The Jolt: Trump DOJ idea to stop Biden’s Ga. win ‘just highly crazy’

April 5, 2018 Atlanta - U.S. Attorney Byung J. "BJay" Pak speaks about bribery scandals at Atlanta City Hall during a press conference at the Richard B. Russell Federal Building on Thursday, April 5, 2018. Rev. Mitzi Bickers made her first appearance in federal court Thursday to face charges that she took $2 million in bribes to steer city of Atlanta contracts to at least two contractors from 2010 to 2015. She was released on a $50,000 appearance bond. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
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April 5, 2018 Atlanta - U.S. Attorney Byung J. "BJay" Pak speaks about bribery scandals at Atlanta City Hall during a press conference at the Richard B. Russell Federal Building on Thursday, April 5, 2018. Rev. Mitzi Bickers made her first appearance in federal court Thursday to face charges that she took $2 million in bribes to steer city of Atlanta contracts to at least two contractors from 2010 to 2015. She was released on a $50,000 appearance bond. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

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

Former U.S. Attorney Byung “BJay” Pak’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee was made public yesterday, and we now have a direct account of his abrupt resignation after a late-night phone call with Richard Donoghue, then the acting deputy U.S. attorney general.

According to a transcript of the closed-door meeting, Pak told lawmakers:

“That’s when Mr. Donoghue relayed to me that the President was very unhappy and that he wanted to fire me, that he believed that I was a ‘Never Trumper. And Mr. Donoghue told me that he had told Mr. Trump that he thought that was incorrect, and that the President did not care, but wanted me out of that spot.”

There was also a memorable quote from an earlier conversation between Donoghue and Pak about a letter one Justice Department official wanted to send to Georgia state legislators, encouraging them to refuse to certify Electoral College votes for Joe Biden.

“That’s just highly crazy,” Pak remembered saying to Donoghue. “I think the words I used were — I think Rich used the words that this is bat-s**t crazy.”

And here’s an interesting aside related to Rudy Giuliani’s testimony to a state Senate committee hearing, convened by Georgia Republicans as Trump continued to insist he won the Georgia election.

Pak, who served six years in the Georgia House, noted that state lawmakers don’t have the power to put people under oath, which also keeps those witnesses from being held accountable if what they say is later proven to be false.

“So, any statements are not subject to perjury,” Pak told the committee counsel. “I think people probably should know that. … I have to tell you that as a state legislator at the time, one of the frustrating things about policymaking at the state level was that we couldn’t make sure what people are telling us are exactly, in fact, truth because we couldn’t put them under oath.”

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Two days after Gov. Brian Kemp went to U.S.-Mexico border, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black is headed there, too.

The Senate candidate was invited by Texas Ag Commissioner Sid Miller to fly into Brownsville, Tex., where Black’s campaign says he’ll be briefed on “the record number of border crossings and witness border patrol efforts.”

He will also meet with Texas farmers and ranchers whose operations are directly on the border.

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At a fundraiser for Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr in Washington this week, the Republican was giving remarks to a crowd of about 50 people when he mentioned how former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s Parkinson’s is progressing.

That’s when the special guest, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, interrupted Carr and asked to lead the group in prayer for Isakson.

Scott is a devout Christian and can often be spotted reading his Bible when he’s flying between South Carolina and D.C.

The dozens of attendees bowed their heads while Scott delivered a prayer calling for Isakson’s healing and thanking God for Isakson’s record of public service.

“And when our nation is in so much conflict, let us all remember Johnny Isakson, who was never in conflict,” he concluded.

Our tipster tells us there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

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State Sen. Sonya Halpern this week formed a multi-jurisdictional crime “strike force” to address the increase in crime in the city of Atlanta and surrounding areas.

Halpern, a Democrat whose district stretches from Buckhead to Union City, said the group will be comprised of civic leaders, business executives, clergy members and law enforcement officials.

It’s an effort to carve out a different approach than GOP-led initiatives to reduce crime. Halpern’s mission is to steer the group toward addressing underlying socio-economic issues that contribute to violence.

She is also one of two state senators, along with Sen. Jen Jordan, who represent the area included in the proposed ‘Buckhead City’ map.

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Democrat Bee Nguyen will pick up key endorsements today in her bid for secretary of state, including from U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, several state legislators, other local elected officials, our colleague Mark Niesse reports.

Also endorsing Nguyen: Sen. Kim Jackson, Sen. Emmanuel Jones, Sen. Elena Parent, Rep. Karla Drenner, Rep. Becky Evans, Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick, Rep. Zulma Lopez, Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, Rep. Rhonda Taylor and Rep. Mike Wilensky.

