U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, takes a question from Gwendolyn Farris during a town hall at Dunwoody High School on Saturday. Branden Camp/Special
Photo: Branden Camp
Photo: Branden Camp

The Jolt: Impeachment rears its head as an issue for Georgia Democrats

Two Democratic candidates offered two vastly different strategies over whether to begin U.S. House proceedings to impeach President Donald Trump over the weekend.

In Athens, Senate candidate Teresa Tomlinson -- the only major Democrat so far in the race for U.S. Senate -- reinforced her position that House lawmakers have a “duty” to begin the process. From Blake Aued of The Flagpole: 

"The fact of the matter is, you're not up there to get re-elected," she told a group of Athens Democrats over breakfast Saturday morning. "You're up there to lead….We have to go through the process," Tomlinson said. "If the Senate votes to acquit, they vote to acquit."

Contrast that with the stance from Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, who faced a question during her Saturday town hall meeting at Dunwoody High School about why she hasn’t spoken out in support of impeachment.

McBath didn’t close the door on impeachment, but she also didn’t embrace it either. 

“I am absolutely furious about what’s happening in this country. I’m furious about the lack of accountability in this administration. I’m furious about their inability to be forthcoming with the truth,” she said. 

She continued: 

“And let’s be real: Looking at the Mueller report there is no doubt in my mind that there has been obstructive behavior in concealing the truth …

“There is a process and that process takes time ... We need to hear from witnesses who can give us the truth about what happened ... We need information about the redacted information.

“I am angry and I am upset. At the end of the day let the chips fall where they may. If it comes to impeachment inquiries, you can trust that your representatives will do their job.”

It’s important to note that the positions expressed by McBath and Tomlinson are consistent with what they were saying on the topic two months ago. In fact, Tomlinson shared a stage with billionaire Tom Steyer during his one-man campaign for Trump’s impeachment in 2018.

What’s changed for Georgia Democrats, most particularly in McBath’s case, is that questions on whether to pull the impeachment trigger aren’t coming from journalists, but the crowds in front of them.

Also remember that Tomlinson and McBath face two different situations. Tomlinson needs to win a Democratic primary -- in a field that’s likely to expand before next year. McBath is attempting to retain a Sixth District congressional seat with a long, long GOP history.

***

After one of your Insiders posted her comments about impeachment on Twitter, Republicans immediately began asking whether U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath had read the report. 

She didn’t address that at the town hall meeting. But curiously, U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville was asked whether he’s pored through the document during an appearance Sunday on Kasie Hunt’s MSNBC show. 

Spoiler alert: He has not. A partial transcript:

HUNT: Let me ask you about the investigations because I think that’s, you know, a big part of what you’re alluding to. I mean, Pelosi obviously used the words cover up, which the president hanged all of this on. Have you read the Mueller report in full? 

WOODALL: I have not. 

HUNT: Why not? 

WOODALL: I said when we started this conversation, I trusted Mr. Mueller, took a lot of slings and arrows throughout this process, but every U.S. attorney I knew said this is a man of great integrity -- 

HUNT: Yes.

WOODALL: He’s going to lead this investigation -- 

HUNT: So, why not read the report? 

WOODALL: Well, I have a concern when you put the entire power of the United States Justice Department behind anything you can achieve an agenda. You can drive a message…. 

Ultimately, Woodall offered this explanation:

“The role that I play in Congress is not to bring down a sitting president. The role I play in Congress is to try to work with my speaker so I can send a bill to that president’s desk. I have 18 months left on this job, Kasie. I didn’t run to make a point. I ran to make a difference.”

***

Players in the opposite party always wonder whether the primary dramas they watch from afar are real -- or scripted affairs akin to pro wrestling. A Twitter note from Clay Tippins, written just before noon on Sunday, may help settle the question.

