“It’s a small down-payment on what should be owed to the voters and the people of Georgia,” said Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer for the Secretary of State’s office. “The lies that she perpetrated on behalf of an overall greater lie has undermined people’s faith in our systems and in our country and their fellow Americans.”
Powell pleaded guilty last month to six misdemeanor counts related to her role in breaching the voting system in rural Coffee County after the 2020 election. Powell’s nonprofit organization paid computer experts $26,000 to copy the state’s election software on Jan. 7, 2021, the day after a riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Powell also participated in a news conference in November 2020 where she laid out false claims that elections software used in Georgia had “flipped” votes from Trump, a Republican, to Democrat Joe Biden.
“If you didn’t believe the three recounts, if you didn’t believe the investigations, if you didn’t believe the court cases, this check shows you: ‘Yes, I lied,’” Sterling said.
The $2,700 payment covers transportation costs of new election equipment to Coffee County and amounts to a fraction of the total expense to taxpayers. The retail price for new equipment was estimated at $400,000.
More details about the Coffee County breach became public last week with an AJC report on a Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe into the hack. The GBI review was sent to Attorney General Chris Carr’s office and could lead to additional charges.
PLAN PUSHBACK. President Joe Biden’s call for a national strategy to fight Islamophobia elicited backlash in Georgia on Wednesday, underscoring the political divide over Israel’s retaliatory strikes in Gaza after Hamas’ militants launched surprise attacks on their neighbors last month.
Lawmakers expressed concerns about a rise in incidents related to the conflict here in the United States. Congressman Rich McCormick, R-Suwanee, noted the violent threats against Jews at college campuses.
“On college campuses across America, Jewish students are being locked in libraries, told to avoid kosher dining halls and beaten by other students,” said McCormick. “But it’s the Islamophobia Joe Biden is worried about.”
State Rep. Ruwa Romman, the first Palestinian-American elected to Georgia office, has noted the skyrocketing examples of anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish hate since the conflict began. The Duluth resident is among the targets of what she called “incredibly hateful messaging.”
“What may surprise you, however, is how our most steadfast allies have been members of the Jewish community,” she said. “While the hate gets the most attention, that solidarity has gotten little attention and has actually been maligned.”
The Biden administration’s announcement on Islamophobia mirrors an initiative launched in May creating the first-ever U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism.
WITHOUT DELAY. A federal judge forced Alabama to adopt a new redistricting map drawn by a court-appointed expert after the state’s lawmakers resisted an order to create a second majority-Black congressional district. Georgia leaders are unlikely to follow that same strategy.
Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns shared that message on Wednesday’s episode of the AJC’s “Politically Georgia” on WABE radio.
Burns said he expects lawmakers to “make the appropriate alterations” to heed the ruling by U.S. District Judge Steve Jones that invalidated the state’s political maps because they illegally dilute Black voting power.
Shortly after the interview, attorneys for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger sent notice that his office will not try to delay the order, even as the state continues its legal challenge. The announcement paves the way for legislators to return to the Capitol on Nov. 29 for a special session to redraw the state’s political boundaries.
Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC
Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC
LISTEN UP. The Wednesday edition of “Politically Georgia” is now in your podcast feeds. Along with our interview with Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns, we spoke to CNN political director David Chalian about Georgia’s role as a must-win battleground state in 2024 and also heard from the families of Israeli hostages who met with Gov. Brian Kemp.
Listen and subscribe to our podcast for free at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play or wherever you listen to podcasts.
PEACH STATE STRESS. Sizing up Georgia’s role in the 2024 presidential elections, CNN political director David Chalian told your political insiders that of the five states that President Joe Biden flipped from GOP red to Democrat blue in the 2020 election, Georgia is the one causing Democrats the most stress as they look for a repeat in 2024.
From Wednesday’s “Politically Georgia” episode:
“Democrats I talk to fear Georgia reverting back to Republicans more than the other four states in that group of five. And so I think you're going to see endless attention to Georgia from both the Republican and Democratic campaigns. I think you're probably going to see numbers of dollars spent in Georgia and organizing efforts in Georgia that, even though you thought you saw all of that in 2020 and 2022, I think it's actually going to be a whole new level of intensity down there."
- David Chalian
SAFE FOR NOW. The effort to kick indicted Rep. George Santos out of Congress stalled on Tuesday, failing to reach a simple majority let alone the two-thirds needed for it to pass.
Two Georgia Democrats, Rep. Hank Johnson of Lithonia and Rep. Nikema Williams of Atlanta, were among the 31 members of their party to join 182 Republicans, including all nine from Georgia, in opposing the expulsion of the New York Republican. Some lawmakers indicated they wanted to wait for results from a House Ethics Committee investigation and Santos’ upcoming court dates before deciding whether to remove him from office.
