The Jolt: Stacey Abrams defends Fani Willis’ investigation of Donald Trump

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams gives a press conference about abortion on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. The conference comes just after a federal appeals court allowed Georgia’s restrictive abortion law to take place. (Arvin Temkar /

Credit: Arvin Temkar / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams gives a press conference about abortion on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. The conference comes just after a federal appeals court allowed Georgia’s restrictive abortion law to take place. (Arvin Temkar /

Credit: Arvin Temkar / AJC

Georgia’s marquee Democratic candidates don’t often invoke the ongoing Fulton County special grand jury into Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the state’s 2020 election. Until now.

Stacey Abrams has quickly moved to capitalize on the revelation that Gov. Brian Kemp is no longer cooperating with investigators and instead seeking to quash the subpoena seeking his testimony.

And on CNN Thursday night, she defended the investigation itself.

“If you look at the emails that have been released and, having dealt with the Kemp administration, I would put my faith more in the Fulton County DA’s office,” Abrams said. “I know that this has been a meticulous and very thoughtful investigation and that he is not the only Republican who has tried to skirt his responsibility to provide information.”

She also argued that Kemp’s move now shows that he is a “Trump conservative,” despite the fact that the governor refused the former president’s pressure campaign to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results.

“Brian Kemp is a dangerous extremist who has tried to hide himself behind one good action … He’s trying to play both moderate and MAGA but he is just extreme. He wants credit for standing up to Trump, but he’s refusing to testify to tell the truth.”

Pressed on whether Kemp “ultimately (did) the right thing” by refusing Trump’s attempt to overturn Georgia’s election, Abrams gave her rival a backhanded compliment.

“Yes, I am proud that he did not commit treason,” said Abrams, adding that he soon pushed through an election rewrite that contained new obstacles to vote by mail. “He used the Trump lie to justify a voter suppression law.”

Kemp’s attorney accused prosecutors of a “politically motivated” investigation and expressed concern about potential leaks of his testimony in emails included in recent court filings. His lawyers want his testimony delayed until after the election or canceled altogether.

Shortly after the CNN appearance, Abrams hammered home another angle: That “bowing to Donald Trump scores political points” for Kemp.


TRAFFICKY COURT. For those following every twist and turn of the Fulton County special grand jury’s proceedings, our AJC colleague Tamar Hallerman reports that Judge Robert McBurney will hear Gov. Brian Kemp’s challenge to his special grand jury subpoena next Wednesday, Aug. 25.

Also expected in court will be Trump attorney Jenna Ellis, whose subpoena to appear before the special grand jury is set for Wednesday, too.

And although U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham was also recently ordered to honor a subpoena that would have him testifying in Atlanta Monday, Graham has requested a federal judge for a stay to that order.


LISTEN UP. The Friday edition of the Politically Georgia podcast is up now. We talk about the explosive documents that reveal the tensions between Gov. Brian Kemp’s lawyer and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

Plus, we look at the “parallel universes” of the rival U.S. Senate campaigns, pick our winners and losers of the week and answer questions from the Politically Georgia mail bag.

Listen here and be sure to subscribe for free at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher


ON THE TRAIL. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock logged some serious miles in the first two days of his “Working for Georgians” campaign bus tour this week.

Warnock kicked his reelection campaign into high gear with stops in Warner Robins, Dublin, Milledgeville, Conyers, Eatonton and Stonecrest over the last two days.

Your Insiders were on the road with Warnock, where he told crowds about his efforts to secure veterans’ health care, cap the monthly cost of insulin and the annual cost of all drugs for seniors. President Joe Biden recently signed all three initiatives into law.

As our Greg Bluestein reports this morning, Warnock was interrupted repeatedly by a handful of audience members — not by hecklers, but supporters shouting “thank you.”


ABORTION ADS. “Extreme and dangerous.” That’s the tagline of a new Stacey Abrams ad that slams Gov. Brian Kemp’s support for abortion limits — and questions whether he’d support new restrictions in a second term.

It’s the latest in a spate of ads by the Abrams campaign that seeks to energize voters who oppose the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Kemp has said he’ll focus on implementing the state’s anti-abortion law, which bans most pregnancies as early as six weeks, rather than seeking new restrictions if he’s reelected.

