of the House and to please the base, (McCarthy) is going to give me a lot of power and a lot of leeway,” Greene predicted in an interview with a writer for the New York Times. “And if he doesn’t, they’re going to be very unhappy about it. I think that’s the best way to read that. And that’s not in any way a threat at all. I just think that’s reality.”

Greene is not particularly bright – anyone who believes that forest fires are caused by space lasers controlled by the Rothschilds falls a few pennies short of a nickel. But what she knows she knows. She knows her party’s base and its obsessions, because they are her obsessions; she knows her party’s leadership. She knows that leadership is terrified of its base, and she knows that because she is the embodiment of that base, the leaders are by extension terrified of her. These days, nobody in the Republican tribe is voted off the island because you’re a racist or insurrectionist or because you espouse violence. But you dare to publicly condemn those things, you’ll be sent to sit with Liz Cheney.

Greene also knows, probably through instinct, that if you say crazy things with certainty and conviction, it is the certainty and conviction that people will find impressive, that will mark you as a leader to be followed. For example, in recent months Greene and others in her party have taken to calling the Biden administration “the regime,” as she does in the comments quoted above. Why? Because a regime is illegitimate; a regime is imposed on a people through force, rather than emanating from that people. You don’t remove a regime through elections, because elections are not how the regime gained power in the first place. Calling it a regime is a subtle justification for using violence in its overthrow.

It’s important to acknowledge that no political party or movement is immune to the lure of violence. It is not an inherently Republican thing or a Democratic thing; it is a human thing. Part of the responsibility of leadership is to recognize that frailty in ourselves and others and try to tamp it down rather than provoke it. But at this moment in American history, members of only one party are featuring assault weapons prominently in their campaign ads and even family Christmas cards. Only one party is tolerating and even promoting the likes of Greene, with none daring to condemn her message.

It should not be difficult to state that the outcome of elections should be honored, and that violence is never the solution. If those things can no longer be said, if we no longer have broad acceptance of those two bottom-line propositions, if stating and defending them makes you anathema to a large chunk of America, then we no longer have a democracy or even a country.

What you first act out through make-believe you can later make reality. That final step, that step from play-acting to acting, is much less daunting once you’ve had sufficient rehearsal, which is what we’re witnessing.

In his 1951 book “The True Believer,” American philosopher Eric Hoffer explores the phenomenon of mass movements and extremists. To the fanatic, Hoffer writes, “chaos is his element. When the old order begins to crack, he wades in with all his might and recklessness to blow the whole hated present to high heaven. He glories in the sight of a world coming to a sudden end.”

Greene is such a fanatic, as are many others in the rising New Right who are riding racism and hatred and fear, who hint openly at the necessity for violence if the change they seek cannot be produced through the ballot box. Speaking personally, I am not ready to see this world with all its shortcomings come to a sudden end. But such fires, once ignited, can be difficult to suppress.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

Fulton DA builds 2020 election conspiracy story from bottom to top

I don’t think Georgia is prepared for what’s coming its way.

I don’t know how it could be, not with the most important and controversial trial in American history looming in its not-too-distant future.

Now, maybe that trial will never happen. After months of investigative work into an alleged criminal conspiracy to interfere with and overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election, the special grand jury convened by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis could decide that no indictments are warranted.

After all, we don’t know what if anything the investigation is finding, because there have been few leaks of consequence. The grand jury process is supposed to be secret, and Willis and her team have been far more professional, diligent and disciplined about honoring secrecy requirements than a certain ex-president has been.

That high degree of professionalism and discipline tells us that Willis is taking this very seriously, as she must. And I find it hard to believe that someone who has run such a tight ship is still stringing out a probe that hasn’t found much. Donald Trump’s prospects of escaping unscathed would be far better with an investigation that was loose and sloppy, which so far this shows no sign of being.

To the contrary, through court filings, subpoenas and witness statements to the media, we know that the investigation has been broad and wide-ranging. “False electors” who proclaimed themselves the true voice of Georgia voters, and who sent false documents to Congress to that effect, have been warned they might be targets for prosecution. Rudy Giuliani, who told a string of huge whoppers to the Georgia Legislature to try to get it to hand Georgia’s electoral votes to Donald Trump, is also a potential target. Subpoenas have been issued to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, to Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, to Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, as well as many others.

Willis and her team are also exploring the illegal breach of voting machines in Coffee County by Trump advocates, a crime that Georgia’s Republican leadership has been notably slow to address, as well as an apparent attempt to intimidate Fulton County poll workers who were falsely accused of rigging the election outcome.

Again, this is not the behavior of an investigative team that is coming up empty. It looks instead like the careful, confident work of a team that is quietly disassembling a conspiracy network, figuring out how this effort is related to that effort, who gave the orders, who drew up the strategy, who should be held responsible.

And while we have no insight into the operations of the special grand jury, congressional investigations into Trump’s effort to remain in office despite losing the election have been far more public. Extremely damning emails, messages and witness testimony from Trump officials, including requests for pardons from conspiracy participants, have no doubt contributed immensely to Willis’ effort to weave all of this into a narrative that she can take to a jury, a narrative that places Trump at the center of it all. It would be an injustice to prosecute and potentially convict those at lower rungs of an alleged conspiracy to overthrow American democracy while allowing the man who would have benefitted most from it, who inspired it and who even reveled in it, to go scot-free.

That said, though, we should acknowledge that it would be a monumental decision to bring charges against Trump. It would create enormous security concerns, with Trump already hinting darkly that violence might be a justifiable response. The global media spotlight would be harsh and blinding, because nothing like it has ever happened in American history. It would be a storm like we have never witnessed, and we would be the center of it.

However, the events that have brought us to this point have also been unprecedented: Never before have we witnessed a serious, multi-pronged attempt to halt the peaceful transfer of presidential power; never before have we seen an attempt to silence the voice of American voters. The Fulton grand jurors have seen and heard things that we have not, and if they recommend to Willis that charges are necessary, then they can’t be blamed for the resulting chaos. The responsibility would belong to those who set all this in motion from Nov. 3, 2020 through Jan. 6, 2021.

They made the mess; this would be the cleanup.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

Mark Meadows could soon come to regret his acquiescence to Trump's coup attempt

For two hours Tuesday, former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson calmly, matter-of-factly testified to the commission of high crimes by the former president and by many of those around him.