Williams released a statement saying it would be “dangerous to set the precedent” of expelling members of Congress before they are found guilty of violating any laws.
“When and if Santos is convicted of these serious offenses an expulsion resolution would be more appropriate,” the Atlanta Democrat wrote. “Let’s be clear – we have current members who have been accused of even more egregious crimes while the Republican majority continues to look the other way.”
Johnson’s office also said he believed Santos deserved due process before any determinations of his political fate.
A separate measure filed by Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, was tabled on Tuesday. Georgia Reps. Rich McCormick of Suwanee and Austin Scott of Tifton were among 23 Republicans who voted with Democrats in favor of tabling, which essentially killed the legislation.
Greene sought discipline for Tlaib over her criticism of Israel during a recent protest at a House office building that led to more than 300 arrests. Greene voiced her displeasure with fellow GOP members who voted to table the censure.
“List of feckless Republicans that voted WITH Democrats to table my censure resolution against Rashida Tlaib,” she wrote, sharing the names of the 23 GOP lawmakers. “This is why Republicans NEVER do anything to stop the communists Democrats or ever hold anyone accountable!! PATHETIC.”
A counter-censure resolution against Greene was dropped following the tabling of the Tlaib complaint. Filed by Rep. Becca Balint, a Vermont Democrat, the measure focused on inflammatory remarks made by Greene in the past.
Scott provided a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that said that he believed Tlaib’s comments were protected, even if he disagreed with them.
“I strongly denounce all acts of terrorism around the world, and I support Israel as they defend themselves against Hamas,” the Tifton Republican said. “I condemn Rep. Tlaib’s remarks against Israel; however, the First Amendment and the Constitution apply to all Americans whether we like what they say or not.”
McCormick, R-Suwanee, told the AJC the language Greene used was inaccurate because it falsely accused Tlaib of leading an insurrection.
“Let me be clear, Rep. Tlaib’s words and actions were racist and hateful and she should be censured,” McCormick said. “That is why I am working with other conservatives to draft a new censure resolution to address Rep. Tlaib and her actions in a firm and honest manner.”
COLLISION COURSE. The U.S. House and U.S. Senate approved separate government spending measures Wednesday, setting up a partisan showdown between the two chambers.
House Republicans pushed through a bill that implements new policies pushed by far-right conservatives. Four Democrats, none from Georgia, supported the measure that passed 214-197.
In the Senate, a bipartisan group voted overwhelmingly to approve a “minibus” package of three appropriations bills.
New House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana is moving forward with plans to approve the 12 bills individually. But the GOP-drafted measures include deep spending cuts and language ending or limiting diversity programs and abortion assistance, making them unlikely to gain traction in the Democratic-led Senate.
Passage of another stopgap funding measure, known as a continuing resolution, is likely ahead of a Nov. 17 shutdown deadline. Johnson indicated to Senate Republicans on Wednesday he would agree to funding the government through January or possibly even April to buy time for negotiations between the two chambers.
An initial test of Johnson’s savvy on spending comes today. He’s scheduled a vote on $14.3 billion in emergency funding for Israel, a bill that includes cuts to the IRS to offset the new spending. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said reducing the tax collection department’s budget would lead to a $12.5 billion increase in the deficit because of lost tax revenue.
TODAY IN WASHINGTON:
- President Joe Biden hosts meetings at the White House with Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader and Chile President Gabriel Boric.
- The House votes on emergency funding for Israel.
- The Senate works on more confirmations.
Credit: Katelyn Myrick/AJC
Credit: Katelyn Myrick/AJC
SHERIFF BRUCE OR REP. THOMPSON? Fitness enthusiast and Georgia Labor Commissioner Bruce Thompson turned some heads with a Halloween video posted on Facebook.
It wasn’t his bright yellow costume — he went as Woody from the movie “Toy Story” — but his remarks that caught our attention.
“There’s a new sheriff in town, and we’re cleaning up the Department of Labor,” he says, holding up an honorary sheriff’s badge. “You know, maybe that’s what D.C. needs. Somebody, that’s not their first rodeo to come and be the new sheriff in town to clean it up, too.”
We aren’t sure whether the first-term Republican is throwing his (cowboy) hat in the ring for a Washington-based job, or just messing around. But one GOP wag sent us this riddle: “Has anyone ever launched a campaign dressed as a Pixar character before?”
DOG OF THE DAY. Are you having a stressful week? We have the antidote.
Meet Bella Lee, redbone coonhound, fence line enforcer, professional napper.
Bella lives in Coweta County where she is loved by many, but especially her people, Jolt subscriber Marian Lee, Cheryl Peterson, and Beth Bailey-Summers.
Send us your dogs of any political persuasion and location, and cats on a cat-by-cat basis, to firstname.lastname@example.org, or DM us at @MurphyAJC.
AS ALWAYS, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.