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: info@georgiarecorder.com. 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: info@georgiarecorder.com. 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: info@georgiarecorder.com. 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: info@georgiarecorder.com. 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: info@georgiarecorder.com. 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: info@georgiarecorder.com. Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

Unhinged threats against nurses and school boards rage on as mainstream GOP stands by

In a press conference at the state Capitol this week, Georgia's public health commissioner condemned a campaign of bullying, intimidation and threats directed at health care workers attempting to improve the state's abysmal vaccination record against COVID- 19.

This article was originally published at Georgia Recorder

“Many of our line workers are receiving threats, are receiving hostile emails, harassing emails," Dr. Kathleen Toomey said. “That's something that has happened to me early on. Maybe it comes with the territory of someone in my position, but it shouldn't be happening to those nurses who are working in the field to try to keep this state safe."

According to Toomey, the harassment has become so threatening that one mobile vaccination effort in north Georgia had to be shut down entirely. “Aside from feeling threatened themselves, staff realized no one would want to come to that location for a vaccination under those circumstances, so they packed up and left," Toomey's spokeswoman, Nancy Nydam, later explained.

Think about that: These people are not only refusing to get vaccinated themselves — and by doing so facilitating the spread of this deadly virus — they are using harassment and intimidation to try to prevent other people from getting life-saving vaccination. That's outrageous. Yet later in that same press conference, when Gov. Brian Kemp had the chance to strongly condemn such behavior and promise that it would not be tolerated, that it would be investigated aggressively by law enforcement and prosecuted, he did not meet the moment, issuing only a mild call for “unity."

A few months earlier, at the very spot in the Capitol where Toomey and Kemp stood, Gabe Sterling of the Georgia secretary of state's office had been far more courageous. State and local elections workers were being threatened, harassed and intimidated by people who bought into false claims by Donald Trump that the election had been stolen from him, Sterling said, and it was up to leaders to intervene.

“You need to step up and say this … stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence," Sterling said, addressing Trump directly. “Someone's going to get hurt, someone's going to get shot, someone's going to get killed, and it's not right."

As we know, Trump did not condemn the violence, and people did get killed.

We're also seeing similar threats of violence directed at school boards around the country, both over mask mandates and the manufactured controversy over “critical race theory." Again, the idea seems to be that what cannot be won at the ballot box or through debate can and should be won through physical intimidation, even violence. In Pennsylvania, to cite just one of many examples, a GOP candidate for county executive bragged in a campaign video that he would confront the local school board over its mask mandate not with facts or data, but with “20 strong men."

“I'm going to speak to the school board, and I'm going to give them an option: They can leave or they can be removed," Steve Lynch said.

Not surprisingly, Lynch is a Trump supporter who attended the January 6 rally that ended in an assault on our nation's Capitol. Instead of an act of shame, that attempted coup is increasingly being described by Republicans such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia as an heroic act of patriotism, with the attackers cast as champions of freedom.

In North Carolina over the weekend, U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn told a campaign rally that if he knew where those arrested in the coup attempt were being imprisoned, he might try to “bust them out." He also told the crowd that the 2020 elections had been stolen from Republicans, and “if our election systems continue to be rigged and continue to be stolen, then it's going to lead to one place — and it's bloodshed."

These are people who have been told for decades that they have an inherent right to rule this country, that if they are losing election after election it is only because those elections are rigged against them, and that they have not just the right but the obligation to turn to violence to correct that injustice.

You could argue that this is only the lunatic fringe of the GOP, but we have seen too many times how yesterday's GOP lunatic fringe becomes tomorrow's GOP mainstream. And the people who might be able to rein it all back in remain in ominous silence.

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: info@georgiarecorder.com. Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

Top Trump DOJ official's letter staked out Georgia as path to a coup

On Dec. 28, a top official in the Trump Department of Justice circulated an extraordinary, potentially history-altering letter to his colleagues, writing that “I see no valid downsides" to issuing the letter and proposing that they “get it out as soon as possible."

