The Jolt: This Georgia Supreme Court justice is about to deliver more than a verdict

May 7, 2019 Atlanta - Justice Sarah Warren asks a question during a hearing at Georgia Supreme Court Atlanta on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

On a day sure to be filled with talk of floods and pestilence, we thought we’d start you off with some good news: For the first time in state history, a sitting justice on the Georgia Supreme Court is about to have a baby.

Even loose black robes and Zoom hearings couldn’t hide the situation forever.

A court spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday that Justice Sarah Hawkins Warren, 38, is pregnant – with a baby girl expected in the “early fall.” Justice Warren and her husband Blaise already are the parents of a 6-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son.

Warren, a former state solicitor general, was the youngest member of the nine-justice court when she was appointed to the bench by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2018, and only the fourth woman.

Warren’s pregnancy wasn’t widely known – even as she faced her first statewide electoral challenge, defeating Albany prosecutor Hal Moroz in a nonpartisan contest in June.

No word on whether Warren’s robed colleagues will be named godfathers (there would be seven) and godmother (just one, Carla Wong McMillian).

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In case you couldn’t stay awake last night, we’ve got you covered:

Republicans held the third night of their convention on Wednesday as the nation faced renewed tensions following the police shooting of a Black man in Wisconsin, the continuing coronavirus pandemic, and a massive, deadly hurricane approaching American landfall.

Adding still another controversial element, late Wednesday the NBA postponed three playoff games after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court for their game following the shooting of Jacob Blake. The WNBA and Milwaukee Brewers quickly followed suit with their Wednesday games.

Vice President Mike Pence delivered the evening’s keynote from Baltimore’s Fort McHenry as he accepted the GOP’s nomination for vice president.

“The American people know we don’t have to choose between supporting law enforcement and standing with African American neighbors to improve the quality of life in our cities and towns,” Pence said. He also assailed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for saying there is an “implicit bias” against minorities and “systemic racism” in the US.

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The Washington Post reports that President Donald Trump’s formal acceptance of the Republican nomination for re-election might be postponed, out of deference to Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm that hit the coasts of Louisiana and Texas shortly after midnight. A decision is expected this morning.

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We told you Wednesday that the Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had quietly modified its coronavirus testing guidelines to exclude people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 — even if they have been recently exposed to the virus.

The change comes as schools across the nation reopen and a new flu season looms. The New York Times has a follow-up this morning that includes this:

The day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the revised guidance, there were conflicting reports on who was responsible. Two federal health officials said the shift came as a directive to the Atlanta-based C.D.C. from higher-ups in Washington at the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the administration’s coronavirus testing czar, called it a “C.D.C. action,” written with input from the agency’s director, Dr. Robert R. Redfield. But he acknowledged that the revision came after a vigorous debate among members of the White House coronavirus task force — including its newest member, Dr. Scott W. Atlas, a frequent Fox News guest and a special adviser to President Trump…

Regardless of who is responsible, the shift is highly significant, running counter to scientific evidence that people without symptoms could be the most prolific spreaders of the coronavirus.

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Gov. Brian Kemp is moving toward the deployment of “mobile strike teams” made up of National Guard troops to help control coronavirus outbreaks at nursing homes and, potentially, schools, churches and universities.

The governor elaborated on the plans, outlined by his office Tuesday, at a stop in Baxley where he spoke of the need to have squads of troops who can respond to new hotspots.

"If we have those mobile teams, instead of having people at a fixed site somewhere that nobody's going to visit to get tested, let's take those resources and take them somewhere we need them for testing," Kemp said, according to WTOC-TV.

The idea would expand on a previous initiative from his administration. Kemp previously deployed National Guard strike teams to nursing homes to help with testing and cleaning facilities.

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Already posted: Georgia Republican candidates returned to the campaign trail weeks ago. Now GOP groups and their allies are resuming in-person conferences across the state.

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A teen accused of opening fire on a group during protests in Kenosha, Wisc., Monday night, killing two, is in custody in Illinois -- charged with first-degree intentional homicide.

The incident has already become part of the political debate in Georgia. Last night, U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler said the killings were evidence that a crackdown on demonstrations is needed. From her Twitter account:

2 people died in WI last night because of rioters, & its governor still turned down help.

I intro'd a bill to restrict funding from cities & states where leaders don't take action against killers like this.

They must be held accountable. Take action now.

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DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston was among the many Democrats who replied to Loeffler, accusing the appointed senator of recklessly pointing a finger in the wrong direction. Boston, via Twitter:

This is untrue and irresponsible. Know your facts!! 2 people are dead and a 3rd injured because a 17 year old armed with a gun decided to intentionally shoot into a crowd of protesters. This is unacceptable violence but not the fault of protesters.

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State Rep. Bee Nguyen, D-Atlanta, suggested that Loeffler listen to the members of her WNBA team, the Atlanta Dream, who decided not to play on Wednesday night in solidarity with protesters in Kenosha.

State Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, had this response:

Thought that @SenatorLoeffler tweets couldn’t get much worse. Black father shot 7 times in back IN FRONT OF HIS CHILDREN fighting for his life/paralyzed. While 17-year-old white male, self-declared militia member, killed 2 protestors w/ AR-15. Accountability, absolutely. 68 days.

