The Jolt: Why Brian Kemp is key to the Trump grand jury probe

News and information from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp greets President Donald Trump as he visits Georgia to talk about an infrastructure overhaul at the UPS Hapeville hub at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Wednesday July 15, 2020 in Atlanta. Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp greets President Donald Trump as he visits Georgia to talk about an infrastructure overhaul at the UPS Hapeville hub at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Wednesday July 15, 2020 in Atlanta. Curtis Compton

Let’s unpack the implications of Gov. Brian Kemp’s testimony before the Fulton County special grand jury investigating whether Donald Trump violated state law – a story our AJC colleague Tamar Hallerman broke last night.

While millions of people have heard the tape of Donald Trump attempting to bully Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger into overturning the election, Trump’s behind-the-scenes interactions with Kemp are largely unknown.

The AJC has reported that Kemp rebuffed Trump’s demand to summon state legislators to the Capitol for a special session to reverse the election, a demand we now know he made in other states, too.

But Kemp’s testimony could reveal new details about ways Trump pressured him to flip Georgia’s results – and how Kemp rejected those pleas.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Bee Nguyen – the newly minted Democratic nominee for secretary of state – testified before the panel on Thursday. She said she was asked to recount how Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and his lawyers lied about election fraud during a specially called legislative hearing. “It’s a disservice they were allowed into our Capitol in the first place,” she wrote on Twitter.


PARDON ME? Speaking of bombshell testimony, the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot released some shocking video footage at the end of Thursday’s hearing.

It showed former White House aides under President Donald Trump recounting the members of Congress who inquired about presidential pardons after the deadly riot.

Cassidy Hutchinson, who served as an aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, was also asked specifically about Georgia’s U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

“I heard that she asked White House Counsel Office for a pardon from Mr. Philbin,” Hutchinson said, referring to deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin.

Greene attacked the committee and Hutchison in response.

“Saying ‘I heard’ means you don’t know,” Greene wrote. “Spreading gossip and lies is exactly what the January 6th Witch Hunt Committee is all about.”


LISTEN UP: Washington Insider Tia Mitchell is our special guest on the Friday edition of the Politically Georgia podcast. Tia takes us behind-the-scenes of the January 6th hearings in Washington, D.C. and Sen. Raphael Warnock’s pitch for to ease pain at the pump.

Listen at the AJC or at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.


PAYRAISE PUSHBACK. When Stacey Abrams unveiled her plan to raise teacher pay by $11,000, many Democrats cheered. When she announced the idea to hike some law enforcement salaries by roughly the same amount, she faced a much different reaction.

On social media, many liberals accused her of being a traitor to efforts to reform policing by promising to fund salary hikes for state Troopers and corrections officers. Many conservatives, meanwhile, didn’t hear about Abrams’ proposal at all.

Gov. Brian Kemp and his allies counterattacked with a flood of messaging surrounding Abrams’ role on the board of the Marguerite Casey Foundation, a Seattle-based group that has promoted the defund the police movement.

“If Abrams truly cares about keeping Georgia families safe,” said spokesman Tate Mitchell, “she should resign from this board immediately.”

And he amplified two clips that the Abrams campaign says were taken out of context, in which Abrams indicated support for shifting financial resources away from law enforcement.

Abrams’ latest effort to one-up Kemp also served as a reminder about a telling dynamic in the race for governor. While the Democrat has rolled out a suite of policies, Kemp has issued hardly any specifics about what he’d do in a second term.

Why is that? In an ominous midterm climate for Democrats, Kemp feels he can shape the course of the race – particularly after a sweeping primary victory over David Perdue that cemented his conservative support.

“The script has flipped from a year ago when Abrams thought she would run a campaign only talking to persuadable voters,” said GOP strategist Heath Garrett. “Kemp finds himself in a position where he’s in the catbird’s seat — and she’s got to solidify her base.”


