WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 17: House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) attends a House Rules Committee hearing on the impeachment against President Donald Trump on December 17, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)
Photo: Pool/Getty Images
Photo: Pool/Getty Images

The Jolt: Democrats ‘are in love with terrorists,’ says Doug Collins

Late last night, in a Fox News interview with Lou Dobbs, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins said Democrats critical of President Donald Trump’s order to assassinate Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani were “in love with terrorists.”

The full quote from the Gainesville Republican: “They’re in love with terrorists. We see that. They mourn Soleimani more than they mourn our gold star families who have suffered under Soleimani.”

The later part of Collins’ phrasing echoed a Tuesday appearance by former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley on the same network: "The only ones that are mourning the loss of Soleimani are our Democrat leadership and our Democrat presidential candidates."

The social media response to Collins was sharp, and included condemnation from a former diplomat.

“Disgusting. As US ambassador to Russia, I became accustomed to addressing disinformation Putin propagated about Americans,” said Michael McFaul. “I never expected that elected Members of Congress would engage in the same, making grotesque false statements about fellow Americans. Stop this nonsense.”

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara added: “I understand politics and sharp rhetoric. I worked in the Senate for four years. But Collins declaring Democrats ‘are in love with terrorists’ is an abomination, a step beyond. Pathetic.”

Indivisible Lumpkin, a progressive group in Collins’ Ninth District, also denounced the congressman. “Doug Collins is drunk on newfound power and blinded by his drive to make the most headlines to impress his president,” the group wrote.

***

Doug Collins is, in fact, under consideration by the White House for an important assignment. From the Washington Post:

A turf war over who should defend President Trump in a Senate impeachment trial is raging behind the scenes in Congress, as House Republicans push to join Trump’s legal team — an idea that piques the president’s interest — over the objections of Senate Republicans.

House GOP leaders in recent weeks have advocated for Trump’s most aggressive defenders — Republican Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), John Ratcliffe (Tex.) and Douglas A. Collins (Ga.) — to cross the Rotunda and help White House counsel Pat A. Cipollone rebut the two charges that the president abused his power and obstructed Congress.

Trump, partial to bare-knuckles tactics and top-rated TV performances, loves the idea...

***

Members of Congress attended briefings Wednesday on the U.S. drone strike that led to the death of Iranian commander Qassem Solemani, and Iran’s retaliatory rocket attack on Tuesday. More details can be found here. The response from Georgia lawmakers fell along party lines.

For details, click here. But consider this thought from U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia: “It is still extremely bothersome and concerning to me now that I know more about it.”

And compare it with that of U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville: “I am confident that the attack on the Iranian terrorist leader General Soleimani was constitutional, justified, and saved countless American lives,” he said.

***

But it wasn’t all sweetness and light on the Republican side, particularly among U.S. senators. You’ll recall our Wednesday post on President Donald Trump’s apparent decision to shrug off long-standing protocol when it comes to keeping congressional leadership informed in times of crisis. 

Coming out of a Wednesday briefing on the Iranian confrontation by the Trump administration, no one was more angry than U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. From the New York Times:

[A]s Mr. Lee emerged from a closed-door, classified briefing with Mr. Trump’s national security team, he launched into an uncharacteristically indignant tirade that went well beyond his usual staid constitutional arguments about war powers.

He blasted the administration for what he called a shoddy briefing on the president’s strategy on Iran, delivered in what he described as an “insulting and demeaning” way by administration officials he said were unwilling to engage in a genuine discussion about a possible military escalation in the Middle East.

The message, Mr. Lee said, was: “Do not debate, do not discuss the issue of the appropriateness of further military intervention against Iran. If you do, you will be emboldening Iran.”

***

We’ve told you that Gov. Brian Kemp has yet to make a decision on whether to allow federally vetted refugees to settle in Georgia -- an option he’s been given under a more restrictive immigration policy adopted by the Trump administration in September. A Jan. 21 deadline looms, and inaction would be the same as a “no.”

Our AJC colleague Jeremy Redmon notes that the issue has a history:

In 2015, then-Gov. Nathan Deal cited terrorism concerns when he signed an order seeking to halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Georgia, joining 30 other state leaders who sought to block them from coming. But at the time, the governor had no legal power to do so.

Actually, angst over refugees goes much back much further. A veteran reader reminded us that, after the fall of Saigon in 1975, a military base in Albany -- home town to Gov. George Busbee -- was targeted as a way station for Vietnamese fleeing the victorious communists.