Democrats are hoping backlash to Kemp’s position on abortion will help down-ticket Democrats, too.

Separate mailers from the Democratic Party of Georgia detail Kemp’s opposition in 2018 to allowing abortion exceptions for rape or incest and declare the governor, “Way worse than you think.”

The mailers encourage voters to support Democrats Charlie Bailey for lieutenant governor, Jen Jordan for attorney general, and Bee Nguyen for secretary of state.


NOT SO FAST. The South Carolina Supreme Court voted to temporarily block the state’s six-week abortion ban this week as legal challenges to it proceeded.

That means the state’s previous law, which allows abortion up to 20 weeks of pregancy, will remain in effect for now, the State newspaper reports. More:

In their order blocking the law, the state's Supreme Court justices said that although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June there is no right to privacy in the federal Constitution, it is an “arguably close question" whether South Carolina's own Constitution affords some right to privacy that may affect state laws concerning abortion...

The unanimous decision Wednesday by the South Carolina Supreme Court comes as the Legislature considers a more restrictive abortion ban after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee advanced a near-total abortion ban that would allow only the life and health of the mother as an exception for a legal abortion. And on Wednesday, right across the street from the S.C. Supreme Court, South Carolina senators took public testimony on a more restrictive abortion law.

- The State

A Georgia judge recently allowed the state’s new restrictive abortion law to go into effect while legal challenges against it make their way through the courts.


PSC BALLOT FIGHTS. A Fulton County Superior Court judge has ruled that a Democrat running for a seat on the state’s Public Service Commission can stay on the November ballot.

That means Patty Durand, a Democratic candidate for the Georgia Public Service Commission, will remain in the race for the District 2 PSC seat, the AJC’s Drew Kann reported.

Separately, a federal appeals court recently blocked a lower court ruling that Georgia’s statewide election system for PSC seats is unconstitutional.

Without any further court action, two PSC races -- including Durand’s -- will be on the ballot.


RULE THE SCHOOLS. A forum featuring the Republican and Democratic candidates for state school superintendent presented two different takes on Georgia’s public schools, the AJC’s Ty Tagami writes.

Incumbent Richard Woods, a Republican, said that schools performed well during the lockdowns. The Democrat described a system that was crumbling even before the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am concerned that here in 2022 we are still trying to deliver a telegram education to a TikTok generation,” Thomas Searcy said. “We desperately need change.”

She also cast Woods as a lethargic, insulated leader who’s been away from the classroom too long to know what teachers need, Tagami notes.

But Woods responded in kind. “If I was back in the classroom today I would be one of the most fantastic teachers that a student can have,” Woods said


UNEMPLOYMENT LOWS. Georgia’s unemployment rate hit a record low, the AJC’s Michael Kanell reported Thursday.

The state’s economy added 12,500 jobs in July, the weakest month in almost a year but still well above the historic figures for the summer months.

The state’s jobless rate last month is 2.8%, down further from the historic low of 2.9% in June. The national unemployment rate was 3.5% in July.


DEATH RATES. We can always count on our friend Charlie Hayslett to offer a new insight on his rural Georgia data blog, Trouble in God’s Country.

This week is no exception, with Hayslett’s takeaway from the state’s latest mortality figures, which he found show additional Georgia counties reporting more deaths than births in 2021. That trend was unfortunately driven by deaths from COVID-19 and drug overdoses. More:

While the counties reporting more deaths than births were mostly sparsely-populated rural counties, more than a half-dozen significant regional counties suffered more net deaths. Floyd and Walker counties, neighbors in northwest Georgia, reported the largest numbers of net deaths, 374 and 303, respectively. Other important regional population centers reporting more deaths than births included Bibb County (280), Glynn (261), Laurens (211), Thomas (192), and Dougherty (99).

Covid-19 claimed 15,790 Georgia lives in 2021, 14 percent of the state's total deaths and an increase of 67.2 percent over 2020′s Covid death toll of 9,406. Fatal drug overdoses totaled 2,390, a 25.3 percent increase over 2020 and a 72 percent increase over 2019.

- Trouble in God's Country


PICK ME. In endorsement news, the Police Benevolent Association of Georgia endorsed Tyler Harper for agriculture commissioner and Burt Jones for lieutenant governor.


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