She told her fellow Americans that Trump had been informed on the morning of Jan. 6 that the mob assembled by his command had armed itself with “knives, guns in the form of pistols and rifles, bear spray, body armor, spears, and flagpoles.” She spoke of efforts within the Trump White House to remove violent language from the president’s speech that day, to prevent incitement, and she told us that Trump had refused to change that language.

“I – – I don’t effing care that they have weapons,” she quoted Trump as saying about the mob. “They’re not here to hurt me.”

She talked of Trump planning to lead the armed mob to the Capitol, even after repeated, almost desperate warnings from Trump’s own White House counsel that “We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.” And according to Hutchinson, only the stubborn refusal of the Secret Service to participate in that part of the plot prevented Trump from taking part.

She recalled the strange indifference from Trump and her boss, chief of staff Mark Meadows, to news that the Capitol was being assaulted. And she talked about the planning that had preceded Jan. 6, including what to do after the Capitol had been taken.

“You know, I — I know that there were discussions about him having another speech outside of the Capitol before going in,” Hutchinson told the January 6 special committee. “I know that there was a conversation about him going into the House chamber at one point.”

Imagine, for a moment, that scenario. The mob has taken the Capitol; Congress has fled. And into the abandoned House chamber marches a triumphant Trump, ready to begin his second, maybe never-ending term.

In one of many other chilling moments, Hutchinson also describes a conversation she witnessed between Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cippolone after they and Trump had learned that the crowd was calling for Vice President Mike Pence to be hung:

“I remember Pat saying something to the effect of, ‘Mark, we need to do something more. They’re literally calling for the vice president to be f’ing hung,’” Hutchinson recalled. “And Mark had responded something to the effect of, ‘You heard (Trump), Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.’”

He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they were doing anything wrong.

As some have pointed out, it’s true that neither the committee nor the American people are hearing much from the other side, so to speak, from those who might defend Trump’s actions or contradict the storylines laid out so emphatically by the committee. But why is that?

Most of those who might conceivably offer such testimony – everyone from Republican congressmen to former generals to Trump’s White House counsel to the spouse of a Supreme Court justice — are fighting subpoenas, taking the Fifth or simply refusing to testify. And if they don’t want to tell their story to the committee, under oath, every reporter and TV outlet in the world would love to give them an opportunity to do so without such an oath. Apparently, they’re afraid that revealing what they did, what they witnessed and what they heard wouldn’t be all that helpful to Trump or to their own situation.

I think they’re probably right.

In fact, the same instincts of self-preservation that drove these people to stay silent or play along while Trump tried to end American democracy are still telling them, even after all this, that cowardice remains the best course. They are victims of their character.

As Hutchinson made clear, many of the now-silent had sought pardons for their actions from Trump, another indication that the stories they might tell aren’t exactly exonerative. Trump did not grant those pardons, probably because doing so would have been an admission of his own criminal behavior, and as always the only hide he was interested in protecting was his own.

However, as stunning as Hutchinson’s testimony was, it suggested that even more serious revelations are yet to come. Throughout her appearance, she referred to secret meetings to which she had not been invited, and ominous hints and clues that she did not fully understand at the time.

“I recall hearing the word Oath Keeper and hearing the word Proud Boys closer to the planning of the Jan. 6 rally, when (Rudy) Giuliani would be around,” she said at one point. At another, she recalled Trump issuing an order for Meadows “to speak with Roger Stone and General (Mike) Flynn on Jan. 5.” She mentioned the existence of a “war room” at a Washington hotel where Stone, Giuliani, Flynn, John Eastman and other plotters were meeting the night of the 5th, and she pleaded with her boss not to attend.

“I wasn’t sure everything that was going on at the Willard Hotel, although I knew enough about what Mr. Giuliani and his associates were pushing during this period. I didn’t think that it was something appropriate for the White House chief of staff to attend or to consider involvement in, and made that clear to Mr. Meadows.”

Meadows heeded that advice, according to Hutchinson. Instead of attending that meeting in person, he participated by telephone, and I think he’s going to very much regret doing even that much.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

Devastating evidence indicates that Trump knew he lost -- so his actions were criminal

We can’t know what’s happening inside the secret, special-purpose grand jury convened at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta. We can’t hear the sworn testimony being given about Donald Trump’s multiple efforts to overturn the 2020 elections here in Georgia; we can’t read the documents being subpoenaed; we can’t know what revelations the investigation might be uncovering.

But up in Washington, D.C., a much more public process is playing out, much of it focused on the same set of facts, narratives and players that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is exploring here in Atlanta. And from that, we’re learning a lot.

For example, one of the core issues confronting Willis in her decision whether to prosecute Trump is the question of Trump’s intent. If the former president truly believed that he had carried Georgia and was simply trying to get an accurate vote count, then he committed no crime. But if he did know that he had lost the election but was trying to overturn it anyway, then this was indeed a coup attempt and prosecution is not only possible but necessary.

In a televised hearing by a U.S. House select committee this week, we got a pretty definitive answer to that particular question:

  1. Then-Attorney General Bill Barr testified via video that he had told Trump repeatedly and emphatically, in language too graphic to print here, that there was no evidence of significant vote fraud in Georgia or anywhere else. Barr’s replacement as attorney general later told Trump the same thing.
  2. Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, testified that he too told Trump that they had lost fair and square.
  3. Matt Oczkowski, the Trump campaign’s top data analyst, reaffirmed to Trump that he had lost fairly.
  4. Trump’s White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, also told him he had lost.
  5. Trump’s appointee as head of U.S. cybersecurity, Chris Krebs, investigated voting-machine fraud charges and announced on Twitter that “in every case of which we are aware, these claims either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.” Trump can’t claim he didn’t know about that tweet, because he fired Krebs the same day, also via Twitter, citing the tweet as the reason.
  6. A similar fate befell BJay Pak, the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney for northern Georgia. In testimony made public by the House committee this week, Pak said he had reported to his Justice Department superiors that he could find no evidence of election fraud in Georgia. For that, Trump demanded his resignation.
  7. And of course, in their now-infamous phone call with Trump, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff also patiently walked through all the detailed evidence proving that there was no evidence of voting or election fraud.

