The Jolt: After the mob showed itself, Kelly Loeffler ended her attempt to sack Georgia’s electoral votes

Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., arrives as a joint session of the House and Senate convenes to confirm the Electoral College votes cast in November's election, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP)
Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., arrives as a joint session of the House and Senate convenes to confirm the Electoral College votes cast in November's election, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP)

Credit: Kevin Dietsch

Credit: Kevin Dietsch

Late last night, Kelly Loeffler conceded defeat in her yearlong effort to become an elected member of the U.S. Senate.

Not in so many words, but with her 11th hour disavowal of President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn his Nov. 3 defeat at the hands of Georgia voters:

Loeffler, who lost her runoff Tuesday but remains in office until the Rev. Raphael Warnock is sworn in, initially said she would object as a final act of fealty to President Donald Trump.

“The events that transpired have forced me to reconsider, and I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these electors,” Loeffler said in a speech on the Senate floor. “The violence, the lawlessness and siege of the halls of Congress are abhorrent and stand as a direct attack on what my objection was intended to protect, the sanctity of the American democratic process.”

-

Both Loeffler and fellow Republican incumbent David Perdue, who was also defeated on Tuesday, had called for the resignation of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, after Georgia was called for President-elect Joe Biden in November.

Both endorsed a Trump lawsuit, also backed by the Georgia GOP, to discard Georgia’s Nov. 3 election results -- for the presidential contest, anyway.

Loeffler’s withdrawal on Wednesday night killed a final effort to ditch the votes of nearly 5 million Georgia voters made by U.S. Reps. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro; Rick Allen, R-Augusta; Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome; Andrew Clyde, R-Jackson, and Buddy Carter, R-Pooler.

But Loeffler’s decision was also an acknowledgement that Trump and his base of support, who had just sacked the U.S. Capitol, was of no further use to her. Nor is she any use to him, apparently. From Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair:

In recent days, as Trump’s bid to overturn the election became increasingly desperate, he expressed anarchist comments in private, a second Republican close to the White House told me. The Republican said Trump told people that he wanted David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to lose the Georgia Senate runoff election as a way of punishing them and Mitch McConnell. “Trump told people he is really angry that the senators and McConnell hadn’t stood up for him to challenge the election. He’s happy they lost.”

-

The New York Times reports similar sentiments from President Trump.

***

We are in strange times when the Democrat victories in two U.S. Senate races in Georgia, and the end of six years of Republican rule of that chamber, land at the bottom of the front page of the AJC. But that’s where we are. Here’s the top of the lede editorial in today’s edition:

The violent assault on democracy that unfolded Wednesday in our nation’s capital was predictable.

It has been building for far too long. And many who should have known better are culpable.

It began with the rise in acceptability of wink-and-nod sniping at democracy’s tenets or elected officials with whom those holding a megaphone disagreed.

The more casual misstatements or untruths cast into such speech the better, it seemed.

Yes, bickering and dissent are common tools of politics and legislating. They are deeply ingrained in the American Way, for good reason. They can help lead to compromise and effective results.

Yet they are light-years removed from the lobbing of aspersions and untruths that have poisoned our politics. We now see the result of that corrosively cynical discourse: a mob breaching the U.S. Capitol and lawlessly disrupting a key constitutional formality in the peaceful transition of power.

The scenes that unfolded are proof of the power of words misused and weaponized toward selfish intent. Falsehoods and outright lies have consequences.

Among their ranks:

-- U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

-- U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde.

-- U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

-- U.S. Rep. Rick Allen.

-- U.S. Rep. Jody Hice.

-- U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk.

We list your names to create a record for history. You owe Georgians an explanation...

-

***

As we said, Wednesday was a torrent of news. But for the record:

Even after Joe Biden narrowly captured Georgia, there were whispers that it was a one-off win, a stroke of luck driven more by displeasure with President Donald Trump than a sudden embrace of Democratic politicians.

There’s no doubt about it anymore. Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock swept the state’s U.S. Senate runoffs, a pair of stunning victories that flip control of the chamber and pave the way for Biden to pursue his legislative agenda in Congress.

The defeats of U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue cemented the transformation of Georgia from a Republican bastion into a full-fledged swing state.

-

***

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice was the author of the failed Republican challenge to Georgia’s 16 electoral college votes. From today’s AJC:

Hice, from Greensboro, appeared to support the protests in an Instagram that was deleted after the riots. Still, a screenshot circulated on other social media channels.

The photo of Hice walking in the Capitol was captioned, “This is our 1776 moment.” His office did not respond to questions about the post or why he decided to take it down.

-

A Hice staffer this morning sent this note: “The 1776 post was our way of highlighting the electoral objection -- we removed the post when we realized it could be misconstrued as supporting those acting violently yesterday and storming the Capitol. Both of which Rep. Hice strongly condemns.”

***

On Wednesday, before U.S. Rep. Jody Hice and other Georgia GOP members of Congress tried to strip Georgia of its electoral college votes, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger sent Hice, U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Cassville, and U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler a rebuttal that he wanted placed on record. Here it is:

***

We have written of the divide President Trump’s refusal to accept defeat has created in Georgia between Republicans elected statewide and those in Washington who have been more dependent on Trump’s whims.