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Politico reports this morning that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is poised to endorse nearly two dozen freshmen House Democrats for reelection, triggering a revolt within the conservative business organization, which is highly dependent upon powerful GOP donors:

The decision represents a sharp departure for the traditionally conservative Chamber, which has spent over $100 million backing Republican candidates during the past decade, and it threatens to further complicate the party’s prospects in the November election while driving a split in the business community.

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What’s not stated in the piece is precisely which House Democrats the U.S. Chamber is set to back. Sixty-four newcomers were elected in 2018. But we would draw your attention to this February development, also marked by Politico:

The Communications Workers of America told House Democrats Tuesday to deny campaign funds to the seven Democrats who voted against final passage of a bill to expand labor rights.

The CWA, which represents 700,000 workers, made its request in a letter to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. In the letter, the union said that in opposing final passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, the seven House Democrats “voted against a core and fundamental principle of the Democratic Party.”

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Among those seven Democrats was U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta. Union workers, in fact, picketed her office over the vote. An endorsement by the U.S. Chamber would be a big deal for the Sixth District incumbent, who is facing a stiff challenge from Republican Karen Handel, whom McBath defeated two years ago.

Handel, incidentally, is a former president and CEO of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce.

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On that same topic: A poll commissioned by the left-leaning End Citizens United and conducted by GQR shows U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath and Republican Karen Handel in a neck-and-neck race. The poll pegs McBath at 50% and Handel, a former congresswoman, at 47% -- within the poll’s margin of error of 4.9 percentage points. It also has Joe Biden leading President Donald Trump 52-45 in the state. Click here to see the polling memo.

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Jon Ossoff’s getting some major help on the airwaves. Senate Majority PAC will spend $7.2 million on ads through the fall to help his campaign against U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

“David Perdue said it best: Georgia is in play,” said J.B. Poersch, the group’s president.

Perdue’s campaign countered with a message from his chief spokesman John Burke: Bring it on. Another top Perdue aide, Casey Black, said Perdue stands by his warnings that Georgia is competitive.

“It’s not a secret. We’ve been saying our race would be competitive for years,” said Black, adding: “Georgians trust Perdue’s leadership and they’re not buying (Senate Minority Leader Chuck) Schumer’s corporate PAC-funded lies.”

Even with the help, Ossoff is still playing catchup. One ad tracker shows that the GOP-aligned Senate Leadership Fund has reserved at least $16 million in ads for Perdue through the fall.

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At a virtual press conference on Wednesday, Democrat Jon Ossoff linked the recent closure of the rural hospital in Cuthbert to Republican opposition to Medicaid expansion, which opponents say would be too costly. Said Ossoff:

“That’s why I will work to expand Medicaid, and I will also deliver federal resources to keep hospitals open to build new clinics to provide primary care and preventative care services and communities across our state and expand the Public Health Service so we have the nurses and doctors we need, where there are currently shortages.”

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During a Fox Business interview on Wednesday, U.S. Senate candidate Matt Lieberman was asked why he thought Democrats will flip Georgia in November. “Well, I’m running, for one thing,” he replied.

Lieberman is one of 20 candidates challenging U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, and party leaders have urged him to step aside and clear the way for the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the establishment-backed candidate. Said Lieberman:

“I have no plans to drop out. Look, this is just a sign of what politics is in 2020. My main Democratic opponent, Reverend Warnock, his supporters - major surrogates of his - called me a racist. For what? Because after Charlottesville, as a reaction to Charlottesville, I wrote a short anti-racist novel …

“It doesn’t bother me as a person, because I know who I am. But it bothers me as a citizen because it is a prime and an awful example of the kind of distraction and divisiveness - and racial divisiveness - that’s a problem in our politics.”

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Make that two QAnon-supporting candidates from Georgia who have been invited to the White House tonight -- as an audience when Donald Trump accepts the GOP nomination for president a second time.

Angela Stanton-King, the Republican candidate for U.S. Rep. John Lewis’s Fifth District seat, posted her own blue-and-gold invitation on Wednesday. “I’m so excited to see all of my fellow supportive conservatives yet once again!” she wrote on Twitter. “Let’s Go!”

Stanton will join Marjorie Taylor Greene, the controversial 14th District candidate, who has also been invited. Greene is considered a shoo-in for her race; Stanton-King has almost no chance.

We checked to see if the two Republican candidates in Georgia’s most competitive congressional races have heard from the president: Rich McCormick and Karen Handel both back Trump and have received his support in return.

Neither received invites.

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A new book out, “Trump on Trial,” provides a behind-the-scenes analysis of President Donald Trump’s impeachment and acquittal. The Washington Post has an excerpt that recounts one of U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ final speeches on the House floor, made on the day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she would open an inquiry.

For months, in deference to Pelosi, he had not expressed his view of impeachment. He was voicing it now.

“People approach me everywhere I go,” Lewis said. “They believe, they truly believe, that our country is descending into darkness.” He looked up from his notes as he turned the page. “I share their concerns for the future of our country. It keeps me up at night. We took an oath to protect this nation against all domestic enemies and foreign enemies. Sometimes I am afraid to go to sleep for fear that I will wake up and our democracy will be gone, be gone, and never return.”

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One more tidbit from the excerpt: Pelosi assigned Lewis the task of talking down one of House’s more aggressive freshmen members:

She sent Lewis on a special arm-twisting mission. Lewis approached Rep. Rashida Tlaib with a request. No smiling, no show of exuberance, he told the Michigan Democrat. No repeating her famous vow to “impeach the m-----f-----.”

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