So yes, Trump knew that he had lost. Trump knew because many well-informed, credible fellow Republicans – many of them his own appointees – had dared to tell him so on repeated occasions, citing actual evidence and data. The House committee has made that clear.

Thanks to the House committee, we may also get an early window into Raffensperger’s secret grand-jury testimony about Trump’s demand that Raffensperger “find” the 11,800 votes that Trump needed to carry Georgia.

For the moment, we don’t know if Raffensperger told the grand jury that he felt pressured by Trump to take improper or illegal actions to void the election results. We don’t know how Raffensperger interpreted Trump’s suggestion that Raffensperger might be criminally prosecuted if he did not reverse the outcome of the election, or whether he saw it as an effort to intimidate him.

But we do know that Raffensperger was also subpoenaed by and has testified to the House committee. According to the committee schedule, we will hear at least portions of his testimony in a public hearing next week.

Yet another Georgia angle that Willis will find interesting comes from a document recently made public by the Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s an unsent letter, drafted by Trump co-conspirators and circulated within the U.S. Department of Justice and elsewhere by Trump sympathizers in December of 2020. The draft is addressed to Gov. Brian Kemp, House Speaker David Ralston and Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, and it’s titled “Georgia Proof of Concept.”

The proposed letter falsely states that the Department of Justice had “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election” in Georgia. In light of these developments,” the draft letter states, “the Department recommends that the Georgia General Assembly should convene in special session” to reallocate Georgia’s electoral votes from Joe Biden to Trump.

By that point, Kemp had already rebuffed Trump’s demands for a special session, but Trump would not be dissuaded. The letter insisted that “the Georgia General Assembly has implied authority under the Constitution of the United States to call itself into special session … regardless of any purported limit imposed by the state constitution or state statute requiring the Governor’s approval.”

In other words, the Georgia General Assembly should not feel itself bound by either Georgia law or the Georgia Constitution. That’s remarkable.

As the House select committee has documented, Trump was deeply involved in pressing the DOJ to send that false letter to Georgia imploring state officials to break their own laws. At one critical point, after acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen said he would never issue such a letter, Trump even threatened to fire Rosen and replace him with someone more willing to carry out his illegal orders.

What the House committee is exposing, what Willis may be finding, is a pattern in which Trump repeatedly tries to recruit people into his conspiracy. When Trump was told by Raffensperger that there was no legal way to change the vote outcome, Trump insisted that he do it anyway. When Mike Pence told Trump that there was no legal or constitutional way to alter the electoral-vote count, Trump pressured him intensely, publicly and privately, to do it anyway. When Kemp told Trump that there was no legal way to call the state Legislature into special session, Kemp was told to do it anyway. When DOJ lawyers said they had no valid grounds to send that “proof of concept” letter to Georgia or other states, Trump said do it anyway.

Do it anyway, regardless of the facts or the law. Folks, that’s criminal.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

NOW WATCH: Peter Navarro tells judge he wants to postpone trial because he’ll be on his book tour

Peter Navarro tells judge he wants to postpone trial because he’ll be on his book tour

Conservative Supreme Court justices lied to the Senate and they lied to us

For almost five decades, Roe v. Wade has been established American law, guaranteeing the constitutional right of choice to all Americans. Even those Supreme Court justices now ready to toss that precedent aside have previously testified under oath during their Senate confirmation hearings that they believed Roe is established law that ought to be respected.

They lied.

They lied to the Senate, and they lied to us. The fact that most Americans on both sides of the abortion question understood them to be lies at the time they were told does not alter their character as lies. And those lies have been accompanied by multitudes of other lies, as lies tend to be.

For example, we have been told for most of the decades since Roe that the pro-life movement was not seeking an absolute ban on abortion, that of course reasonable exemptions would be allowed in cases of rape, incest, life of the mother or health of the mother. Of course it would not apply to ectopic pregnancies, or to pregnancies in which fetal defects would make it impossible for the baby to survive. To impose a ban in those situations would be barbaric.

Likewise, we have been reassured that a reversal of Roe would not mean a national ban on abortion, but would merely return the decision-making powers to the 50 states, which would each craft its own approach to the issue. We have also been told earnestly that post-Roe, no one would be seeking to prosecute those who sought abortions, out of sympathy for women placed in such a difficult situation.

But now, on the precipice of that change, all such reassurances are being abandoned. Congressional Republicans are preparing legislation to ban abortion nationwide. Laws already on the books in various states in anticipation of Roe’s reversal would outlaw not just abortion but the crossing of state lines to seek an abortion. Think of them as fugitive abortion laws. Bills are also moving in state legislatures to treat abortion as homicide, with pregnant women, doctors, nurses and administrators as murderers or accomplices.

And those three exceptions? Republicans who today dare to support allowing abortion in cases of rape, incest or life of the mother risk excommunication from their party, in yet another example of the party’s increasing radicalism. The only acceptable position now is to insist that human life begins at conception, and all else flows from that.

If human life begins at conception then any attempt to end that life must be treated as murder. If human life begins at conception then it doesn’t matter how that conception occurred – rape, incest — it doesn’t matter. A woman who was given no choice about whether to have sex is also given no choice whether to carry to term and give birth if that rape results in pregnancy.

“Oh, don’t worry,” we are told. “Rape rarely results in pregnancy,” which is false. But if those instances truly are rare, then surely we can allow an exception in those cases?

No, we cannot. If human life begins at conception then all abortion is murder. If human life begins at conception then of course it is criminal to cross state lines to end that life. If human life begins at conception, if embryos are full-blown U.S. citizens, then of course the U.S. government must intervene; it cannot allow pre-born Americans to die in one state but live in another.

In a leaked draft opinion, written with the apparent support of four of his nine colleagues on the Supreme Court, Justice Samuel Alito dismisses the idea that Americans have a constitutional right to privacy, and with it the idea that some decisions are too intimate and personal to be decided by the heavy hand of government. As Alito notes, the words “privacy” and “abortion” are mentioned nowhere in the Constitution, therefore leading him to conclude that we have no right to such things.

