The Jolt: Judge rips fake electors’ claims they shouldn’t have to testify in Trump probe

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Chairman David Shafer speaks before his election at the Georgia GOP State Convention in Jekyll Island, Georgia on June 5th, 2021. Nathan Posner for the Atlanta-Journal-Constitution

Credit: Nathan Posner

Credit: Nathan Posner

Chairman David Shafer speaks before his election at the Georgia GOP State Convention in Jekyll Island, Georgia on June 5th, 2021. Nathan Posner for the Atlanta-Journal-Constitution

Somewhat lost during a newsy day at the Fulton County special grand jury was a scathing order from Judge Robert McBurney that could have significant implications into the ongoing investigation of Donald Trump.

The three-page order demolished the argument by 11 fake GOP electors who argued prosecutors should be disqualified from seeking criminal charges against them.

Their case rested on McBurney’s earlier decision to exempt state Sen. Burt Jones, another fake elector who is now the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, from District Attorney Fani Willis’ probe.

But as McBurney noted, that was because of an “obvious and irreconcilable conflict of interest” due to Willis’ financial support for Jones’ Democratic rival Charlie Bailey.

McBurney ruled that the other 11 fake electors are not “similarly situated.” And then he went on to pick apart the argument that Willis is seeking to score political points.

“These electors have provided no evidence that the District Attorney (or any member of her staff) has done anything that suggests a possible political motivation for investigating them, beyond the banal observation the they are Republicans and she is not.”

Particularly noteworthy was a footnote addressing their argument that Willis is targeting “only Republicans.”

The judge wrote it eludes him how “an investigation into allegations of Republican interference in the 2020 general election in Georgia would have any other list of targets than Republicans.”

The order was seen as a warning shot to others seeking to make similar arguments of political bias that it’s not likely to fly with this judge.


MORE SUBPOENAS. In other special grand jury news, prosecutors are now seeking testimony from former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Trump attorney Sidney Powell and other allies.

And Judge McBurney is considering whether to side with Gov. Brian Kemp’s request to quash his subpoena to testify before the special grand jury.

If the judge decides Kemp must testify, he could limit the questions the governor is asked or consider delaying any testimony from the governor until after the November election.


LISTEN UP.  The Friday edition of our Politically Georgia podcast is now live.

Your Jolters look at Stacey Abrams’ forays into rural red counties, remember former First Lady Sandra Deal, and explore President Joe Biden’s plan to wipe out student debt-- and why U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock says it’s not enough.

Listen and subscribe to our podcast for free at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.


CASHING IN. A day after President Joe Biden announced that he will wipe away up to $20,000 in student loan debt for millions of Americans, Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, sharpened criticism of the measure as wasteful and unfair.

“For our government just to say ok your debt is completely forgiven.. it’s completely unfair,” she told Newsmax.

But the White House quickly pointed out that Greene and many other GOP lawmakers have businesses that applied for Paycheck Protection Program loans in exponentially larger amounts, which have also also been forgiven and will never be paid back.

“Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene had $183,504 in PPP loans forgiven,” the Biden administration wrote on its official account of federal loans taken out and wiped off the books for Taylor Commercial, the congresswoman’s family construction business.

The White House went on to even larger PPP loans, also forgiven, for other GOP members’ businesses, including Congressman Vern Buchanan, who had over $2.3 million in PPP loans forgiven for his family firm.


PPP IN GA. Here in Georgia, U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde complained that Biden’s plan “isn’t ‘forgiving’ or ‘canceling’ student loan debt. He’s simply transferring borrowers’ burden to working and middle class Americans.”

But Clyde’s gun store and government munitions sales business, Clyde Armory, took out $156,697 in PPP, which have also been forgiven by the federal government, or more specifically, transferred onto the federal debt.

Senate nominee Herschel Walker has hammered the student loan forgiveness announcement, too, but also had $182,800 in PPP loans for his poultry business forgiven by the federal government.


