FBI Director Robert Mueller in a 2007 file photo. Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS
Photo: Olivier Douliery/TNS
Photo: Olivier Douliery/TNS

The Jolt: Behind D.C.’s mysterious subpoena fight is an Atlanta-based law firm

In Washington, we have a mysterious fight over a federal grand jury subpoena, involving a state-owned foreign company, that has quickly progressed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On one side are two prosecutors from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office. According to Politico.com, on the other are four attorneys from the Atlanta-based law firm of Alston and Bird.

None of the A&B attorneys are Atlanta-based. To reporters, Brian Boone of Charlotte may be the better known of the quartet. According to the law firm website, Boone represented 77 former state attorneys general in support of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s challenge to his conviction for public corruption. The conviction was vacated.

D.C.-based Ted Kang is “co-leader” of the law firm’s white-collar defense team.

Alston and Bird has been known to represent a Russian client or two. The same could be said for two or three more of Atlanta’s high-powered law firms. But another clue could A&B attorney Karl Geercken, the only member of the team from New York, and the only one fluent in German.

***

Last Friday morning, before a weekend Super Bowl hiatus, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty because of Russian violations.

By Friday afternoon, former U.S. senator Sam Nunn and former secretary of energy Ernest Moniz, who head up the D.C.-based Nuclear Threat Initiative, had penned a harsh criticism for Politico Magazine.

The pair described the treaty withdrawal as evidence that relations between the two nuclear-weaponized nations are “dangerously off the rails,” paralyzed in part by investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. From the piece:

The U.S. and Russia are sleepwalking toward a nuclear disaster, and America’s best hope of avoiding catastrophe is reengaging with Russia now—with Congress taking the lead.

Reengagement cannot wait for the special counsel’s office to complete its work, or for new leadership to take office in the Kremlin or White House—the stakes are simply too high. Congressional leaders from both parties must help create the political space to steer the world’s nuclear superpowers away from catastrophe.

 ***

We’ve registered some GOP pushback to Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan’s attempt to disqualify dozens of former Gov. Nathan Deal’s lame-duck appointments. State Sen. Renee Unterman of Buford, who has become a vocal critic of her Senate, took to Twitter to condemn Duncan’s move: 

“How do you attack former Gov w the highest approval rating ever recorded upon leaving office & especially when he is at home post-op?...”

Unterman was referring to Duncan’s argument that the appointments didn’t follow proper procedure because they weren’t sent to the right official. Deal, who is recovering from back surgery, has yet to comment. 

***

Heads up: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, one of many announced Democratic presidential candidates, is scheduled to soon visit a slate of early-voting states - and then swing by Georgia. There’s no date set yet for the trip, but national outlets report that the Massachusetts Democrat is set to visit Georgia after a trip through Iowa and South Carolina. She may want to wait for Atlanta to get over this Super Bowl hangover.

***

Shortly before Gov. Brian Kemp attended the Super Bowl, he went to Glascock County to pay his respects to L.J. Ryer, a sheriff’s deputy who died in a car wreck. He’s gone to a string of funerals of law enforcements since he was elected governor. 

***

The Marietta Daily Journal reports that Cobb County Democrats on Saturday rejected a GOP attempt to split Democratic state lawmakers in an election for control of the county delegation. State Sen. Michael Rhett of Marietta, who had been backed by state Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, withdrew his name from consideration and endorsed state Rep. David Wilkerson of Powder Springs, a fellow Democrat, the newspaper reports this morning.

***

Over the weekend, state GOP party chair John Watson announced that he would not seek re-election at his party’s statewide convention this year. And Scott Johnson, former chair of Cobb County Republicans, said he would.

Watson isn’t disappearing. He’s a hard-core supporter of former Gov. Sonny Perdue, whom Watson served as chief of staff, and U.S. Sen. David Perdue. Watson is very likely to be part of an all-hands-on-deck effort for the latter’s 2020 re-election bid.

As for Johnson, he’ll be making the case that, given Brian Kemp’s drubbing in north metro Atlanta in November, even as he carried the statewide vote in the race for governor, Republicans will need a leader who speaks suburban over the next 22 months.

 ***

Another Georgian rising in the ranks: Brian Jack, who was Donald Trump’s chief delegate wrangler in the 2016 presidential campaign, was named the director of Trump’s office of political affairs on Friday. The Woodward graduate was previously the office’s deputy director, and cut his political teeth helping to block the movement to deny Trump the GOP nomination three years ago.

***

Several prominent Georgia officials joined the call for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to resign after racist pictures on his medical school yearbook surfaced, including House Minority Leader Bob Trammell of Luthersville. One figure we have not heard from on whether the Virginian should stay in office: Stacey Abrams, who is currently studying for her State of the Union exam.

***

It’s very, very early, but some early fundraising comparisons recently caught our eye.

The nonprofit Issue One, which advocates for campaign finance reform, recently tallied up the post-election fundraising totals of members of Congress in the country’s most competitive swing districts. At the top of the list was the newly elected U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta. At the bottom was another Georgian, U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville.

McBath raised nearly $247,000 between her Nov. 6 election and Dec. 31, nearly double the haul as the second-highest performing lawmaker. Woodall, on the other hand, raised less than $8,000 in that period.

With qualifying week still 13 months away, the patterns aren’t set in stone. But the early totals are an indication of how the incumbents are approaching their upcoming reelection battles, which are likely to be fierce in Atlanta’s northern suburbs.

McBath already faces one Republican opponent to keep her Sixth District seat. Her Republican predecessor, Karen Handel, is also considering a challenge. And Woodall, who has never been a big fundraiser and held his Gwinnett-based seat by fewer than 500 votes in November, is being pressured by some Republican officials to consider his options.

***

We’ve written much about the relationship between U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and President Trump, but this anecdote from Axios sheds light on the light-hearted side of their alliance. It was part of a broader item on how the president often compliments men about their looks:

"You're a really good looking man, you look the part," Trump told the Georgia Republican at one meeting. "Those other guys [senators] don't know to dress," the president added. "Those bozos — it must be embarrassing to stand next to them on TV."

Perdue found it hilarious.

***

The Sunday column focused on Democratic efforts to generate public opposition to a GOP-driven commission that recently endorsed continued use of touch-screen voting machines, but with an additional machine-generated receipt. Democrats are pushing for paper ballots filled out by hand – punch cards, for instance.

State Sen. Lester Jackson of Savannah was one of two Democrats who opposed the commission report – a third was out of the country. But here’s the reason Jackson gave last month for his opposition, as quoted in a Savannah Morning News editorial:

Commission members broadly supported the recommendation. Even one of the three who voted against it, Savannah’s own Sen. Lester Jackson, did so not because he disapproves of the machines, but because he wanted the commission’s guidance to be binding. “This is a case where you don’t want everybody entering their ideas when a commission has been looking at it for a year,” Jackson said.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X