He also waves away the Ninth Amendment, which the Founders included in anticipation of just such an argument. “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” it states. Alito writes that the amendment does not apply, because the right to abortion “is not deeply rooted in the nation’s history and tradition.”

But if there is no right to privacy in the Constitution, if it is not among those rights “retained by the people” even if it is not explicitly mentioned, then the door is reopened to challenge other rights granted as part of the right to privacy: the right to obtain contraceptives, the right of gay Americans to live as straight Americans live, the right to marry. Because after all, “gay” and “contraceptive” also do not appear in the Constitution.

Instead, Alito writes, “it is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

If that draft opinion holds, as it probably will, the state legislators that you elect, the members of Congress and the attorneys general and governors that you elect, will now decide whether and how the rights that we have enjoyed for half a century will continue to exist.

The Constitution, as construed by this court, will no longer protect us. Our only remaining protection is through the ballot box, and if we don’t make our voices heard loudly and clearly there, then we can expect even worse rulings in the years ahead. Vote wisely or accept the consequences.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

'We the people' are in dangerous territory

The state of our union is precarious.

It is precarious not because of some outside threat – outside threats we can still handle. It is precarious because we have forgotten our way, because we find ourselves increasingly seduced by a perverted, stunted and selfish notion of freedom. It is precarious because some of us have lost faith in democracy and have begun to flirt with other means to achieve political goals, other means to obtain and keep power, means based more on brute force and intimidation than on persuasion and compromise.

We are in dangerous territory.

And it’s not just us of course. All around the world, we’re witnessing a rebirth of the notion of letting the strong feed upon the weak, as if it is their natural right and government should not attempt to intercede. What makes it worse is that in many cases that notion is being advanced in the name of what they call “freedom.”

“We the People …,” it begins. We Americans acting together, striving to perfect the union among ourselves. The founders are summoning us to action as a nation, as a community, to help ourselves and each other, and this government is the tool they provide for achieving it.

We saw that on January 6, 2021, when insurgents claimed to be defending the Constitution they were actually shredding. We see it today, in the admiration and support for authoritarians like Vladimir Putin in Russia or Viktor Orban in Hungary. In the runup to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine we saw influential voices on the American right – Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham of Fox News, Steve Bannon and former President Donald Trump – suggest that by virtue of the power that Putin wielded in the region, he had the understood right to invade lesser countries, that we had no cause to intervene on behalf of democratic Ukraine because it is the natural order of things for the small to be consumed by the large.

We see it in the rise of militia groups and politically minded street gangs. We see it in the threats directed at election officials, school board members, governors, senators, even lowly bureaucrats, in assaults on flight attendants. In the cesspools of social media, we’re told, platforms have no right to enforce basic norms of decency, rationality, factuality, responsibility, an attitude that has crossed over into what we call real life as well.

We see it in less obvious ways as well. If the wealthy want to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in efforts to influence government in their favor, we are told that laws and government are helpless to prevent it. Let the strong feed upon the weak. If a pandemic breaks out that kills almost a million of our fellow citizens, many of them immune-compromised, we are told that government cannot mandate masks or vaccinations, not even for soldiers and health-care workers, increasingly not even for children. A conservative Supreme Court is also moving to restrict government’s right to protect the environment, to monitor labor conditions, food and drug quality, and financial institutions, all to make the powerful more powerful still.

In the developed Western world, the United States is a uniquely violent country, with a uniquely romanticized relationship with firearms. So at a time when murder rates are rising, when road-rage shootings and mass shootings and school shootings are rampant, we are told that government is helpless to intervene. Instead, here in Georgia and other states, “leaders” respond by passing legislation that would abandon even the small protection of requiring permits to carry concealed weapons in public. By doing so, they remove regulations that attempt to keep weapons out of the hands of those with a history of violent crime.

It is madness.

And down in Florida this week, Gov. Ron DeSantis made a big show of rejecting President Biden’s request for National Guard troops to protect the Capitol during the State of the Union address.

“Last week, the Biden Administration requested the assistance of State National Guards to deploy to Washington D.C.,” DeSantis wrote on Twitter. “I have rejected this request. There will be no @FLGuard sent to D.C. for Biden’s State of the Union.”

It was not “Biden’s State of the Union,” just as it is not Biden’s Capitol. It was our State of the Union, our tradition, our Capitol and that one tweet says more about where we stand as a country than any thousand words.

Too many of us have forgotten that it is an appropriate, legitimate and necessary role for government to stand up to all that nonsense, to confront it. The idea that government exists to protect the weak from the strong, that it is the vehicle through which a people protects itself, is slipping from our collective memory. And if you are among those who doubt that government should play that role, please don’t take my word for it.

Back in 1789, the founders threw away the weak form of federal government created by the Articles of Confederation and replaced it with something much stronger, and in the preamble to the new Constitution they explained why.

That preamble reads:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity… ”

Let’s look again at those words; they reward close reading because they were chosen carefully by intelligent people.

“We the People …,” it begins. We Americans acting together, striving to perfect the union among ourselves. The founders are summoning us to action as a nation, as a community, to help ourselves and each other, and this government is the tool they provide for achieving it.

“… establish Justice,” they tell us, because the pursuit of justice, for all of us, is a legitimate government function, something that we need government to provide. We join in “the common defense,” together, defending each other because trying to do it individually cannot succeed. We, as a union, as a people, “promote the general welfare,” the welfare of all of us. We join to “secure the blessings of liberty,” because it is only through acting together, not individually, that such liberty can be secured.

But if we believe that it’s none of my business what happens to you, and none of your business what happens to me, then we have thrown upon the doors to chaos and we are lost. That is a grotesque perversion of the American concept of freedom and liberty. Some of the same people who drafted that Constitution of 1789 were also among those who had signed the Declaration of Independence some 13 years earlier, a document which laid out the American cause, and which closed by saying that “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

That’s what it took to create this great country. That’s what it will take to save it.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

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Trump is a crazy thug who continues to threaten violence against those who stand for rule of law

Like his buddy Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump is a thug willing to use violence to achieve what he cannot achieve by legitimate means. He has shown a willingness to do so in the past, and because he himself has paid no price, he is threatening to do so in the future.

