Calling the 2020 election a “dumpster fire of ineptitude,” Shafer told the crowd he has reflected deeply on his actions after the vote, including his role leading a meeting of GOP electors at the Capitol that he said was meant to “preserve remedies” in court for Trump.
“If I had to do it all over again, knowing the trouble that would come on me, I do not know that I would have done anything different,” said Shafer, who sued to decertify the 2020 results. “I can’t think of anything I would have done different.”
Shafer added: “We followed the federal law exactly. And the prosecutors here in Georgia are attempting to charge people with crimes under Georgia law who are following Georgia law by the letter.”
On the offense against Willis
What took place Saturday is part of a rapidly evolving effort by the Georgia GOP and its key supporters to mobilize Trump’s supporters against Willis. It’s a strategy mainstream Republican leaders — including Gov. Brian Kemp — have largely avoided and, at times, vocally condemned.
The Georgia GOP, whose top officials spoke at Saturday’s event, unveiled a flashy video this week urging donors to help fight a “political show trial.” The party has agreed to pay the legal fees for Shafer and two others charged as GOP electors.
At the state Capitol, Lt. Gov. Burt Jones — who also could face criminal charges as a Republican elector — and other Senate leaders launched an investigation of the chronic overcrowding of Fulton County’s Jail that’s expected to scrutinize Willis’ handling of criminal cases.
And powerful state Republican senators recently filed a formal complaint against Willis under a new state panel, the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifcations Commission, that has the power to sanction prosecutors. Though the complaint is likely to fail, it has become a key talking point at conservative gatherings across the state.
The pushback against Willis comes despite vocal warnings from the party’s top Republicans.
Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com
Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com
Kemp and House Speaker Jon Burns have each warned fellow Republicans not to weaponize the new state commission against Willis. The governor, who defeated a Trump-backed rival last year, said he won’t stand by if Republicans try “engaging in political theater that only inflames the emotions of the moment.”
The governor has also worked to build up a rival political network that has, in some ways, already eclipsed the Georgia GOP. (One party official, David Cross, groused at a separate recent fundraiser that Kemp has “not lifted a finger” to help the state GOP.)
‘A prosecutor’s prosecutor’
At Saturday’s event, current GOP Chair Josh McKoon trained his focus on Willis as he told the sparse crowd that Republicans “must see through the defense of our presidential electors — those who have been wrongly indicted by Fani Willis.”
“Why did she wait until August?” he asked, referring to the timing of Willis’ indictment. “You know it and I know it. It’s so she can drag this out in the middle of the election. You want to talk about election interference? That’s election interference.”
Willis’ allies have accused Republicans of their own bout of political gamesmanship to try to punish the district attorney. And Willis said last week at a Washington Post forum that she doesn’t consider “any election cycle or an election season” when bringing a case.
“That does not go into the calculus,” Willis said. “What goes into the calculus is: This is the law. These are the facts. And the facts show you violated the law. Then charges are brought.”
Willis added: “I am a prosecutor’s prosecutor. I will put you in jail for life and have a real good night’s sleep about it.”
Part of a broader battle
Shafer, who has appeared at several of the fundraisers, must watch what he says about Willis and others involved in the case. Like other defendants, his $75,000 bond bans him from intimidating a co-defendant or a witness, “or to otherwise obstruct the administration of justice.”
Just days ago, Willis sought to revoke the bond of another defendant, Harrison Floyd, involving disparaging remarks he made about potential witnesses on social media and conservative podcasts. A hearing is set for Tuesday.
Over roughly five minutes, Shafer chose his words carefully.
Shafer noted that Willis recently set a June deadline for plea agreements, or she will “recommend maximum sentences.”
The indictment charges Shafer with impersonating a public officer, forgery, false statements and attempting to file false documents in connection with a plan to cast the state’s electoral votes for Trump even though Democrat Joe Biden had won the election in Georgia.
He glumly pointed out that could mean 80 years in prison for him — “I would get out some time in the next century.”
He said his prosecution was meant to send a message: “You better think twice before you ask a question, before you protest an injustice, before you point out a problem. Or what happened to David Shafer could happen to you.”
But he framed his legal defense as part of a broader battle.
“What this fight is about is so much more than the individual defendants charged with crimes. It’s about the kind of country we’re going to have and whether the laws are going to protect free speech and dissent or not.”
Nor did Shafer see a plea deal in his future, though he didn’t criticize the four co-defendants who are now cooperating with prosecutors in exchange for lesser charges.
“As long I have got the strength and resources,” Shafer said, “I’ll fight this with everything I possibly can.”