Here’s how the former GOP candidate for governor addressed the brewing Republican race to replace the retiring U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville:

#GA7 district, if U want to send somebody to Congress from the gang that can’t shoot straight...vote @Renee_Unterman. One of her wacky moves would’ve kept rape victims from getting protection & justice. BAD! There are other great candidates in the race that can defend that seat.

Three points of context:

-- Unterman, a state senator from Buford, did in fact oppose 2016 legislation authored by state Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, to require law enforcement agencies to process thousands of rape kits that had been in storage. She relented at the last minute. This spring, she and Holcomb bonded over clean-up legislation on the same topic. The bill passed.

-- Unterman was a ferocious ally of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in the Republican race for governor.

-- Tippins was the fellow who, days after he was ousted from the contest in a first round of voting, surreptitiously recorded Cagle making – among other points -- cynical remarks about education legislation he was pushing over the objections of the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta. Who is Clay Tippins’ uncle.

Piecemealed revelations of the recording helped runoff rival Brian Kemp win the GOP nomination for governor last year.

One more thing: GOP political consultant Brian Robinson also backed Cagle in 2018, and is working for Unterman now. His Tweeted response to Tippins:

When voters think of “straight shooters” ... Clay Tippins never crosses their minds. I’d point out his lie here but you can’t attack the credibility of someone who doesn’t have any.

***

Over at Channel 2 Action NewsRichard Belcher reports that Georgia Supreme Court Justice David Nahmias made the unusual move to try to block the nomination of an appointment on the judicial watchdog agency. 

Former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr is, like Nahmias, an ex-federal prosecutor. Barr also ran for president as a Libertarian in 2008.

Belcher reports it’s unclear why Nahmias contacted Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive counsel David Dove to try to derail the appointment, which is expected to be announced soon. 

We reached out to both Nahmias and Kemp, and both declined comment through their aides. 

***

Newly elected state GOP chairman David Shafer was in Gainesville on Saturday morning, speaking to the Hall County GOP. The alarm bell he rang, according to the Gainesville Times:

“I think our Republican party is in trouble,” Shafer said. “I think if you look at the last election cycle, the statewide margins had narrowed to a very uncomfortable level and we lost seats that we shouldn’t have lost in the suburbs of Atlanta. I think there are a number of reasons why that happened, but one of them is I think there’s been a complacency that’s overtaken us in the 15 years of Republican supermajority. We’ve allowed it to become weaker and I think that we don’t have any margin of error going forward. We’ve got to pull everything together.”

***

Former President Jimmy Carter returned to Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains yesterday to teach his first Sunday school class since breaking his hip on May 13. Our colleague Ernie Suggs reports that visitors started lining up on Saturday night to see the 94-year-old give his lesson, including several members of the Congressional Black Caucus. 

***

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, led by former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, has buried a study that showed the Obama administration’s school lunch initiative yielded positive results for students, according to the Washington Post.

One of Perdue’s first actions as secretary of agriculture was to roll back the signature USDA program of former first lady Michelle Obama, which required schools to provide healthier meals for students. Perdue told an Atlanta summit in July 2017 that the regulations were costly and burdensome and said he was lobbied by students who told him they didn’t like their school meals anymore.

***

In something of the same vein, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue has been accused of ignoring or burying other research conducted within his department.

That’s the main point of a new Washington Post op-ed written by Gale Buchanan, former dean of UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and Catherine Woteki. Both Buchanan and Woteki are former chief scientists of the ag department.

The duo highlight the administration’s deep proposed budget cuts to various research agencies at the department, as well as its push to relocate two key branches outside of Washington. From their op-ed:

We won’t speculate on the motives of the Trump administration’s leaders at the USDA, but we can say that these proposals came only after objective studies and analyses produced by economists and scientists at the USDA’s Economic Research Service, or ERS, conflicted with Trump administration policies.

For example, analysis by ERS economists on the effects of the December 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act stated, “Farm households with income between the 20th to 80th percentile see a modest reduction in their effective income tax rates, while wealthier households, the top 10 percent and top 1 percent, see the biggest decreases in their rates.”

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