The Jolt: Donald Trump engineered his own defeat in Georgia, says secretary of state

11/06/2020 —  Atlanta, Georgia — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger makes remarks during an election update briefing at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Friday, November 6, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/06/2020 — Atlanta, Georgia — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger makes remarks during an election update briefing at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Friday, November 6, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger continued his scorched-earth campaign against fellow Republicans who question his oversight of the Georgia’s election and make baseless accusations of widespread fraud. But this time, he’s aimed higher.

Rather than swipe at U.S. Rep. Doug Collins and other Georgians who have targeted him, he shot back at President Donald Trump, who has labeled him a phony Republican and has encouraged his supporters to pile on.

On NBC’s Peacock network, Mehdi Hasan asked Raffensperger if Trump should be considered the author of his own defeat in Georgia -- because of the way he encouraged his supporters to shun absentee ballots. The secretary of state’s reply:

“I believe so, because the numbers show that. There were actually 24,000 Republican voters that voted absentee in the June primary, and those same 24,000 voters did not show up to vote in either absentee or in-person on the day of [the Nov. 3] election or the 15 days of early voting we have. So they just disappeared and they were ripe for the picking, they were there in June for the primary and they should have come home and voted for President Trump in the fall. So that’s 24,000. That’s his difference right there.”

-

Either Raffensperger knows something we don’t know about the Trump-dominated Republican electorate -- or he’s not planning on running for re-election in two years.

***

Brad Raffensberger had more to say to The Wall Street Journal for its Tuesday podcast. On U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who called for his resignation, citing vague allegations of mismanagement:

“I’m surprised that (the Trump team) put a little bit of pressure on them, they just folded like a cheap suit, but that’s OK. You know, we move on.”

-

On the death threats his family has received:

“My wife’s received them. People who don’t live in Georgia, I tend to brush them off. I pay attention to the ones that come from Georgians. Because they’re the ones who vote in our election.”

-

On his claim that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., suggested that Raffensperger throw out legal absentee ballots:

“Senator Graham implied for us to audit the envelopes -- I thought he was saying throw out the ballots in counties that had the highest frequencies of [signature mismatches]. That’s similar to that lawsuit they filed in Michigan. And so, really, my take-away from that was that Senator Graham and obviously President Trump and his attorney -- they’re all on the same page…”

-

And on why he decided to speak out:

“People need to understand that people are wanting people to do things that we just aren’t going to do. We’re not going to put our thumb on the scale for anyone. I want President Trump to win. But if he does win, he has to win it by having the most number of votes. I can’t put my thumb on the scale. As a Republican, I’m disappointed.”

-

***

State Rep. Billy Mitchell, D-Stone Mountain, and AME Bishop Reginald Jackson will hold a 11 a.m. Thursday press conference at the state Capitol -- in support of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican.

***

Here’s the closing paragraph from today’s Wall Street Journal editorial chastising President Donald Trump for implying that Dominion voting machines are suspect:

If Georgia’s recount doesn’t find big irregularities, then these claims should be put to rest. In the George W. Bush years, the conspiratorial left focused on Diebold, a maker of electronic voting machines. It would be a mistake for anyone on the right to go down a similar dead end, especially if Georgia’s paper ballots give the same result as the computers.

-

***

There’s a rule of thumb in Georgia politics that says runoffs have something like the same dynamics as midterm elections. A backlash is presumed, and so the party that wins the general election is at a disadvantage several weeks later.

Jon Ossoff isn’t buying that.

His Republican opponent in the U.S. Senate race, incumbent David Perdue, and his GOP colleague, Kelly Loeffler, are both sticking with their pre-Nov. 3 accusations of “radical socialism” and such. They might also argue that President-elect Biden needs a Republican check in the Senate – but that would imply that President Trump lost his re-election bid. And so they can’t.

Ossoff has begun pointing to the coming pandemic winter – and embracing the candidate who won the Nov. 3 presidential contest in Georgia. On Tuesday, Ossoff was interviewed by Julie Mason of POTUS Politics. Here’s where he went:

"Really this is about whether the incoming administration is going to have the capacity to govern. The only way out of this crisis, the only way to beat this virus, is if President-elect Biden has the capacity to govern and to lead and to enact legislation.

“For example, we have here in Georgia the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC – the premier epidemiological agency in the U.S., if not the world. We need to resource it adequately and empower it to lead the virus response…”

-

And this:

“This pandemic just clarified the stakes for everybody. The quality and the integrity of our leaders is truly a matter of life and death. When a crisis like this comes to our country, we cannot be led by fools. We must be led by competent, serious, honest people who empower public health experts in a public health crisis, who put the financial stability and solvency and well-being of ordinary families and small businesses ahead of their own financial interests.”

