Georgians in the Jan. 6 report back in power for next election, too

If you, like me, tuned out from the news before the Jan. 6 Committee released its 845-page report just before Christmas, it’s time to tune back in.

That’s because the report essentially concluded that the attack on the Capitol was likely a high-level crime, and the events in Georgia leading up to it should be considered part of the crime scene.

“Georgia was the gasoline, and all you had to do was get everybody in one place and light the match,” Georgia State law professor Anthony Michael Kreis told me after reading the report.

“You don’t get to Jan. 6 without the false allegations of election fraud, followed by the attempts to undo it, followed by throwing the fake electors into the mix so that you can claim that there’s an alternative slate, which then gives you the opportunity to object on Jan. 6,” he said.

References to Georgia appear 393 times in the report, illustrating how central the state was to Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss on Jan. 6, along with parallel efforts in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Arizona.

Among the many Georgia-specific events the report describes is a pro-Trump rally after the 2020 election led by white nationalists at the state Capitol, which the committee said foreshadowed the Capitol attack six weeks later.

The report also goes into significant detail on Trump’s infamous call to Brad Raffensperger to “find” the 11,780 votes the president needed to win the state; false conspiracies floated and amplified by pro-Trump Georgia lawmakers to sow doubt about Trump’s loss in the state; the smear campaign against Georgia election workers by Trump, even after he’d been told his allegations were false; and the then-president’s repeated efforts to use the Department of Justice to overturn Georgia’s election results.

Whether or not specific crimes were committed in Georgia as a part of all of this has been the focus of the special purpose grand jury meeting since May at the Fulton County Courthouse. The panel convened by District Attorney Fani Willis is expected to decide soon whether to recommend further investigation or a criminal grand jury to Willis.

At about the same time, the Georgia General Assembly will gavel into session two blocks away at the state Capitol on Jan. 9, nearly two years to the day after the U.S. Capitol attack. The session will include plenty of the same players who featured prominently in the chaos after the 2020 election and in the committee report last week.

Tops on the list are Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, whom the report describes as rejecting repeated efforts from Trump to overturn his Georgia election loss after three statewide recounts confirmed Joe Biden’s victory.

Also playing prominent roles at the Capitol in the year ahead will be Lt. Gov.-elect Burt Jones, whom the report notes signed his name as one of Georgia’s “duly elected and qualified electors” for Trump, which he was not since Trump lost state.

Jones told me in a statement he was never contacted by the Jan. 6th committee as a part of its investigation and that he’s now “focused on the future and solving issues that are facing everyday Georgians.”

GOP state Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, is also set to be sworn in again in January. Beach and Jones were stripped of their committee chairmanships by Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan for pushing Trump’s election conspiracies. But, as one of his first official acts, incoming Lt. Gov. Jones appointed Beach to the committee that decides assignments for everybody else.

Beach made an appearance in the committee report for his role in helping to convene the group of fake electors in Georgia for Trump on the same day Democrats cast their electoral votes for Biden.

And joining the state Senate in January will be Republican Shawn Still, a Forsyth County pool contractor who won a newly drawn state Senate seat. The AJC’s Mark Niesse reported that Still was the secretary of the Trump electors that day.

Along with the elected officials at the Capitol, plenty of Republican bigwigs are still playing high-level roles in Georgia politics. David Shafer, who was subpoenaed by the Jan. 6th Committee and the Fulton County special grand jury, is so far still the head of the Georgia GOP.

And Bill White, the high-profile Trump donor whom Atlantans will recognize as the man behind last year’s “Buckhead City” secession effort, also made a surprise appearance in the report. The report flagged his email to Trump political advisers asking the president to boost a Tweet from Jones calling for that special session of the Legislature.

White told me in a text that, like Jones, he never heard from the Jan. 6th Committee before they included him in the report and that he “would never have anything to do with what happened at the Capitol that day or anything to do with Jan. 6 whatsoever.”

Despite his role in Trump’s early “Stop the Steal” campaign in Georgia and his own cameo in the report, White plans to be back down at the Capitol this year lobbying lawmakers, including Jones, Beach, Still, and others, to give the Buckhead City effort another try.

Time will soon tell us what happens legally to the people involved in Trump’s effort to overturn Georgia’s election results in Georgia, including to Trump himself.

But the report also makes it clear that it could all happen again.

“What Fani Willis really has to face is that without some kind of punishment, or without some kind of at least public trial to hold people to account for what they did, the real likelihood is that people will try it again,” Kreis said. “They’ll just shrug it off and say, ‘Well, they did last time, too.’”

The Jan. 6 committee has finished its work, but the job of preventing it from happening again is just getting started.