The Jolt: A Georgia Republican invokes the ‘crucifixion’ of Donald Trump

NBC News

Given that the U.S. House vote on the impeachment of President Donald Trump was never in doubt on Wednesday, attention necessarily focused on the rhetoric – how the issue was framed over six tedious hours.

The winner, if bipartisan Twitter umbrage be the measure, was U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville. Yes, it's the Christmas season, but Loudermilk went all Easter on Democrats in the chamber. Said the Georgia congressman:

"When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus, than Democrats have afforded this president in this process."

Trump has referred to himself as the Chosen One, and many conservative evangelicals have deferred to the president at every opportunity. But some found Loudermilk's comparison hard to swallow. Erick Erickson, the Macon-based conservative pundit, immediately demanded a retraction:

"If Trump has not been tortured, beaten to within an inch of his life, nailed to a cross, and killed after being falsely accused, please shut up about him being treated worse than Jesus. And you should apologize. What a disgusting thing to say, particularly during a holy season."

Loudermilk did not apologize. Rather, he sent a clip of the video out on Twitter.

Yet the Cassville congressman wasn't alone in his comparison of Trump to a crucified Christ. Several Republicans scoffed at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's oft-repeated statement that she prays daily for President Trump. U.S. Rep. Fred Keller of Pennsylvania was one:

"I want Democrats voting for impeachment today to know that I'll be praying for them. From the Gospel of Luke, the 23rd chapter, verse 34: 'And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."'"

Among Democrats, U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath of Marietta was among those who thought the Almighty might be found on the other side of the aisle. Said McBath:

"God must truly be grieved by what is happening here, and our constituents deserve better. I pray that we will be healed -- our land will be healed -- at some point."

On the other hand, Paula White-Cain, spiritual adviser to President Trump, has no doubt about whose side God is on. From a Twitter message she put up just after midnight:

Tonight we lift up our President, @realDonaldTrump in prayer against all wickedness & demonic schemes against him and his purpose in the name of Jesus. Surround him with your angels and let them encamp around about him. Let all demonic stirrings and manipulations be overturned!

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While some chose a sacred path during the impeachment debate, U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-West Point, chose the profane.

Ferguson said he and others who voted for Trump in 2016 had “raised our collective middle finger to D.C.” He accused “liberal elites, the condescending bureaucrats, and every other kind of swamp critter in this god-forsaken place” of trying to reverse the outcome.

“This whole flipping goat-rodeo is a sham and a shame, and it will not be forgotten,” Ferguson said.

Needless to say, Geogia's delegation in the U.S. House voted strictly along party lines on Wednesday.

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The drama of impeachment now moves to the U.S. Senate, where the outrage over a lack of direct witnesses and due process shifts from the GOP to the Democratic side. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is to address the Senate process in a speech this morning. Possibly he will be addressing this development cited by the Washington Post:

Moments after a historic vote to impeach President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House could at least temporarily withhold the articles from the Senate — a decision, she suggested, that could depend on how the other chamber chooses to conduct its trial on Trump's removal.

"We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side," she said, referring to the House "managers" who present the case for removal to the Senate. "So far we haven't seen anything that looks fair to us. So hopefully it will be fair. And when we see what that is, we'll send our managers."

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The manager of Republican arguments in the impeachment debate was U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga. It is difficult to exaggerate the value of this kind of exposure for the Gainesville congressman, who still contemplates a 2020 challenge to Kelly Loeffler, the choice of Gov. Brian Kemp to replace U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.

But Collins’ prominence on Wednesday helps explain the early emphasis that Loeffler has placed on making sure Republicans see her as a Donald Trump loyalist when it comes to putting the president on trial. Impeachment is a central topic in an op-ed her campaign has offered up for publication this week. It contains this line:

"The left's impeachment circus is about more than just overturning an election, but our way of life. These partisans can't tolerate President Trump's accomplishments at home and abroad, and they know they can't beat him at the ballot box."

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We've picked up word that Kelly Loeffler will be assigned to the Agriculture, Veterans Affairs and Health, Education and Labor committees once she takes her place in the U.S. Senate. David Perdue appears set to drop off the agriculture panel and take exiting Johnny Isakson's seat on the Foreign Relations Committee.

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Obscured by impeachment drama and President Trump's concurrent rally in Battle Creek, Mich., on Wednesday was a rather important development that could rival impeachment as a driving issue in 2020:

NEW ORLEANS — The "individual mandate" of former President Barack Obama's health care law is invalid, but other parts of the law need further review, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The 2-1 ruling was handed down by a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The panel agreed with Texas-based U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor's 2018 finding that the law's insurance requirement, the so-called "individual mandate," was rendered unconstitutional when Congress, in 2017, reduced a tax on people without insurance to zero.

The court reached no decision on the big issue — how much of the Affordable Care Act must fall along with the insurance mandate.

"It may still be that none of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate, even after this inquiry is concluded. It may be that all of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate. It may also be that some of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate, and some is not," Judge Jennifer Elrod wrote.

Eighteen states are pushing the lawsuit that challenges the Affordable Care Act. Georgia is one of them. From Attorney General Chris Carr, who issued this statement:

"Once again, the courts have agreed with what we already knew - the cornerstone of Obamacare is unconstitutional. Now we need to get back to work and do it the right way. Congress, the states and the private sector must seize this great opportunity to fix the mess created by Obamacare and do right by the American people."

Health advocates say the ruling further jeopardizes a law that many Georgians now rely upon. From Joe Binns, state director of Protect Our Care:

"Georgians' health care has never been in greater jeopardy. Today's decision brings Attorney General Chris Carr and Republicans' lawsuit one step closer to ripping health coverage away from hundreds of thousands of Georgians, and threatening the care of over 4 million more Georgians with pre-existing conditions."

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Posted earlier this morning by one of your Insiders:

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan's decision to stand beside Gov. Brian Kemp as he unveiled Kelly Loeffler as his pick for a U.S. Senate seat triggered the abrupt resignation of his top aide, according to senior GOP officials.

Chip Lake, a veteran operative who helped engineer Duncan's 2018 election, announced his resignation on social media four hours after Kemp unveiled Loeffler as his pick for the coveted seat…

[A]n official who requested anonymity to describe confidential discussions said Lake felt "handcuffed" by an impulsive lieutenant governor who frequently took strategic advice from a "life coach."

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Add Dallas Mayor Boyd Austin to the list of Republicans said to be considering a bid for Georgia's 14th Congressional District after U.S. Rep. Tom Graves announced he wouldn't stand for another term.

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Former Atlanta city councilman and unsuccessful City Council President candidate Alex Wan filed paperwork this week to run for a Georgia House seat, days after former gubernatorial contender Stacey Evans announced a campaign for the same district.

It could set up a potential confrontation between the two Democrats seeking to succeed state Rep. Pat Gardner, who plans to retire after more than a decade representing the intown Atlanta district.

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