Opinion: Georgia has singular part in impeachment drama

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger makes remarks during a press conference at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger makes remarks during a press conference at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Only one state plays a central role in the Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump: Georgia.

“Trump applied particularly intense pressure to Georgia officials,” the first trial brief from House prosecutors stated this week, detailing how the former president focused his ire on Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger over Joe Biden’s win in Georgia.

“On Thanksgiving Day, he declared Raffensperger an ‘enemy of the people’ for insisting upon the integrity of Georgia’s election,” the House managers stated.

Only one state will have evidence provided of a sitting president trying to strong-arm election officials into changing the outcome of the vote: Georgia.

“Just as actions to suppress votes are illegal, attempting to change an electoral result must be condemned in the strongest terms,” former Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens told me.

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“The phone call with Raffensperger is especially damning,” said congressional scholar Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, who maintains that the House should play the recorded phone call involving Trump and Georgia officials.

“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state,” Trump said on the call, recorded and released to the press by Raffensperger’s office.

“It should be a major part of their presentation,” Ornstein said.

“They defrauded us out of a win in Georgia, and we’re not going to forget it,” Trump told thousands of his supporters, before they laid siege to the Capitol.

In that speech, Trump rattled off allegations of voter fraud in Georgia which weren’t true.

In his Jan. 2 call with Raffensperger, Trump said over 5,000 dead people voted in Georgia. In his speech on Jan. 6, Trump said it was 10,000.

“The actual number was two. Two,” Raffensperger told Trump.

Even some of Trump’s most ardent defenders have admitted he told fake tales of Georgia election fraud.

“They claimed 66,000 people voted in Georgia under age 18,” U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, said of the Trump campaign’s allegations about fraud in Georgia.

“I have not found one person,” Graham said.

That was also true of the president’s false claim that over 2,500 felons in Georgia prisons had voted. He made a similar charge about the vote in Arizona that didn’t pan out.

“I’ve asked for a list of names and received none,” Graham said.

This may be the sharpest focus in Congress on the state of Georgia since U.S. Senate hearings in 1977 involving Jimmy Carter’s budget director, Bert Lance.

Unlike Lance, no Georgia officials are expected to testify in this impeachment trial.

But that won’t erase the role the state has played in both defeating the former president and knocking his party out of power in the U.S. Senate.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and the Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column will appear weekly in the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com

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