-

***

Another old sermon, another potential problem for Democrat Raphael Warnock.

Late Tuesday, two separate conservative outlets seized on the same clip of the Ebenezer Baptist Church pastor, in which he warned that Americans could not simultaneously “serve God and the military.”

The remarks were made in an April 2011 sermon that urged congregants to focus on public service rather than chasing money and power.

“America, nobody can serve God and the military,” Warnock said in the sermon. “You can’t serve God and money. You cannot serve God and mammon at the same time. America, choose ye this day who you will serve. Choose ye this day.”

Warnock’s opponent in the U.S. Senate runoff on Jan. 5, Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler, plans to make sure Warnock’s words came back to haunt him. Campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson said Warnock owed 700,000 Georgia veterans an immediate apology.

Warnock spokesman Terrence Clark said his candidate “was speaking about the need to commit to moral life before pursuing other priorities.” He suggested that Loeffler and her supporters pay attention to the rest of the sermon. Here’s what came next:

“So politicians try to keep their power. Political parties lie in order to keep their power. And church folk – yeah, you too – maneuver inside of God’s house …in order to keep your power. And Jesus says that’s not power. That’s paranoia. Because when you got real power, you’re not worried about your place in the world.”

-

***

The left-leaning American Bridge 21st Century has launched a new website targeting stock transactions from both U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

The GACorruptionWatch.com intends to tag the two Republicans in the Jan. 5 runoff as “corrupt politicians who profited off a pandemic, repeatedly used their offices to enrich themselves, and want to take away Georgia families' health care” said spokesman Zach Hudson.

Both the senators have been cleared of any wrongdoing involving stock trades as the pandemic worsened, though Democrats intend to make them repeatedly defend the transactions.

***

The conservative Concerned Veterans for America is backing U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s re-election bid against Jon Ossoff with a six-figure spend that includes digital ads, grassroots organizers and phone messaging.

***

On the trail:

  • U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, one of those potential GOP presidential candidates in 2024, is campaigning for Perdue and Loeffler on Thursday afternoon in Perry.
  • Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff has released a new Thanksgiving-themed ad where he thanks essential workers and outlines steps to tackle the coronavirus.
  • Ossoff will host a drive-through yard sign pick up on Wednesday in Marietta alongside Daniel Blackman, a Democrat in the runoff for a Public Service Commission seat.
  • On Thursday afternoon, Ossoff will team up with fellow Democrat Raphael Warnock for an outdoor campaign event at a Jonesboro church.

***

In endorsement news: Tea Party Express, which bills itself as the nation’s largest tea party political action committee, has endorsed U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the Jan. 5 runoffs.

***

U.S. Rep.-elect Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta, successor to the late John Lewis, was handpicked to give a speech seconding the nomination of Nancy Pelosi to remain U.S. House Speaker. The House Democratic caucus will meet today to choose its leaders for the next cycle of Congress.

***

Democrats in the U.S. Senate scuttled the nomination of a controversial figure to the Federal Reserve with the help of two Republicans and a few COVID-related absences. Both Georgia Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler voted Tuesday in favor of Trump’s nominee, Judy Shelton.

But it wasn’t enough, and Shelton was voted down 47-50. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell later changed his vote to a “no” so he has flexibility to re-introduce the issue. Shelton’s nomination was controversial from the start, and had been stalled in committee for month’s before the floor vote. Democrats and economists expressed worries that she would attempt to erode the Fed’s political independence. She also backs a return to the gold standard.

***

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, teamed up with a fellow leader of the Congressional Black Caucus to request the Trump administration to temporarily halt executions of federal prisoners.

The letter, sent by Johnson and CBC Chair Karen Bass, D-Cal., to Attorney General William Barr, cites three executions scheduled in the coming weeks, including one on Thursday.

The current spike in COVID-19 infections coupled with limited access to courtrooms and services means that these prisoners may not be able to fully exhaust all legal remedies prior to their execution dates, the letter states.

***

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, has re-released her memoir, “Standing Our Ground” with an updated preface. The substance of the book is unchanged, focusing mainly on McBath’s son, Jordan Davis, his shooting death and how she became a nationally recognized gun control advocate. McBath’s book was first released in 2018 as she campaigned for a first term in office.

In Other News