Capitol Recap: Greene offers Holocaust apology but still doesn’t like Dems

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, apologized this past week for making a comparison in May between coronavirus restrictions and the Holocaust. “I should own it," she said. "I made a mistake.”
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U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, apologized this past week for making a comparison in May between coronavirus restrictions and the Holocaust. “I should own it," she said. "I made a mistake.”

Holocaust, mask mandate aren’t the same, Greene now says

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene now says she doesn’t think coronavirus restrictions are on par with the Holocaust.

She still says, however, that Democrats are like Nazis.

Following a visit to the United State Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Greene issued an apology for comments she made comparing mask mandates to Nazis forcing Jewish people to wear gold stars.

“The horrors of the Holocaust are something that some people don’t even believe happen,” she said. “Some people deny, but there is no comparison to the Holocaust. And there are words that I have said — remarks that I have made — that I know that are offensive, and for that I want to apologize.”

Greene said something very different in May:

“You know, we can look back at a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star and they were definitely treated like second-class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany, and this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.”

After a first wave of criticism, Greene remained firm, telling WDUN host Martha Zoller that she never brought up the Holocaust.

“People love to twist and turn all my words. I never compared it to the Holocaust,” Greene said. “And it wasn’t about masks. It was all about vaccine passports.”

But following her visit to the museum, Greene said: “I should own it. I made a mistake.”

It’s an open question whether the people who first heard the Holocaust remarks will learn about Greene’s apology. She did not post it on social media, her primary form of communication with supporters and far-right activists.

Earlier on the same day of the apology, Greene signaled no contrition during an appearance on “The Water Cooler” podcast with David Brody, where she had first made the Holocaust comparison.

Brody asked Greene about a Change.org petition urging Congress to expel her over the remarks. She blamed Democrats, antifa groups and Black Lives Matter protesters.

In reality, the Holocaust comments spurred criticism from the upper reaches of her own Republican Party, including from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Democrats also responded, renewing calls for Greene to be publicly reprimanded or removed from Congress.

While Greene apologized for the Holocaust comparison, she stood by another assertion she made during a recent town hall meeting in Dalton, when she likened Democrats to Nazis.

Greene has packed a lot in a relatively short political career.

She promoted the dangerous QAnon conspiracy theory. She harassed a school shooting victim. She made statements so racist, anti-Semitic and offensive that McConnell called them “looney lies” and declared her a “cancer” on the GOP.

Earlier this year, some of those incidents and comments helped lead to the loss of her committee assignments.

But they also proved fruitful. Greene’s notoriety helped make her one of the top fundraisers in the U.S. House during the first quarter of the year, when she pulled in about $3.2 million.

BJay Pak, the former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, said he will meet with the U.S. House Oversight Committee to discuss his interactions with U.S. Justice Department officials. The committee this past week released emails that Democrats on the panel say show that then-President Donald Trump attempted to use the Justice Department to overturn his 2020 defeat by Joe Biden. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com
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BJay Pak, the former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, said he will meet with the U.S. House Oversight Committee to discuss his interactions with U.S. Justice Department officials. The committee this past week released emails that Democrats on the panel say show that then-President Donald Trump attempted to use the Justice Department to overturn his 2020 defeat by Joe Biden. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Pak to talk to panel investigating election interference

Former U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak says he will appear before the U.S. House Oversight Committee to discuss his interactions with Justice Department officials shortly before he abruptly resigned in January.

That news came after the committee released emails that Democrats on the panel say show that then-President Donald Trump attempted to use the Justice Department to overturn his 2020 defeat by Joe Biden.

“These documents show that President Trump tried to corrupt our nation’s chief law enforcement agency in a brazen attempt to overturn an election that he lost,” Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, said in a statement. “Those who aided or witnessed President Trump’s unlawful actions must answer the committee’s questions about this attempted subversion of democracy.”

The emails indicate that Justice Department officials may have been pursuing several claims about how the election was conducted in Fulton County, including accusations about lax enforcement of signature-matching laws for absentee ballots and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s allegation that video showed county election workers tallying ballots pulled from suitcases.

The Justice Department officials also apparently tried to discuss the allegations with Pak.

This all happened the same weekend that Trump spoke by phone with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. During the conversation that Raffensperger secretly recorded, the president referred to a “Never Trumper U.S. attorney.” In the same conversation, Trump urged Raffensperger to find enough votes to give him the win in Georgia over Biden.

Late that Sunday night, then-acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue emailed Pak. “Please call ASAP,” the subject line said.

The next morning, Pak emailed Donoghue two resignation letters, one addressed to Trump and the other to then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. Pak didn’t provide a reason for stepping down in either letter.

The Wall Street Journal later reported that White House officials pressured Pak to resign because they did not feel he was pursuing voter fraud allegations aggressively enough.

Fulton faces probe over drop box forms

Fulton County is facing an investigation over how well it kept track of absentee ballots that were returned in drop boxes during November’s election.

The investigation will focus on ballot transfer forms, not ballots themselves. All absentee ballots were issued to eligible Georgia voters and verified by election workers based on signatures and registration information.

The secretary of state’s office previously announced similar investigations of Coffee, Grady and Taylor counties.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced the investigation against Fulton this past week.

“New revelations that Fulton County is unable to produce all ballot drop box transfer documents will be investigated thoroughly, as we have with other counties that failed to follow Georgia rules and regulations regarding drop boxes,” Raffensperger said. “This cannot continue.”

Fulton election officials did fill out some transfer forms, and state election investigators will look into how many might be missing.

It could be a big job. Over 145,000 Fulton voters returned absentee ballots, either in drop boxes or by mail, during the general election.