The endorsements come in an increasingly crowded race for the statewide post.

Nguyen, a state representative from Atlanta, will face competition from other Democrats in next May’s primary, including former Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves, former Cobb County Democratic Party Chairman Michael Owens and former Milledgeville Mayor Floyd Griffin.

Among the Republicans running are incumbent Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, and former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle.

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In other endorsement news:

  • Maggie’s List, a federal political action committee dedicated to electing conservative women to office, is backing Suzi Voyles in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District GOP primary. Voyles is a former state chairwoman of the group.
  • State Rep. William Boddie, a Democrat running for labor commissioner, announced the endorsement of 32 of his colleagues in the Georgia House, including Democratic Leader James Beverly.

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The potential debt ceiling disaster has been avoided, at least for two more months. Eleven Republican U.S. senators voted with Democrats to cut off debate Thursday after GOP Leader Mitch McConnell finalized a deal with Senate Leader Chuck Schumer.

Democrats then voted to pass the measure, 50-48.

House members were told late Thursday night to return to Washington next Tuesday to pass the Senate plan, a slight disruption of what was supposed to be a two-week break from Capitol Hill.

President Joe Biden should have the bill on his desk with a few days to spare before a predicted Oct. 18 default.

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Gov. Brian Kemp sent a letter to members of Georgia’s congressional delegation, urging them to oppose a provision in the pending $3.5 trillion social spending and climate change package that provides incentives for purchasing electric vehicles, but only if the cars are assembled by union employees.

As a right-to-work state, Georgia ranks 49th out of 50 states for union membership in its auto workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Limiting the tax credit to union-built, U.S.-assembled vehicles, and applying these proposed limitations to the current EV market, puts Georgia job creators and workers in the automotive industry at a severe disadvantage - including when competing against our neighboring states,” Kemp wrote. “As a member of Georgia’s congressional delegation, you have a choice: jobs for hardworking Georgians or jobs for labor unions.”

The $3.5 trillion bill is still being finalized, so it’s unclear if the proposed $4,500 tax credit for electric vehicle purchases will be part of the final plan -- or whether the union requirement will change.

Kemp said if no changes are made, members of the delegation should vote the entire package down.

That brought a reaction from U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, an Atlanta Democrat.

“If Kemp is truly concerned about barriers to job growth in our state, he should invest in the people who actually make our economy run. A great start would be expanding Medicaid to more hardworking Georgians and raising the state minimum wage above $5.15 per hour.”

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Speaking of Gov. Brian Kemp, he also had some thoughts on that new I.R.S. policy requiring financial institutions to report transactions from accounts with $600 or more on deposit.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has called the idea a way to recoup billions of dollars in unpaid taxes.

But Kemp called the plan a “power grab” and added, ”There is absolutely no reason for the federal government to have the ability to monitor nearly every checking account in the country. This is a reckless invasion of privacy and a gut punch to community banks, small businesses, and large banking institutions alike.”

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Monday will be Columbus Day in most of the country, but in Athens-Clarke County (Brian Kemp’s home turf) the second Monday in October will now be celebrated as “Indigenous People’s Day.”

The Red & Black has more:

“Specifically recognized within the proposal are the Cherokee and Muscogee, or Creek, People and the benefits that ACC received because of the forced removal, exploitation and genocide these people have endured."

- The Red & Black

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From the Awards desk:

  • State Rep. Katie Dempsey, a Republican from Rome, received the Legislature Leadership Award from the Georgia Inclusive Post-Secondary Education Consortium for her work related to individuals with developmental disabilities.
  • The Public Service Commission will dedicate a portrait of David Burgess at a ceremony next week. Burgess was the first Black chair of the PSC and first Georgia Tech grad elected as a statewide constitutional officer.

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It’s Georgia National Fair time, people! The Macon Telegraph has the details on what you need to know about the perennial Perry tradition, where sheep rodeos, 90′s country acts, and plenty of food-on-a-stick make for days of family fun.

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We always like to send you into the weekend with a little light reading from your Insider columnists. Enjoy:

  • Washington Insider Jamie Dupree’s D.C. dispatch, “Congress evidently not interested in Raffensperger’s election stories;”
  • The Political Insider’s Wednesday column, “The ‘stop the steal’ Republicans pushing Buckhead City;” and
  • A look ahead at the Sunday Political Insider, “The next speech Keisha Lance Bottoms should give”

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As always, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com and greg.bluestein@ajc.com.

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