We were able to track down a May 2, 1975 report by Rex Granum, an Atlanta Constitution political reporter who would become White House deputy press secretary in the Carter administration. He wrote:

Gov. George Busbee said Thursday he would be “unwilling” to have large numbers of Vietnamese refugees settle in Georgia.

“I would be unwilling to take masses of adults and sacrifice jobs in Georgia,” said Busbee, citing the state’s unemployment rate of 10.2 per cent.

He said that he has “not been contacted by the federal government about any program for those adults,” but had been asked about his position by private sources.

***

Publicly, Georgia Democrats won’t speak of their concerns about the long wait for a party-anointed candidate to take on U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler in November.

Privately, though, the grumbling is hard to avoid. Says one senior Democratic official: “Everyone is wondering, what gives?”

Before Loeffler was appointed, the conventional wisdom held that top Democrats were waiting on Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision before putting forth a candidate who matches up best against his appointment.

The theory was that Democrats needed to unify behind one candidate rather than risk a crowded field in the race, a special election with no party primary to filter out nominees. 

But politicos have known about Loeffler’s appointment since late November. And the formal announcement in early December was more than a month ago. Still, no Democrat backed by party leaders has emerged yet to challenge her.

“Everybody is shaking their heads asking what’s going on,” said a Democratic politician. “It’s January and we’ve got no candidates.”

Well, that’s not exactly true. Matt Lieberman, an educator who is the son of former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, entered the contest in October and just reported raising $700,000 in his first quarter - a solid opening for a newcomer. 

The heavy hitters are still on the sidelines. Among the possibilities are DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston, state Sen. Jen Jordan, former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver, DeKalb chief executive Michael Thurmond and the Rev. Raphael Warnock. 

And they’ve got some runway, since there’s no May nominating contest to worry about. Still, the clock is ticking. And Republicans are taking note. 

Said GOP strategist Heath Garrett on Wednesday’s edition of “Political Rewind:” “I think Governor Kemp kind of stumped the Democratic Party here.”

***

With Kelly Loeffler’s arrival, the number of women in the U.S. Senate now stands at 26, and it’s an all-time record. U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., noted the new mark in a joint statement welcoming Loeffler, first reported by Fortune magazine.

“It took 27 years to go from two women to 26, and we should be able to reach equal representation in the Senate much more quickly,” they wrote. “We look forward to that day.”

***

U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Riggs Amico has embarked on a five-day tour across south Georgia that includes stops in Dublin, Savannah, Brunswick and Metter as she tries to build support for her bid.

“This was the part I’ve always enjoyed most,” Amico said in an interview in between stops on Wednesday. “Candidates should use two ears and one mouth, in correct proportions.”

Amico, one of four top Democrats competing to challenge U.S. Sen. David Perdue, will hold closed-door roundtables with clergy members and labor union leaders, meet with local officials and tour Savannah’s port.

She said the trip has brought back memories of her 2018 run for lieutenant governor, when she visited more than 150 counties over. At the stops, she said, she tries to draw a contrast with Perdue.

“Maybe David Perdue should try a town hall or two,” she said of the Republican. 

*** 

A campaign reboot? At the very least, a new slogan. Senate candidate Teresa Tomlinson rolled out her new tag line in a video series: “Georgia Gumption.”

The former Columbus mayor ends the clip telling supporters: “We’re coming to Washington, D.C. and we’re packing a whole lot of Georgia gumption and we’re finally going to see them sweat.” Watch it here

***

The new initiative launched by Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan to keep the Georgia Senate in Republican control has raised more than $600,000 in the last three months. 

The “Advance Georgia” independent committee targets the state Senate’s eight most competitive districts. Two are currently held by Democrats -- Jen Jordan of Atlanta and Zara Karinshak of Duluth. (Karinshak is vacating her state Senate seat in favor of a Seventh District run for Congress.)

The other six state Senate districts, held by Republicans, are also in fast-changing parts of metro Atlanta’s suburbs.

***

One of the bigger moments of Georgia’s presidential primary season four years ago arrived when state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, flipped his endorsement from Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders.

Fort is now a former state senator after an unsuccessful bid to become mayor of Atlanta. But he’s still in Sanders’ camp.

He sent us an endorsement for 2020, saying he backs the Vermont senator because he “understands change comes from the people and their movements.”

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