We know all this, because we have witnessed it. In those anxious days and weeks leading up to Jan. 6, 2021, it had become clear to many of us that Trump saw mob violence as a means to try to keep himself in the White House, in defiance of the eviction notice served upon him by the American people. But at the time, some were not willing to hear what their own ears were telling them, what Trump’s own words were communicating.

“He’s not that crazy,” some people said. “He wouldn’t dare.”

But he was, and he did.

He directed his angry supporters toward the Capitol, where our elected representatives were performing the constitutional rites of a peaceful transfer of power. He watched the resulting violence on television, violence that he himself had inspired, and by all accounts he enjoyed it. Throughout the hours-long riot, with members of Congress fleeing for their lives, he refused pleas to intercede from family members, from top aides and advisers, from members of his own party who were also under siege from the angry mob.

“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” he told House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who had called Trump at the White House to beg him to call off his dogs.

And afterward, when the insurrection had finally been put down, he told the rioters to always remember that day, and that he loved them.

To this day, the only regrets that Trump has expressed about the events of Jan. 6 is that they failed to keep him in office. In a rally last weekend in Texas, he reiterated that regret, complaining that Vice President Mike Pence “did have the right to change the outcome.”

“Unfortunately, he didn’t exercise that power,” Trump whined. “He could have overturned the election!”

Read that statement carefully, because Trump could not have been more clear about his intentions: Pence “did have the right to change the outcome.… he could have overturned the election!” Believe what your eyes and ears are telling you, what Trump himself is telling you. He was trying everything in his power, and many things not in his power, to end American democracy.

As a consequence of his actions, Trump faces a number of investigations — congressional, civil and criminal. And just as he did before Jan. 6, he is threatening violence to try to intimidate those who stand up for the rule of law, who dare to defend the Constitution.

“If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have the biggest protests we have ever had in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere because our country and our elections are corrupt,” Trump told the crowd in Texas.

Don’t fool yourself: In Trump’s mind, and in the minds of his followers, “anything wrong or illegal” means anything that attempts to hold Trump accountable. And do not listen to those familiar refrains of “He wouldn’t dare or “He isn’t that crazy.” Because once again, yes, he would and yes, he is. He is basically saying now what he told the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers when asked to condemn political violence: “Stand down, and stand by.”

I’ve long been wary of the investigation launched by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis into Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results here in Georgia. My thinking has been that any prosecution of a president on charges this grave ought to take place at the federal level, or if necessary at the state level. I say that because we don’t need some spotlight-hungry local district attorney in Oklahoma or Wyoming filing nonsensical criminal charges against a future liberal president, citing Willis as precedent.

However, I’ve changed my mind. If that D.A. in Oklahoma or Wyoming has even half the evidence against a future president that Willis can already muster against Trump, then that president, regardless of party, has probably earned prosecution. We can’t allow our country, our democracy, our rule of law and our freedom to be threatened without legal consequence or recourse. Any government that is given legitimacy by a vote of the people has not just the right but the absolute obligation to defend itself against those who would try to overthrow it, and Trump, by his own repeated admission, is intent on overthrowing it.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

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Rank hypocrisy alert as Georgia's Brian Kemp takes credit for Obamacare insurance access

Based on the first few days of the Georgia General Assembly, the Republican Party’s 2022 legislative agenda is to outlaw non-citizen voting which is already outlawed, ban “critical race theory” from schools where it already doesn’t exist, bar transgender athletes from high school sports where the rules already say they can’t compete, and combat voter fraud that also doesn’t exist, all while preening about their “bravery” in taking on liberals trying to destroy America.

And oh yeah – they also want to address the fact that in this country we have too few guns readily available to irresponsible, untrained and unvetted people. Their so-called “constitutional carry” provision ought to fix that problem quick as a bullet fired in a road-rage incident.

Honestly, though, it’s a neat trick, especially in an election year. Fake problems are infinitely more susceptible to fake solutions by fake leaders than are real problems, which tend to be complicated and bring the risk of potential failure to those who dare try to fix them.

You know what else is a neat trick? Swooping in to take credit for somebody else’s accomplishment.

READ: Trump 'cares about vengeance' and 'his eyes are set' on Brian Kemp: CNN's Gloria Borger

In his State of the State address last week, Gov. Brian Kemp bragged that as recently as 2019, “Georgia had only four health insurance carriers offering plans in the individual market. Today, we have nearly tripled that number with eleven carriers offering plans for 2022.”

He went on to point out that “in 2019, only 26 percent of Georgia’s counties had more than one carrier offering insurance on the individual market. Now, in 2022, 98 percent of all counties have more than one carrier – which means expanded choice and lowered costs for hardworking Georgians.”

If your hypocrisy alarm is blaring, it ought to be. Without saying the “O word,” Kemp is basically embracing and taking credit for the success of Obamacare, the health insurance program that he and every other Republican predicted would destroy the American health care system, produce ruinously high insurance premiums resulting in the dreaded “death spiral,” and in the process turn us all into Communists. Here in Georgia, GOP officials tried hard to ensure that the program failed, with then-Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens at one point pledging to do “everything in our power to be an obstructionist.”


None of that happened. Last year, Georgia had the fifth highest enrollment total in the country, with 517,000 signing up for Affordable Health Care Act plans. That was up 11% from 2020. Enrollment in 2022 has jumped to 654,000, an increase of 26.5%. Despite all attempts to kill it, Obamacare is working and working well.

And while Kemp wants to credit his 2019 “Patients First Act” for that success, much of his legislation has yet to take effect and probably never will, and the improvements in rates and availability that he cites as the product of his leadership are being experienced in states all over the country, not just in Georgia.

READ: Brian Kemp telegraphs ‘bloody’ primary if Trump convinces David Perdue to challenge him: report

That’s why you no longer hear Republicans pledging to repeal Obamacare. They don’t because it is a success, and because it is popular, so popular that Kemp wants credit for it. It turns out Nancy Pelosi was right when she told voters they needed to wait to see how the legislation worked before condemning it.

Despite that progress, however, Georgia still has the third highest rate of uninsured in the country, because under Republican rule it has steadfastly refused federal offers to expand Medicaid for the state’s working poor. Four years ago, when Kemp first ran for governor, 17 states, including Georgia, still refused Medicaid expansion dollars. Now it’s down to 12. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 452,000 additional low-income Georgians would become eligible for coverage if Georgia took that step.