In that letter, reported this week by ABC News, Jeffrey Clark falsely claimed that there were such “significant concerns" about the legitimacy of the election in Georgia that Gov. Brian Kemp ought to call the state Legislature into special session to overturn the results and give Donald Trump the state's 16 electoral votes.

That of course was a lie, a lie created to foment a coup.

“Given the urgency of this serious matter … the Department believes that a special session of the Georgia General Assembly is warranted and in the national interest," the draft letter stated. It also argued that if Kemp balked at calling a special session, the Legislature has “implied authority under the Constitution" to call itself into session and act.

At that point, and at several others in the week of Dec. 27, history teetered, putting the fate of our democratic republic in true jeopardy. It was preserved only because a handful of people in crucial positions made the right decisions.

Different people, willing to make different decisions, might have brought it all tumbling down.

For example, if Clark's proposed letter had been made public, throwing the prestige of the DOJ behind claims of electoral fraud, it would have added enormous, perhaps overwhelming pressure on Kemp and Republican legislative leaders to call that special session, and to alter the election outcome. Because as we've learned, Georgia was considered key. The Trump campaign clearly believed that if they could bum-rush Georgia into throwing out the vote of the people, based purely on nonsensical “evidence," other GOP-leaning states such as Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania would be pressured to do the same. If Georgia fell, Trump may have been well on his way to remaining in power despite being clearly, and fairly, defeated under the rules laid out in the Constitution.

As we know, that did not happen, but it is only now that we can appreciate how close it may have come. It did not happen only because Clark's superiors in the DOJ – acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and his top deputy — refused to allow release of that proposed letter, understanding that it had no basis whatsoever in fact or law.

We also now know that the day before Clark sent his inter-office memo, Trump himself had contacted top officials at DOJ to pressure them. According to notes of one conversation taken by Rosen's deputy on Dec. 27, Trump told the acting attorney general that he didn't have to try to overturn the whole election. “Just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the [Republican] Congressmen," those notes quote Trump as saying.

As that week went on, Trump continued his focus on Georgia.

On Jan. 2, he called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for an hour-long phone call, insisting that Raffensperger “find" the necessary votes to make him the winner, and hinting that a failure to do so might result in his criminal prosecution. (On Dec. 23, Trump had also personally called Raffensperger's lead elections investigator, urging her to find fraud.)

On Jan. 3, Trump tried to remove Rosen as acting attorney general and install his flunky Clark to lead the DOJ, but was blocked by White House counsel and other members of his administration. On Jan. 4, the U.S. attorney for north Georgia, BJay Pak, resigned suddenly because – as we have since learned – he too was being pressured to declare that Georgia's elections were corrupt when in fact he knew they were not. (Pak will almost certainly be subpoenaed to tell that tale to Congress, adding yet more detail to the attempted coup.)

And then, of course, came the events of January 6.

It is good that when needed, people filling critical roles in federal and state government were willing to stand up for the sanctity of the law and Constitution. But we, as a nation, should never be in a situation when a handful of people can either save or destroy our democracy.

And as we learn more and more about how close we came to disaster, the post-election changes in state election law that have been implemented here in Georgia become more ominous.

Through those changes, the system of independent checks and balances that helped avoid disaster in 2020 have been weakened, not strengthened, with highly partisan state legislators now wielding considerable more power over how elections are conducted and how – and whether — the votes are counted afterward. Furthermore, the conspiratorial, falsehood-ridden rhetoric that those legislators have used to justify their power grab does not exactly engender confidence in their judgment should they get to decide whether the rule of law or the law of the jungle applies to future elections.

What we need is the truth. We need to expose those who were willing to subvert the law and the Constitution. We need to prosecute anyone who may have acted criminally. We need to sanction lawyers who threw aside their obligations to the law.

We need to know what happened. All of 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: info@georgiarecorder.com. Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.