OPINION: It’s Donald Trump vs. the truth in Georgia. Again.

Credit: NYT

Credit: NYT

A queasy feeling settled over Georgia this week for anyone who had been involved in the 2020 elections, particularly those who tried to tell former President Donald Trump’s supporters then that the Georgia election was not stolen, even as Trump wrongly insisted that it had been.

Death threats and worse came for officials who stood against Trump, but you couldn’t tell anyone the truth who didn’t want to believe it. Now three years later, after counts, recounts, audits, and more than 60 failed lawsuits, an AJC poll this week showed 61% of Republican voters still wrongly believe the election was a fraud, all because Trump said so.

The cost of that misinformation was so high that Trump has now been indicted in Fulton County, not for the lies he told, but for the actions he and others took to overturn the election after he told those lies. Today he’s facing felony charges from a District Attorney he couldn’t intimidate and jail time in a state where he can’t pardon himself.

In the face of that abyss, the Trump misinformation machine is firing up again, telling his supporters across the country he’s beloved in Fulton County when he is not, and that Georgia Republican lawmakers can oust, defund, or defang Fulton DA Fani Willis with a special session of the Legislature, which is also not true.

Don’t tell that to state Sen. Colton Moore, who infuriated his fellow Republican senators this week by writing a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp demanding an “emergency” special session to “review and respond to the actions of Fani Willis.” Getting just two co-signers for his idea, which would require three-fifths of the members and many Democrats to make it happen, Moore then turned to talk radio.

That’s where he called Republicans “buzzard cowards” and “RINOs” for not supporting the idea and warned that he doesn’t want to “draw my rifle” or see a civil war to get justice for Trump.

He also pushed out a petition and, to his colleagues’ further disgust, a link for donors to give him money. “Donate to help me keep up the pressure,” he wrote.

By Wednesday, Trump amplified the first-year senator’s effort and recorded a video calling Moore “highly respected” and Willis a “far-left lunatic.” Conservative activists circulated the video with the note, “Call your elected officials and tell them to sign his letter!”

A “rogue” Democrat, a special session, and fundraisers to keep it going, all based on dishonesty from Trump. Georgia, we have seen this movie before.

The result of all of this has been the same toxic stew as the last time around, with threats and intimidation coming for lawmakers of both parties and an environment that feels like a tinder box .

But this time the response from Georgia’s top Republicans has been different.

Unlike 2020′s wait-and-see, quiet rejection of Trump’s demands, this week Gov. Brian Kemp and House Speaker Jon Burns both roundly rejected Moore’s call for a special session and Trump’s suggestion that Willis should lose her funding, which also can’t legally happen.

“We will not improperly intercede in this matter in direct contradiction of the oaths we took,” Burns wrote, warning that the ideas Moore is peddling are erroneous, unconstitutional, and liable to only stop murder and rape prosecutions in Fulton County, not the Trump trial.

Up until this point, the Speaker has spent his first months in office mostly steadying the House following the unexpected death of the late Speaker David Ralston.

But with House members getting pounded by angry constituents, Burns used his power and platform this week in hopes of keeping members from suffering the same threats and chaos they saw the last time around.

On Thursday, Kemp held an extraordinary press conference in his office. Officially the press event was meant for Kemp to talk about Hurricane Idalia, which had hit Georgia overnight, but turned into Kemp talking about the political storm that Moore has caused.

The governor referred to the senator’s scheme as, “Some grifter scam that somebody’s doing to help them raise a few dollars into their campaign account.”

And he said a special session won’t happen. “We will not be engaging in political fear that only inflames the emotions of the moment,” he said. “We will do what is right.”

Kemp was not so fast to act in 2020, nor so public in correcting the record. But he’s got the power in the state now, not Trump. And the lessons of 2020 have been learned the hard way, though obviously not by everyone. Moore is scheduled to be at the state Capitol next week for a press conference to push for a special session, again.

Since Moore is new to the Senate, I reached out to him earlier this summer to see him in his North Georgia district. But he said he was too busy digging a hole that would become a pond to stop and texted a picture of himself on a bulldozer, on the edge of a massive crater. “I do this every day,” he wrote. No kidding.

Moore is digging his next hole now, and it’s a big one.

It would be easy enough to dismiss a freshman senator’s fundraising scheme as noise or nonsense or just partisan politics if we hadn’t just witnessed the consequences of Trump’s conspiracies in 2020.

The beginning of that story is repeating itself. And it isn’t just Trump on trial in Georgia this time, it’s the truth itself. What we do now — including what we are willing to believe, tolerate, and speak out about, even in the face of danger — will determine how it ends.