2nd DISTRICT DUAL. Insiders Greg Bluestein and Tia Mitchell have a look at the race shaping up in Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District, where the incumbent Democrat, U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, is facing Republican Chris West, a Thomasville attorney.

It’s Georgia’s only truly competitive House race this cycle and one of a handful around the country.

From the piece:

What makes this district, which Bishop won by nearly 20 percentage points in 2020, suddenly competitive?

The Republican-led Georgia Legislature redrew the political boundaries after the latest U.S. census figures came out, making the district slightly less favorable to Democrats.

While the prior district was about 51% Black in 2020, the new territory is 49% Black. A majority of voters in the new district backed Joe Biden for president, but that percentage is also down slightly compared with the old map.

And conditions favor Republicans overall, with Biden's low approval ratings and concerns about inflation raising the possibility that closely divided Democratic districts could flip."

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


RED WAVE. With competitive races for U.S. Senate and the 2nd Congressional District, Politico reports that national Republicans are readying to pump millions of dollars into Georgia to boost their candidates’ chances against Democrats-- part of a nationwide strategy to take back control of the House and Senate in 2023.


In Georgia, Democrats have an early spending edge in the race between Warnock and GOP nominee Herschel Walker, a former football star anointed by former President Donald Trump who has struggled on the trail. Warnock had about $15 million more on hand than Walker at the end of the last reporting period, enough for him to spend $3 million per week from his own campaign on ads down the stretch. The McConnell-backed super PAC is spending $5 million a week in Georgia, part of a $39 million fall spending strategy there.

Republicans only have to net one seat to win back the Senate, which many in the party say is still achievable even as they grimace over some candidates' performances.

- Politico


MORE MONEY. Speaking of giveaways, the Super PAC supporting Herschel Walker, 34N22 was out again Wednesday giving away $50 grocery gift cards to potential voters, this time in Washington, Ga.

As a long line of people waited to pick up their gift cards, they stood alongside signs that read, “Gas prices are insane,” “Crime is killing Atlanta,” and “#WarnockIsn’tWorking.”

Legal experts tell the AJC the giveaways, which the PAC has done for both gas and groceries around the state, are legal, since recipients don’t have to commit to vote for Walker in exchange for the vouchers.


COPS FOR JONES. In endorsement news, Georgia Fraternal Order of Police Endorses Burt Jones for Lieutenant Governor.


WEEKEND PLANS. There’s something for everyone this weekend if Georgia politicos are looking for something to do.

The state Democratic Party convention, True Blue in 2022, happens in Columbus Saturday.

Stacey Abrams, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, and Democratic nominees up and down the ballot will be on hand for party business, election trainings and a general pump-up session.

Read Greg’s preview of the day here.

Further north and much further to the right, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, GOP Senate hopeful Herschel Walker, and other conservative talkers will be at Truth and Courage PAC’s “Together for Truth” Conference in Buckhead Saturday. The Super PAC is supporting Cruz’s future political ambitions.


WELCOME HOME. Good news from Savannah this week, where the Savannah Morning News reports 280 soldiers returned home to Fort Stewart and re-united with the families after a six-month deployment to Europe.

The First Armored Brigade Combat Team was deployed to Germany as a part of the U.S. response to “reassure NATO allies, deter Russian aggression, and support a range of other requirements in the region,” the News writes.

All members of the ABCT are expected to be back in Georgia by August.


SAYING GOODBYE. Family and friends of former First Lady Sandra Deal will be in Gainesville Saturday for a “Celebration of Life” to remember her.

In this Sunday’s Political Insider column, former Deal staff, many of whom have gone on to high-level jobs in state government, business and politics, said the way they saw the first lady treat people has stayed with them in their roles today.

Chris Riley, who stated with Nathan Deal as an intern on Deal’s 1992 state Senate campaign and rose to work as the governor’s chief of staff had this to say:

“She’s taught me how to listen. She taught me how to take a more receptive approach, how to try and see the best in everyone, and that everyone has something to offer, no matter who they are.”


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