How Georgia political leaders reacted to Trump’s conviction

Your daily jolt of news and analysis from the AJC politics team

Former President Donald Trump’s historic conviction for falsifying documents to cover up a sex scandal amid his 2016 presidential campaign is no doubt a political earthquake.

But will the unanimous verdict rendered Thursday by a New York jury have a seismic impact on the outcome of the November election? Or will the conviction on all 34 counts be remembered as little more than a tremor after the ballots are tallied?

Political analysts and longtime operatives say it’s too early to predict the aftershocks here in Georgia, where Trump’s rematch against President Joe Biden could again come down to the wire. The state’s leading politicians quickly placed bets.

Anti-Trump demonstrators celebrate his 34 felony convictions near Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday.

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

Republican reaction to the verdict that transformed Trump into the nation’s first felon president more or less fell into three categories.

There were some who stayed silent. There were others who disparaged the charges but didn’t defend Trump. And there were those deep in MAGA world who went all-in for the former president.

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones was in the third camp, calling Trump a “political prisoner” while urging supporters to fight back by donating to his bid. So did other Trump loyalists such as former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who said Trump was the victim of “tyranny.”

Others offered more scaled-back responses. Gov. Brian Kemp and state House Speaker Jon Burns both criticized the criminal justice system but said voters would render the final verdict. Many, many more state Republicans held their fire.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks to the news media after a jury found former President Donald Trump guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records on Thursday.

Credit: Seth Wenig/AP

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Credit: Seth Wenig/AP

Democratic reaction spanned the spectrum, too. Biden didn’t deliver remarks, instead issuing a cautious statement that the only way for voters to rid themselves of Trump is “at the ballot box.

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, at a voter mobilization event late Thursday, repeated his mantra that voters don’t care for the “daily partisan drama” dominating cable news. But the Atlanta Democrat said the conviction helps sharpen the contrast between the president and Trump-driven “chaos.”

And state Rep. Stacey Evans, a former gubernatorial candidate, said the fallout could be minimal but still impactful. The MAGA faithful were already firmly in his camp, she said, but it could help sway more swing voters.

“I think this will have a bigger impact on independent voters who don’t want a president convicted of a felony. You can’t underestimate the ick factor of that,” said Evans, D-Atlanta.

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U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, has pushed for more recognition of Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park.

Credit: Tia Mitchell/AJC

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Credit: Tia Mitchell/AJC

NATIONAL PARK? A crusade led by two Georgia lawmakers to designate Ocmulgee Mounds as a national park has received an important blessing from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR sent a letter of support to U.S. Reps. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, and Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, backing the bid after the legislators revised the proposed Ocmulgee Mounds National Park and Preserve Establishment Act to provide for more hunting and fishing opportunities on the site.

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., center, has been a catalyst in the effort for a new designation for Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park in Macon.

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Credit: TNS

The Ocmulgee Mounds were built in prehistoric times by American Indians and the area surrounding the site was later home to Muscogee tribes. About 2,000 artifacts, some dating to 10,000 BC, have been found near the mound.

Ocmulgee Mounds would be Georgia’s first national park.

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SOURED BY GREENE. A lengthy New York Times piece documenting the wave of U.S. House members quitting Congress has a noteworthy passage involving U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina and a House freshman he was assigned to mentor shortly after her victory in 2020 — U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

Duncan was one of the earliest members of the House Freedom Caucus and so conservative he got the nickname “Hard Headed” from former House Speaker John Boehner. But Greene did not seem interested in what Duncan had to teach.

From the Times:

But Ms. Greene met with him only once, Mr. Duncan said in an interview, and seemed less interested in learning the ins and outs of Congress than in developing a social media following, about which he knew little. In any case, he said, he had grown weary of the prideful intransigence exhibited by his comrades on the right.

“I've told my colleagues in the Freedom Caucus many times, you need to learn how to take a win," Mr. Duncan said. He has decided that this year will be his last in Congress.

- The New York Times

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A Confederate monument was removed late last year from Arlington National Cemetery. U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, wanted to bring it back.

Credit: Calla Kessler, The Washington Post

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Credit: Calla Kessler, The Washington Post

CLYDE AND THE CONFEDERACY. U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, made what turned out to be a one-man stand in support of a Confederate monument at Arlington National Cemetery.

Our friend Jamie Dupree chronicled Clyde’s failed effort to force the return of a memorial removed from Arlington last year. The monument stood at the cemetery for more than a century.

U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde (center), R-Athens, wants a Confederate monument reinstalled in Arlington National Cemetery.

Credit: Seth Wenig/AP

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Credit: Seth Wenig/AP

Clyde is a member of a House panel focused on military construction spending and proposed an amendment that would make funding contingent on the memorial’s reinstatement. He received no support for the amendment.

Dupree has details about the memorial and how Clyde has become the “unofficial champion of the Confederacy on Capitol Hill” during his time in office.