About 100 protesters gathered at the state Capitol on Wednesday to protest President Trump’s election loss. Some were armed with long guns. From our AJC colleague Chris Joyner:

The group included about two dozen members of the far-right militia movement and some other notable figures, including former Ku Klux Klan leader Chester Doles, who made national headlines when he posed for a photo with Sen. Kelly Loeffler at a Republican campaign event last month.

-

Inside the state Capitol, Gov. Brian Kemp, House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan gathered to denounce the violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters –and to assure Georgians that their own Capitol was secured. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had been escorted away by state troopers for his own safety. From the press conference:

“It’s a disgrace and quite honestly un-American,” Kemp said, adding: “For those of you that have been calling for a special session, you can now see what that would look like.”

-

But Trump’s continued influence was evident:

The governor didn’t directly criticize Trump, who frequently berates Kemp for refusing to invalidate Georgia’s free and fair election.

But he singled out Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who called for “trial by combat” at a rally Wednesday that incited the mob besieging the Capitol.

“Rudy Giuliani saying he wanted trial by combat is simply outrageous, and there’s no place for that in the nation,” Kemp said of the former New York City mayor, who has spouted sham conspiracy theories at several state legislative hearings in the past month.

-

***

Wednesday’s events in Washington are sure to result in more than a few frayed nerves in Atlanta on Monday, when state lawmakers gather for the 2021 session of the General Assembly. Our AJC colleague Mark Niesse writes of renewed Republican interest in shutting down no-excuse absentee voting in Georgia:

State Sen. Burt Jones, a Republican from Jackson, said in-person voting is safer than depositing ballots in the mail or drop boxes.

“When you don’t have a secure chain of custody, particularly with drop boxes, there’s no reason for that to be in the process,” Jones said. “You’ve got three weeks of early voting and Saturday voting. You’ve given ample time and opportunities for people to get the effort to go in to vote.”

-

State Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, responded this morning with this Tweet:

If Republicans in the Georgia General Assembly move to restrict absentee voting as it now operates, I will feel the same as I do about the effort to stop the certification of electors: that it is an assault on voting and democracy.

-

In a text he sent to us, Holcomb added: “I’m not playing.”

***

As noted, the attempted coup in Washington produced some spectacular and overlooked developments. For instance, President-elect Joe Biden selected Merrick Garland, whose U.S. Supreme Court nomination rejected out of hand by Republicans four years ago, to serve as his attorney general. Former federal prosecutor Sally Yates of Atlanta had also been in the running. And from Reuters:

The head of a major U.S. business group that represents 14,000 companies including Exxon Mobil Corp, Pfizer Inc and Toyota Motor Corp urged senior U.S. officials to consider removing President Donald Trump from office after supporters of the outgoing president stormed the U.S. Capitol.

National Association of Manufacturers Chief Executive Jay Timmons said Trump “incited violence in an attempt to retain power, and any elected leader defending him is violating their oath to the Constitution and rejecting democracy in favor of anarchy. ... Vice President (Mike) Pence, who was evacuated from the Capitol, should seriously consider working with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to preserve democracy.”

-

Additionally, a boatload of political scientists throughout the country, are circulating an open letter also demanding Trump’s neutralization through the 25th amendment:

The President’s actions threaten American democracy. He has rejected the peaceful transfer of power, encouraged state legislators to overturn election results in their states, pressured a state official to change election results, and now incited a violent mob that shut down the counting of electoral votes and stormed the U.S. Capitol.

-

Among them are at least 29 academics from Georgia institutions.

***

Anyone paying attention to the 2020 elections in Georgia heard the mob was coming, along with anarchy, riots and lawlessness.

But the warnings came consistently, and constantly, from Republicans, including Kelly Loeffler, David Perdue, DonaldTrump, and even Gov. Brian Kemp, before he was banished from the campaign trail for refusing to overturn Georgia’s election election results.

A sample of the warnings:

-- “You can see what’s happening in our country today,” Loeffler said at a stop in Buford. “You’ve got anarchy. You’ve got mob rule. We have to keep our community safe.”

-- Former South Carolina Gov. Nikke Haley, stumping for Loeffler in Hall County: “This is the difference between law and order, or the difference between lawlessness and riots.”

-- And Kemp: “You’re also gonna see lawlessness in the streets in our neighborhoods.”

And who could forget U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, campaigning for Loeffler and Perdue, when he played a three-minute video of himself as an action hero, called “Georgia Reloaded.”

In it, he parachutes into Georgia ahead of the Loeffler-Perdue runoffs after being told “far-left activists are attempting gainful and total control of the U.S. government.”

After jumping out of a plane and landing in Georgia -- in full, tactical gear, Crenshaw tells Republicans, “Bring everyone.”

Loeffler, Trump and others were right. Mobs did come. But they weren’t the Democrats they warned us about.

In Other News