A Fulton spokeswoman said the county “followed procedures for the collection of absentee ballots.” She made it sound like it’s just a matter of putting their hands on those forms now.

“We maintain a large quantity of documents and (are) researching our files from last year to produce the ballot transfer forms,” Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez said.

Raffensperger started the investigation after a conservative website, The Georgia Star News, published an article questioning Fulton’s handling of the forms.

When the investigation is completed, the State Election Board will review its findings. The board has the power to issue reprimands, levy fines and refer cases to the attorney general’s office for further investigation.

Raffensperger indicates Fulton could be target for takeover

There was nothing to ease Fulton County’s concerns when Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was asked this past week about the potential of a state takeover of its election board.

The Savannah Morning News reports that Raffensperger, during a visit to the region, took a question about the state’s new election law, Senate Bill 202, which would allow state officials to intervene and eventually take over county boards found to be “underperforming.”

“No one wants to take over a county election board. But when you have a situation that’s gone on for 25 years, at some point, people say enough is enough,” Raffensperger said. “The rest of the state is getting frustrated. So are Fulton County residents. They want the results. They want them accurate. They want them on time.”

If such a takeover were to occur, Raffensperger said it would follow a “nonpartisan” and “methodical” process, and “it probably wouldn’t happen before 2022.”

The response from Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts was a strong one.

“It appears that Secretary of State Raffensperger is laying the groundwork for a hostile takeover of Fulton County’s Board of Registrations & Elections,” Pitts said in a statement. “His comrades in this fight are conspiracy theorists who promote the same Big Lie that he purportedly doesn’t believe. The votes have been counted three times, including a hand recount, and President Biden came out ahead every time. Given the results in 2020, I would suggest he focus more on the next election than relitigating this last one.”

Hearing set in Fulton ballot review case

Here’s something to watch Monday: A judge is considering Fulton County’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit several election skeptics filed seeking to review the county’s absentee ballots.

The suit is the latest attempt to question results that have repeatedly withstood scrutiny, with no evidence of widespread fraud. Georgia election officials counted ballots three times, audited voter signatures, opened dozens of investigations and certified Democrat Joe Biden’s 12,000-vote win in the state over Republican Donald Trump.

But plaintiffs in the suit, who doubt the integrity of the election after Trump blamed fraud for his defeat, have argued that in prior investigations the government hadn’t looked hard enough.

They’re trying to inspect ballots to search for counterfeits or other signs of fraud.

The original paper ballots would remain in Fulton’s possession, and there’s no public recount. Instead, Fulton election officials would create high-resolution digital images of ballots for the plaintiffs to examine and later present their findings in court.

No matter its outcome, the ballot review would not change the election’s results.

Clyde files suit over fines involving metal detectors

U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, announced in partnership with U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, that they have filed suit against the U.S. House sergeant at arms over fines they face for bypassing metal detectors that were installed outside the House chamber.

Clyde has totaled $15,000 in fines after twice skirting the security screenings in February.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered the installation of the metal detectors following the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Clyde and Gohmert also sued the House’s chief administrative officer, whose office authorized docking the lawmakers’ pay when they refused to pay the fines.

The lawsuit calls the policy unconstitutional and says it has been unequally enforced between Republicans and Democrats — even though the second-ranking Democrat in the House, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, has also been fined. (The House Ethics Committee, however, dropped the fine against Clyburn, as well as Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky.)

House special elections move to the runoff phase

The Georgia House will remain short two members for another month after no candidate gained more than half of the vote in special elections in Cobb County and South Georgia.

Both are Republican districts.

In Cobb, the GOP frontrunner will be the favorite in a July 13 runoff, and two Republicans will face off that same day in the other race.

Devan Seabaugh, an ambulance company executive, received about 47% of the 7,000 votes cast in the Cobb election to replace state Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, in House District 34.

Seabaugh will face off against Democrat Priscilla Smith, who got almost 25% of the vote in the five-candidate contest. Also running were Democrat Sam Hensley Jr., Republican David Blinkhorn and Libertarian Chris Neill, who finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively.

In South Georgia, Leesa Hagan got about 43% of the vote to about 42% for Wally Sapp. Democrat Wright Gres finished third with nearly 15% of the vote.

The winner will succeed state Rep. Greg Morris, R-Vidalia, in House District 156. Morris resigned after winning election to the State Transportation Board.

More meetings set to get redistricting process moving

The chairs of the state House and Senate Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committees — Rep. Bonnie Rich, R-Suwanee, and Sen. John Kennedy, R-Macon — scheduled 10 more sessions across the state after getting the process going this past week with a virtual town hall.

That gathering by pixel featured calls to avoid gerrymandering, a practice that involves lawmakers drawing districts that allow them to pick the voters who will most likely pick them. It’s a tactic majority parties have long employed to preserve their power as they redraw the boundaries of congressional and legislative districts every 10 years following a census.

Speakers also asked that the new maps be made public well before state lawmakers vote on them this fall during a special legislative session. That, they said, will allow for rigorous public debate.

Here’s the schedule for the remaining meetings:

  • June 28 — Atlanta, 5-7 p.m. in Room 341 of the Georgia Capitol
  • June 29 — Cumming, 5-7 p.m. in the South Forsyth High School cafeteria
  • June 30 — Dalton, 5-7 p.m. in the Goodroe Auditorium at Dalton State College
  • July 6 — Athens
  • July 7 — Augusta
  • July 26 — Brunswick
  • July 27 — Albany
  • July 28 — Columbus
  • July 29 — Macon
  • July 30 — Virtual only