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BUSTED SYSTEM. A computer bug has the State Ethics Commission rebooting its initiative to provide greater campaign finance transparency. The agency is formally seeking a replacement for an e-filing system that cost taxpayers $1.5 million and was in service for less than four years.

The AJC’s James Salzer reports the commission intends to scrap the system prior to the 2026 elections, when all state offices will be on the ballot. The program is supposed to let the public know who is funding campaigns and what politicians are beneficiaries of Capitol lobbyists’ largesse.

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U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, says she is open to running for governor.

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

GOV. McBATH? U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath told the AJC’s “Politically Georgia” podcast earlier this week that she’s leaving the door open to a run for governor in 2026.

“Wherever God leads me, I will go,” she said.

McBath would be the first Black or female governor of Georgia, but could she catch on with enough voters across the state to make that a possibility?

Atlanta Voice editor-in-chief Donnell Suggs told the “Politically Georgia” show Thursday that news stories about McBath are consistently the most read for the newspaper.

“She’s very popular in the Black community no matter what district she’s in,” he said. “This is just my opinion, but she’d have a better shot at the governorship than Stacey Abrams running for a third time.”

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LISTEN UP. Today’s “Politically Georgia” episode features reaction to the conviction of former President Donald Trump from Georgia’s top political voices. First, Georgia GOP chairman Josh McKoon weighs in on the Trump verdict. Then U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, the Atlantan who chairs the Democratic Party of Georgia, gives a Democrat’s perspective.

Listen live at 10 a.m. on WABE 90.1 or follow “Politically Georgia” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

In case you missed Thursday’s show, Errin Haines, editor at large of The 19th, discussed how abortion, gun safety, and other issues are likely to affect women voters’ preferences. Later, Atlanta Voice editor-in-chief

Donnell Suggs discussed the role of the Black press and what he’s hearing from his readers this election year.

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Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz wants a recall petition to be dismissed.

Credit: Nell Carroll for the AJC

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Credit: Nell Carroll for the AJC

MAYOR RECALL. An Athens-area resident seeking a vote to remove Mayor Kelly Girtz from office is engaging in a legal fight to put the recall on the ballot.

James Lee DePaola launched the effort following the slaying of nursing student Laken Riley in February. He said Girtz, along with the county sheriff and the district attorney serving the region, have created a de facto “sanctuary city” for undocumented immigrants. The man charged with the killing is a Venezuelan national who entered the country illegally.

Girtz has petitioned for the recall application to be dismissed and a state court judge ordered DePaolo to respond to Girtz’s challenge. DePaola filed his answer via email earlier this week, meaning the recall petition will continue. According to reporting by the Athens Banner-Herald, the Athens-Clarke County elections director is waiting for the judge to issue guidance on where the recall goes from here.

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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) and the rest of the team will celebrate the Super Bowl victory at the White House today.

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Credit: TNS

TODAY IN WASHINGTON:

  • President Joe Biden meets with Prime Minister Alexander De Croo of Belgium at the White House. Later, he welcomes the Kansas City Chiefs to celebrate their Super Bowl win.
  • The House and Senate are in recess until Monday.

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GOOD THINGS IN GOD’S COUNTRY. Congratulations to our pal Charlie Hayslett for his appointment as scholar in residence for the Center for Middle Georgia Studies at Middle Georgia State University in Macon.

Longtime readers know Hayslett as the creator of Trouble in God’s Country, his blog that uses data to analyze the growing disparities between wealthy and fast-growing Atlanta and the rest of Georgia, which he calls “Notlanta.” In a previous life, he was also The Atlanta Journal’s man in Washington during the early Jimmy Carter administration.

In his new capacity, Hayslett says he’ll be developing remedies for the deepening problems afflicting rural Georgia. In addition, he’ll be writing a weekly “Trouble in God’s Country” column available to all the newspapers in the state.

The first installment is available over at the Dublin Courier Herald.

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Bucatini Monroe strikes a pose in front of the new AJC mural at the Krog Street Market in Atlanta.

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

DOG OF THE DAY. We all deserve a Dog of the Day after a week like this. And we can’t think of a better pooch for the job than Bucatini Monroe.

Not only does Bucatini have the name of a movie star and the looks of a model, put this pup in front of the soon-to-be iconic AJC mural at Krog Street Market, and we do believe we have a bona fide influencer on our hands.

Buca calls Morgan Mornoe of Atlanta her person, and we, of course, call Buca our Dog of the Day.

If your pet is ready for his or her 15 minutes of newsletter fame, send them our way! Pups of any political persuasion considered, as are cats on a cat-by-cat basis. Horizontal photos are especially welcome. Send to patricia.murphy@ajc.com.

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AS ALWAYS, Politically Georgia readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to greg.bluestein@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com, patricia.murphy@ajc.com and adam.vanbrimmer@ajc.com.