New report hints at why Loeffler, Perdue were in Fulton probe’s crosshairs

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Two of the most surprising names on the lengthy list of Donald Trump allies who could have faced charges in Fulton County’s election interference case against the former president are among the state’s highest-profile politicians: former U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

The two Republicans were not charged in the sweeping indictment that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis brought last month against Trump and 18 co-defendants. But a report released Friday disclosed special grand jurors recommended they face criminal counts.

The report, the result of an investigation that spanned nearly eight months, doesn’t specify what specific actions led the majority of the 23-person grand jury to support charges against Loeffler and Perdue, who were both defeated in 2021 runoffs that flipped control of the Senate.

But it indicates that Perdue was under the microscope because of “repeated communications directed to multiple Georgia officials and employees” between November 2020 and January 2021. And it said both were investigated involving allegations that they played a role in the “national effort” to reverse Trump’s defeat.

Loeffler said she was “giving voice to millions of Americans who felt disenfranchised in 2020″ and that she wouldn’t be “intimidated by a two-tiered system of justice that seeks to systematically destroy conservatives across this country.”

Perdue didn’t immediately comment on the report, which included the jurors’ vote tallies for each person recommended for indictment. In a footnote, one of the few dissenting jurors said their actions amounted to “pandering to their political base” and not criminal activity.

While Perdue has retired from public life after two consecutive statewide defeats, Loeffler remains active in Republican politics and is seen as a potential candidate for governor or the U.S. Senate in 2026.

A 2020 flashback

Fierce allies of Trump, the two GOP senators failed to win an outright majority in the November 2020 election and were forced into a Jan. 5, 2021, runoff that decided control of the Senate.

Perdue was the better known of the duo. First elected in 2014, he sought a second term against Democrat Jon Ossoff with Trump’s full-throated support and the backing of Republican elite in Georgia and across the nation.

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Loeffler entered the runoff phase in a more precarious situation. She was appointed to the seat by Gov. Brian Kemp in 2019 to succeed retiring Johnny Isakson over Trump’s initial objection, and she faced a hard-line Republican rival who cast her as a phony conservative.

She framed herself as the most ardent Trump supporter in the race and dipped deep into her personal fortune to self-finance her campaign. She bested U.S. Rep. Doug Collins to land a place in the runoff, but she finished a distant second to the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who had unified most Democratic support.

As the runoff neared, Loeffler and Perdue took increasingly aggressive steps to back the then-president and his supporters, and their advisers and allies constantly fretted that one negative word from Trump could doom their chances.

Credit: Hyosub Shin / AJC

Credit: Hyosub Shin / AJC

On the campaign trail, both promoted their pro-Trump voting record, demanded that Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger resign over unspecified ”failures” and refused to acknowledge that Democrat Joe Biden was the president-elect or that he rightfully won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes.

And days before the runoff, both supported Trump-backed efforts to block Biden’s victory in Congress, though neither voted to object to the 2020 results. Perdue’s term expired before the Jan. 6 vote, and Loeffler reversed course after a pro-Trump mob attacked the U.S. Capitol.

Perdue also took more direct steps to help Trump further his claims about a “rigged” vote. After Trump pressured Kemp to call a special session to overturn the vote, Perdue joined the pressure campaign. At a December 2020 fundraiser, he privately urged the governor to summon lawmakers back to the Capitol.

The governor rejected the idea, later telling lawmakers that reversing Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia was “not an option under state or federal law.” Perdue, meanwhile, launched a primary challenge against Kemp in 2021 that centered on his loyalty to Trump.

Throughout the campaign, Perdue echoed Trump’s lies that the 2020 vote had been “stolen and rigged,” and he assailed Kemp for refusing to call a special session to invalidate the results. In a December 2021 interview, Perdue said he still blamed Kemp for Trump’s defeat.

“I told him we needed a special session to look at it to make sure it was fixed before January,” Perdue told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The Legislature could have made sure that signatures were verified. The governor was not interested. He didn’t call a special session.”

Kemp, for his part, was asked during a debate against Perdue whether he wished he could change any of his decisions after the 2020 election. The governor, who went on to rout Perdue by 52 points, was blunt.

“I certainly have no regrets, ever, for following the laws and the constitution of this state,” Kemp said.

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution