The Jolt: Georgia GOP convention now ‘ground zero for Trump’s defense’

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Georgia GOP convention was already expected to be an explosive moment in state and national politics. Now the two-day event is taking on an even more intense level of national relevance.

That’s because the two-day confab will be former President Donald Trump’s first political appearance since he broke the news himself Thursday that he was indicted on federal charges of mishandling classified documents after leaving office in 2021.

The Columbus convention will feature Trump allies who continue to echo his disproven claims of 2020 election fraud and amplify his criticism of criminal investigations against him in Atlanta, New York and Washington.

As one senior Republican told us, the convention “just became ground zero for Trump’s defense.”

And that’s just one of the many plotlines we’ll be watching over the weekend. Others include:

  • Fulton prosecutors examining whether Trump and others at the convention criminally interfered in Georgia’s 2020 elections will be watching the former president’s speech for any inadvertent disclosures;
  • The former president’s expected visit to Columbus highlights the divide between the party apparatus and Gov. Brian Kemp, who has pushed the GOP to move on from Trump’s polarizing presidency;
  • The growing political clout of far-right activists is a microcosm of the battle for the soul of the national party. Some in Georgia are pushing a proposal to punish perceived “traitors” by blocking them from running as Republicans in the future.
  • The three-way race to succeed party chair David Shafer features a trio of contenders promising to repair the internal fissures that are dividing the party.


LISTEN UP. We’re previewing everything to watch at the Georgia GOP convention in this morning’s Politically Georgia podcast.

The charges against former President Donald Trump were announced just after we wrapped up the taping, there are plenty of known legal troubles for Trump incorporated nonetheless. We’ve also got two great questions from the mailbag and our who’s up and who’s down for the week.

Listen at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.


FOR THE DEFENSE. Minutes after learning that former President Donald Trump is facing more criminal charges, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy vowed, “House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable.”

One of those sure to be involved is U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who posted a long missive on Twitter accusing the federal government and Democrats of conspiring to defeat Trump in next year’s presidential contest.

“Democrats must literally shake with sweats when they see amazing packed out Trump rallies and overwhelming winning poll numbers week after week,” she wrote. “They must awake in the night with panic at the thoughts of us winning in 2024.”

U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, who is building a reputation as one of the House’s most hardline members, and U.S. Rep. Mike Collins were among the other conservatives who reacted immediately to the breaking news Thursday night.

There were fewer state-level Republicans willing to weigh in publicly, even those who are closely aligned with Trump like Lt. Gov. Burt Jones and Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer.

Reaction from Democrats was not widespread either, although those who released statements made it clear they support the case moving forward. Among them was state Rep. Scott Holcomb of Atlanta, an attorney and Army veteran.

“I had a top secret clearance when I was in the Army,” he said. “No one who is serious about national security can defend how Trump handled our nation’s classified secrets.”


Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

YES HE CAN. For those who have been asking whether Donald Trump can still run for president after being indicted on federal charges, the answer is yes. In fact, according to legal experts, Trump can continue to run for president even if he is convicted of those crimes. There is no constitutional prohibition on running for president from prison, or even serving from prison if elected.

Only the voters can decide if a person’s imprisonment is reason not to select him or her. Reporting for duty at the White House would be another matter.


HATE WATCH. A proposed rule change to give the Georgia GOP final say on who can qualify to run as a Republican isn’t the only contentious policy that could be up for debate this weekend.

Far-right activists also distributed flyers pushing a rule to block LGBTQ members from holding a leadership post in the party.

The flyers were handed out late Thursday around the Columbus Convention and Trade Center, site of the two-day event that starts Friday.

“We must not be a stumbling block by winking at the lifestyle choice against God’s loving laws,” read the flyer.

Party insiders predict the proposal will be quickly rejected, but it’s part of a trend. The Atlanta Young Republicans noted in a release this morning that activists pushed similar resolutions at some county and district meetings that sought to block LGBTQ members from participating in the state GOP.


Credit: T.J. Kirkpatrick/The New York Times

Credit: T.J. Kirkpatrick/The New York Times

SCOTUS SURPRISE. In a 5-4 ruling released Thursday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court found that Alabama’s GOP-controlled Legislature likely violated the law when it drew a map with one majority-Black seat out of seven congressional districts.

That decision is already becoming a factor in ongoing lawsuits over Georgia’s redistricting, which resulted in Republicans gaining a U.S. House seat in last year’s elections.

A judge could decide later this year whether Georgia’s congressional maps, including the new 6th District currently held by Republican U.S. Rep. Rich McCormick, illegally diluted Black voting strength. Previously, the district was represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, who now holds office in the neighboring 7th District, after she unseated a fellow Democrat, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, in a primary.

By the end of the day Thursday, the federal judge who oversees a handful of the Georgia map challenges had updated the court dockets with references to the Supreme Court decision.

In one case, which consists of challenges to both the state’s congressional and legislative maps based on Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, parties were ordered to file new briefs addressing Thursday’s opinion.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones provided a deadline of June 23.

Georgia Democrats were already in discussions Thursday about what the state Congressional delegation might look like with redrawn lines based on the SCOTUS ruling. The answer: A one-to-two seat pickup for Democrats.



  • President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel to Rocky Mount, North Carolina, where they will tour a community college and meet with service members.
  • The U.S. House and Senate are done for the week.


Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

SCARY GOOD. U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff found an oddly fitting and unnerving way to promote an upcoming hearing on artificial intelligence.

His staff used AI technology to mimic Ossoff’s voice and cut an ad that sounded as if the Atlanta Democrat had recorded it himself.

“What does AI mean for freedom, safety and opportunity?” fake Ossoff intones. “What are the existential risks or the implications in everyday life? And how must our laws adapt? Congress must properly understand this revolutionary technology and its relationship to human rights.”

The Senate Human Rights Subcommittee, which Ossoff chairs, will meet on Tuesday afternoon.


Credit: Christina Matacotta for the AJC

Credit: Christina Matacotta for the AJC

VOCABULARY TEST. The Georgia Professional Standards Commission voted Thursday to delete “ambiguous terms” from the rules that guide the colleges and programs that train future educators, the AJC’s Vanessa McCray reports.

Among the words scrubbed from teacher training in the state: “Diversity,” “equity” and “social justice.” More:

Commission chairman Brian Sirmans gave a brief explanation about the rule change that was similar to what he offered during last month's meeting. He said the University System of Georgia asked the commission to “remove or simplify words that in recent years have taken on multiple and unintended meanings."

He said that teachers colleges are still expected to prepare future educators who are “well-equipped to address the learning needs of all students."

But over and over, those opposed to the changes told commissioners that “words matter."

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Credit: Courtesy photo

Credit: Courtesy photo

DOG OF THE DAY. When we created the Jolt’s Dog of the Day feature, we could only have hoped for a reader to submit a puppy portrait from Liberty Plaza, the grassy expanse across from the Georgia state Capitol.

That’s exactly what we got from Sydney Wilkins, a Capitol staffer-turned-Emory Healthcare lobbyist who sent in Cooper Stark Wilkins’ baby beauty shot from the state grounds.

The German shepherd is all grown up now, but he still enjoys sunny days, laying on top of air vents, playing fetch, and taking up the entire couch during movie nights. He is, in fact, named after the Stark family from Game of Thrones.

Cooper’s people have been pawtiently waiting for his Jolt feature. So to Cooper Stark we say, it isn’t just coming, it’s here. You are The Jolt’s Dog of the Day. Congrats!

Send us your dogs of any political persuasion and cats on a cat-by-cat basis to, or DM us on Twitter @MurphyAJC.


AS ALWAYS, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to, and