But it won’t, because our leaders are more interested in fake solutions to fake problems than in actually making life better for the people who pay their salaries.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

How Georgia's Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue conspired against democracy

Anyone in public life who supported, advocated, justified, participated in, financed or helped to organize the scheme to void the 2020 Electoral College vote, take away the voice of the people, and MacGyver state legislatures into keeping Donald Trump in the White House is guilty of conspiring to end American democracy.

History will record that as a fact.

Now, some might disagree. I mean, it’s not as if Republicans just hyped themselves into a frenzy with a totally groundless story about “voter fraud,” then used that frenzy as an excuse to throw out tens of millions of legitimate votes, cancel the election, overrule the American people and re-install a president whom voters had clearly and definitively rejected. If all that had happened, even the skeptics would have to agree they had conspired against democracy.

Of course, all that did happen.

So let’s call out some names:

READ: Kelly Loeffler buried by Hank Aaron's grandson for attack on MLB decision to yank the Atlanta All Star Game

You, David Perdue. You conspired to end American democracy. As a U.S. senator sworn to defend the Constitution, you instead supported efforts to trash that document. You conspired to throw out the 5 million votes that were cast legally and in good faith by your fellow Georgians so that Republican legislators could substitute their will for the will of the people. You did so for no other reason than you didn’t like the outcome.

You had – and have – no evidence of voter fraud to justify such breathtaking action. The laughable lawsuit that you recently filed accuses Fulton County election officials of “unlawful, erroneous, negligent, grossly negligent, willful, malicious, corrupt, deceitful, and intentional manipulation of votes.” It claims “Fulton County permitted great multitudes of fraudulent persons to fraudulently vote in the General Election using the name(s) of qualified and eligible Georgia voters.”

  1. Produce these “great multitudes.” You have made the charge: Back it up.

If what you allege is true, then thousands of legally registered voters in Fulton County – if you believe Trump, tens of thousands – must have been barred from voting on Election Day because when they got to their precincts, they would have been told that somebody else had fraudulently cast ballots in their name through the absentee process.

READ: MSNBC's Morning Joe and Mika disgusted by 'grotesque' new conspiracies spewed by Trump lawyer Sidney Powell

So produce these “great multitudes.” You cannot. You cannot because they exist only in the land of unicorns, fairies, magic rainbows and GOP lawsuits.

I know, I know – we’ve all heard the excuse: The lawsuits are necessary to uncover the evidence that you’re sure is there. Yet that in itself is a damning admission. Given your support a year ago for blocking the transfer of power to President Biden, it is a confession that you were willing to subvert American democracy based on evidence that to this day you do not have.

Furthermore, in your campaign for governor you have made it clear that you would use the powers of that new office to do even worse in the next election, if given the chance. Indeed, that promise is the entire animating force behind your candidacy. And if you’ve somehow managed to convince yourself that all this nonsense is true, if that self-delusion helps you sleep better at night, it doesn’t make the Big Lie any less of a lie. It just makes you a bigger fool.

But of course, Perdue is far from alone.

READ: Trump's inner circle scrambling to find challenger to oust Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp: report

You, then-Sen. Kelly Loeffler, joined Perdue last year in supporting a Texas lawsuit that would have rendered 5 million Georgia voters voiceless in the presidential election, based on the false claim of 80,000 forged absentee ballots in our state. Your fellow Republican, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, had condemned that suit as “constitutionally, legally and factually wrong,” but that didn’t deter you in the slightest. No defender of the Constitution or democracy would have taken the momentous step of trying to throw out millions of ballots without overwhelming evidence. You did so with no evidence whatsoever.

Twenty-eight state legislators also joined in supporting that ridiculous lawsuit, as did seven House members from Georgia. Again, we should name names: House members Jody Hice, Rick Allen, Buddy Carter, Doug Collins, Drew Ferguson, Barry Loudermilk, Austin Scott: You too have conspired against American democracy. When the vote of the people of Georgia went against your candidate, you tried to silence their voice, and all but Scott did so again on the House floor on Jan. 6.

Hice is now running for Georgia secretary of state, the office entrusted with the sacred power of guaranteeing the fairness and legitimacy of our democratic republic. As with Perdue, the entire reason for Hice’s candidacy is his eagerness to use the powers of that office to succeed next time where he and others failed last time. He has no other platform, no other agenda.

Hice, Perdue and too many other GOP candidates are asking the people of Georgia not just to validate their past attempts to subvert democracy. They are asking that you join in that conspiracy, that you participate in it.

Don’t do that.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

David Perdue’s candidacy is a continuation of the coup attempt and insurrection that Trump launched

Let’s say it straight:

Every Georgia Republican who votes for former Sen. David Perdue in next year’s gubernatorial primary is voting to strangle American democracy and replace it with an arrangement in which elections can be overturned on a whim, just because somebody says so. There is no other rationale for Perdue’s candidacy, no other reason for him to have launched a campaign against an incumbent governor of his own party.

That, and to try to placate the implacable Donald Trump.

That incumbent, Brian Kemp, has served for almost 20 years as a Republican state senator, a Republican secretary of state and now as a Republican governor. From a conservative Republican perspective, the only blemish on Kemp’s record in that time, the only plausible reason for a primary challenge, is Kemp’s refusal to take part in Trump’s conspiracy to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia based on false claims of fraud.

There is zero evidence such fraud occurred. It is a complete fabrication, no more real than Santa and flying reindeer, invented to give a thin sheen of legitimacy to an effort to silence the votes of American citizens and return a man to power whom voters had clearly rejected. And yet, like 10-year-olds who cling to the Santa myth long after they deep-down know better, Trump voters refuse to let reality intrude on their fantasy. They do it for the same reason too: They want the presents to keep coming.

Well, grow up, people. Santa Claus is a fun little fantasy for children, and Trump lost the election fair and square.

Last January, Perdue made clear that if he still had a vote in the U.S. Senate, he would have cast that vote to decertify the results of the Georgia election, in which Trump lost by almost 12,000 votes. In effect, Perdue would have used his power as a senator to void the 10 million votes cast by his fellow Georgians and substitute his own political preference for theirs.