BREAKTHROUGH. For the first time in decades, the Senate voted Thursday night to approve gun safety legislation negotiated by a bipartisan group of members.

The vote was 65-33, with 15 Republicans joining all 50 Democrats to approve the bill. The Associated Press reported that Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath, whose teenage son was murdered, was among a handful of House members who sat in on the vote.

Georgia Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, both Atlanta Democrats, celebrated the bill’s quick advancement.

“After over 20 years of inaction in Congress, I’m proud we finally came together and took action to pass common-sense policies supported by a majority of Georgians and Americans,” Warnock said in a statement.

The House is expected to take a vote on the bill this morning, where Democrats have the numbers to pass it.


THE FINE PRINT. The Senate-passed gun bill would:

  • Expand background checks for people ages 18-21, and give the government more time to conduct them;
  • Strengthen penalties for gun trafficking;
  • Prohibit people convicted of domestic violence from purchasing guns;
  • Create incentives for states like Georgia to implement “red flag” laws to take guns away from people deemed a threat to themselves or others;
  • Provide money for mental health and school safety.

It does not include an assault weapons ban, nor raise the minimum age to purchase one.

“For parents who fear for their children at school, for Americans threatened by abusive partners, for neighborhoods suffering from violent crime, Congress is finally taking action to protect our schools, our workplaces, and our communities,” Sen. Jon Ossoff said in a statement.


GUN MONEY. A group of parents gathered Thursday to call on Gov. Brian Kemp to return more than $50,000 in campaign funds he received from the chief executive of Daniel Defense, the Bryan County-based gun maker that manufactured the AR-15 used in the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

Our colleague Maya Prabhu reports that CEO Marty Daniel donated at least $50,200 to Kemp during his 2018 and 2022 campaigns. That includes a $25,000 contribution in March to a newly created leadership committee that can accept unlimited donations.

At a press conference organized by the Democratic Party of Georgia, parents slammed the bill Kemp signed earlier this year that eliminated the license required to carry a concealed weapon in Georgia. Federal background checks are still required when guns are purchased from a retailer.

The press conference came a week after Stacey Abrams released an ad criticizing Kemp for accepting the Marty Daniel donations.



  • All eyes are on the Supreme Court, where a landmark abortion ruling could be announced this morning;
  • On a final day of votes before a two-week recess, the House will take a morning vote on the Senate’s gun safety legislation and send it to President Joe Biden to sign into law.
  • The Senate is on recess already until July 11 for the July Fourth break.


PRISON PROBE. U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff is asking the FBI to investigate a Hawkinsville prison after the AJC reported gang members intimidating prisoners and their families there.

Ossoff made the request Wednesday in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, the AJC’s Danny Robbins writes.

“Due to the disturbing and violent nature of the acts described, I ask that the FBI consider looking into this pattern of gang-related extortion at Pulaski and other Georgia prisons where it may be occurring,” Ossoff wrote.


THAT’S DEBATABLE. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock announced Thursday that he’s accepted three debate invitations for the fall and put out the challenge to his opponent, Herschel Walker: “I invite my opponent to do the same.”

Although Walker refused to debate his primary opponents, Walker’s spokeswoman responded that Walker plans to debate Warnock in the fall, but that the campaign has, “Received dozens of invitations and are evaluating dates and debate formats.”

That was a lot less gung ho than Walker’s own response to WSB radio’s Shelley Wynter earlier this week: “I’m ready to go whenever he’s ready to go. I told him to name the place and the time, and we can get it on. Because I’m used to it, and it ain’t no big deal to me. And so, whenever you get ready to do a debate, I’ll be ready as well.”

And since it was clearly debate day in Georgia, Gov. Brain Kemp announced that he, too, has accepted two debate invitations for the fall, from the Atlanta Press Club and WSB-TV. Stacey Abrams’ camp also accepted both late Thursday.


AS ALWAYS, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to, and

Sign Up to receive the Morning Jolt & AJC Politics newsletters in your inbox.