Today, the entire basis of his new campaign is his eagerness to use the power of the governor’s office to do next time what Kemp would not do in 2020, which is to ignore Georgia law, tear up the Constitution and reinstall a loser in the White House against the will of the people. In a very real sense, Perdue’s candidacy for governor is a continuation of the coup attempt and insurrection that Trump launched on Nov. 4, and if it succeeds it will forever be a black mark on Georgia’s reputation.

Imagine an outcome next fall in which Perdue becomes governor, Burt Jones or Butch Miller is elected lieutenant governor and Jody Hice is elected as secretary of state. To their credit, the Republicans now in those positions – Kemp, Geoff Duncan and Brad Raffensperger – all defended Georgia voters last year when Trump tried to take away their voice. All three would be replaced by men who would be not just willing but publicly committed to do the opposite.

As senator, Perdue took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” yet he was willing to violate that oath on Trump’s behalf. As governor, Perdue would take a similar oath, promising to “preserve, protect, and defend … the Constitution of the United States,” and he has already made it clear that he would violate that pledge as well.

It’s up to you, Georgia. Decide wisely. This is a vote that you will have to justify to your children, to your grandchildren, to history and to your conscience.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

Guilty verdicts in Ahmaud Arbery killing give no pleasure -- only relief

There's no pleasure to be taken from the guilty verdicts returned Wednesday by a Glynn County jury in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery; there is only relief and thanksgiving that in the end justice could be done, at least in a case in which the evidence was so well-documented and seemingly obvious.

Given that they reached their weighty verdicts in just a matter of hours, the jury members – 11 white Georgians, one Black Georgian – must have thought it was obvious as well.

However, it's crucially important to remember that this just and necessary resolution almost didn't happen, that if justice was served in the end, it came almost accidentally. For 74 days after Arbery's murder in February of 2020, no charges had been filed; no arrests were made, no presentment was made to a grand jury. Even though law enforcement possessed the now-famous video as well as much of the testimony that the jury found so convincing, two different district attorneys looked at the case and basically determined that Arbery deserved his fate, that if anything Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William “Roddie" Bryan should be lauded rather than prosecuted.

The local district attorney, Jackie Johnson, knew Greg McMichael from his work as an investigator for her office. She allegedly forbid police officers from making an arrest, and then arranged for the case to be transferred to the neighboring Waycross Judicial District, where George Barnhill worked as district attorney. As she was aware, she was referring the case to someone who had already made known that he too had no desire to pursue the case.

According to a memo written by Barnhill at the time, after what he called an “extensive" review, the actions by the McMichaels and Bryan had been “perfectly legal." It was Arbery “who attacks Travis McMichael" in the video, it was Arbery “who initiated the fight," it was Arbery's “apparent aggressive nature" that drove him “to attack an armed man."

“Given the fact that Arbery initiated the fight, at the moment Arbery grabbed the shotgun, under Georgia law, (Travis) McMichael was allowed to use deadly force to defend himself," Barnhill advised the Glynn County Police Department.


Johnson was defeated for re-election in November of 2020; two months ago, she was arrested and charged with interfering with a police officer in the case and with violating her oath of office. Barnhill remains in office.

I've called this a modern-day lynching, an evocative phrase that should not be employed lightly. However, it meets the two-part test: One, it was a brutal act of vigilante violence; two, the local political elite stepped in afterward to protect the perpetrators. Only when the video was leaked to the public and reached an audience outside the local corridors of power was the coverup thwarted.

And if a case like this, with its obvious evidence of criminality, could come so close to being covered up, think about how many other such cases had been handled over the years, not just in the Waycross and Brunswick districts but all across Georgia, all across the country.

Think about the effect that those cases, the cultural memories of those cases, have had on the mindsets and power relationships in these communities. The McMichaels were not unusual in thinking that they had the right to treat Arbery as they did, that they had the power to tell this Black man what to do and that he had the obligation to obey. The attitudes and the arrogance that they demonstrated that day in the Satilla Shores neighborhood did not come from nowhere, it came from everywhere.

Over their lifetimes, they had been taught that it was their right to act in that fashion, that it was their duty to enforce the unwritten code, that people like themselves had power while others did not, and that they would be protected for defending that system.

They were right.

Until they finally weren't.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

GOP’s Trump-lite Virginia win will be hard for Georgia Republicans to duplicate -- here's why

The future of American democracy might have gotten just a wee bit brighter thanks to political news out of Virginia this week.

Yes, Democrats got whipped soundly, losing a critical governor's race in a state that Joe Biden carried by 10 percentage points just a year ago. That's particularly ominous for Democrats in states such as Georgia, which is thought to be roughly a decade behind Virginia in its transition from red state to blue state. The victory of Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin suggests that demographics might not be destiny, that the inevitable might not be inevitable after all.

So what do I find encouraging?

Well, Youngkin won the election by quietly banishing Donald Trump from the political spotlight. No, he didn't repudiate the disgraced president; to the contrary, he was careful not to antagonize Trump or his cult-like followers. But Youngkin also didn't invite Trump to campaign with him, nor did he embrace Trump's crazed insistence that the 2020 election had been stolen from him.

Basically, Youngkin put Baby in a corner, where Baby belongs. His victory should reassure Republicans that they have pathways to success in swing states that don't require groveling before Trump, that in fact require that you do not do so.

Democrats, too, have some lessons to learn. If Virginia Republicans weren't going to make Trump the focus of the 2021 election, their Democratic counterparts thought they could cast Trump as their main villain anyway. They tried to depict Youngkin as a mini-Trump, as a Trump puppet, but it just didn't work. It turns out that an anti-Trump campaign works for Democrats only as long as Republicans cooperate in making Trump the central issue, and in Virginia they simply didn't take the bait.

Instead, by focusing on someone who wasn't on the ballot and who never even visited the state, Democrats squandered the time, messaging, money and attention needed to address issues that Virginia voters thought more relevant.

Now, learning such lessons is one thing; applying them elsewhere in other races is much more difficult. In Virginia, Youngkin was able to win the Republican nomination without a bloody primary that would have forced him to more explicitly and enthusiastically embrace Trump, thus giving himself some freedom to maneuver in the general election. Most Republican candidates in other states just aren't going to be that lucky.

Here in Georgia, for example, Trump still looms over the state Republican Party like a jealous spouse, attentive to the slightest hint of disloyalty. He has hand-selected the party's apparent candidate for U.S. Senate, Herschel Walker, and GOP nominations for lieutenant governor and secretary of state will probably be won by the candidates who are most abject in their worship of the Orange Baal.

Even more ominously, former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, another Trump cultist, last week made it known that he is seriously considering a GOP primary challenge to Gov. Brian Kemp. That's not about policies; that's not about issues. It's all about service to Trump.

Everybody who follows Georgia politics knows that Trump has never forgiven Kemp for refusing to violate state law, federal law and the U.S. Constitution and overturn the 2020 election. The sole rationale for a Perdue challenge to Kemp would be to wreak vengeance on Trump's behalf. Perdue would be the knife in Kemp's back, the poison in his chalice, and it's remarkable that he would even consider playing such a role.

In Virginia, we saw how Republicans can begin to gently push Trump off stage and into history, and we saw that Democratic efforts to keep Trump in the spotlight aren't going to work without Republican cooperation. These are potentially healthy signs of a better future, but if Georgia Republicans nominate an entire slate of Trump puppets, that future is still a long way off.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

The infamous 'Eastman memo' shows how close Georgia GOP chair came to enabling Trump coup

Eleven months after the election, and nine months after the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt, we are only now beginning to understand how organized, intentional and dangerous the Trump coup attempt had been, and how dangerous it remains.

Take, for example, the events of Dec. 14 at the Georgia State Capitol. On that date, Democratic electors met in the state Senate chambers to formally commit the state's 16 electoral votes to Joe Biden. The event was ceremonial in nature, yet required under the U.S. Constitution.

Largely overlooked at the time – there was a lot going on – was a second meeting held that day in a committee room at the Capitol, this one convened by Georgia GOP Chair David Shafer. In that meeting, Shafer and his fellow Republicans approved a fake second slate of pro-Trump electors to be sent to Washington, on the grounds that Trump had really carried Georgia and that Biden's victory was based on fraud.

There was, is, and never will be any evidence whatsoever of that claim, as multiple recounts, investigations and court cases have demonstrated. But as we'll see, the legitimacy of that fake slate of electors didn't really matter. What mattered was the ability to claim that the competing slate existed.

We know that because of last week's publication of a memo from John Eastman, a now discredited constitutional law professor who also served as a top legal advisor to Trump. It's pretty much a how-to booklet on ending American democracy.

In that memo, Eastman lays out a step-by-step scheme by which Vice President Mike Pence could single-handedly overturn the results of the presidential election and ensure that Trump stayed in office, despite having lost the election. Trump embraced the strategy wholeheartedly, as subsequent events have proved.

A 'majority of the electors appointed' would therefore be 228. There are at this point 232 votes for Trump, 222 votes for Biden. Pence then gavels President Trump as re-elected.

– John Eastman, a top legal advisor to former President Donald Trump

The key to that scheme was the creation of “competing slates of electors" in Georgia and six other supposedly “disputed" states. Again, it didn't matter whether those competing slates were legitimate. All that mattered was that a useful fiction was created, that those slates could be said to exist. According to the plan laid out by Eastman, Pence would unilaterally announce to a joint session of Congress on January 6 that “because of the ongoing disputes in the seven states, there are no electors that can be deemed validly appointed in those states." Using that excuse, all votes cast in those states would be canceled and their electoral votes would not be counted, thus reducing the total number of available electoral votes from 535 to 454.

As Eastman explains in that memo:

“A 'majority of the electors appointed' would therefore be 228. There are at this point 232 votes for Trump, 222 votes for Biden. Pence then gavels President Trump as re-elected."

They also had a Plan B, and even a Plan C and D.

If their attempt to manipulate the electoral math somehow failed, Plan B called for Pence to then declare that since no candidate had a majority of electoral votes, the question of our next president would be decided by the House, with each state's congressional delegation getting one vote. The candidate who had the most state delegations would be our next president.

“Republicans currently control 26 of the state delegations, the bare majority needed to win that vote," Eastman wrote. “President Trump is re-elected there as well."

And if that didn't work, if we still didn't have a president, Eastman writes, “That creates a stalemate that would give the state legislatures more time to weigh in to formally support the alternate slate of electors, if they had not already done so."

In other words, by illegally and unconstitutionally delaying the electoral count, and putting pressure on Republican legislators to reverse the voters' decision, Trump wins yet again.

And Plan D? We saw that play out on live TV on January 6, when a mob of protesters summoned to Washington by Trump attacked Congress to try to stop the counting of electoral votes. Even if the insurrectionists couldn't force Congress to anoint Trump to another term, they could delay the official counting of votes and again give sympathetic GOP legislatures more time to toss the certified slate of electors and replace them with Trump electors. Indeed, even in the midst of the riot, as members of Congress were taking shelter in undisclosed hiding places, Trump and Rudy Giuliani were calling Republican senators, plotting how to delay the vote.

This is not all behind us; it is not merely history.

As recently as last Friday, Trump again called upon Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to decertify the 2020 election, calling Biden an “illegitimate president" and urging Raffensperger to “announce the true winner." And in a recent CNN poll, 59% of Republicans said that believing Trump won the 2020 election was central to being a Republican.

Trump is also working hard to ensure that when 2024 rolls around, he has people in place to do his bidding. Under Shafer's leadership, for example, the Georgia GOP lost the 2020 presidential race in Georgia as well as two U.S. Senate seats, which is an astonishingly poor performance. But when Shafer ran for re-election as party chair, that didn't matter. “No one in Georgia fought harder for me than David!" Trump announced. “He NEVER gave up! He has my Complete and Total Endorsement for re-election." Shafer won easily.

Trump has also endorsed U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, who remains a rabid, irrational advocate of overturning the election, to replace Raffensperger as secretary of state. If Hice wins in 2022, he would oversee the 2024 election. Trump has also endorsed state Sen. Burt Jones, who last year demanded a special session of the state Legislature to officially replace Biden electors with Trump electors, in his race for lieutenant governor.

So no, this is not a storm that has passed. This is at best the eye of the hurricane, the deceiving pause before the storm resumes.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.