Georgia Republicans’ mixed reaction to Trump indictment reflects rift in party’s politics

Kemp: ‘The 2020 election in Georgia was not stolen’

By: and - August 16, 2023 1:00 am

“The 2020 election in Georgia was not stolen,” Gov. Brian Kemp posted on social media Tuesday in response to former President Donald Trump. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

This story was updated at 8:45 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023, with additional comment. 

The Republican state officials who were favorite targets of former President Donald Trump in the wake of the 2020 presidential election are not among those coming to the embattled GOP frontrunner’s defense. 

Trump and 18 others were named as defendants in a sweeping 98-page criminal indictment handed up by a Fulton County grand jury late Monday evening alleging a massive multi-state plot to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election results.

Trump reacted to Monday’s indictment with an announcement that he plans to unveil a report on “presidential election fraud” in Georgia at a press conference in New Jersey just days before the Aug. 25 deadline to surrender in Fulton County. That prompted Gov. Brian Kemp to fire off a social media post of his own. 

“The 2020 election in Georgia was not stolen,” Kemp posted Tuesday in response to Trump. “For nearly three years now, anyone with evidence of fraud has failed to come forward – under oath – and prove anything in a court of law. Our elections in Georgia are secure, accessible, and fair and will continue to be as long as I am governor.

“The future of our country is at stake in 2024 and that must be our focus,” he added. 

Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who faced death threats in 2020 and high-pressure calls for his resignation, was on the receiving end of the Jan. 2, 2021, phone call where Trump asked Raffensperger to “find” nearly 12,000 votes – enough to reverse the election results.

Raffensperger simply said this in a statement Tuesday: “The most basic principles of a strong democracy are accountability and respect for the Constitution and rule of law. You either have it, or you don’t.”

Former GOP Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who testified before the grand jury Monday, has been unsparing in his criticism of the former president since 2020 and said Monday that he hopes this will be a “pivot point” for Republicans.

Trump has been charged with three counts of solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer, identified in one of the counts as Raffensperger. And a phone call to Kemp and multiple tweets about Kemp, including one where he called the governor an “obstructionist,” are cited in the indictment. Trump had been pressuring Kemp to call a special session. 

Duncan did not run for reelection last year, but Kemp and Raffensperger both easily defeated Trump-backed Republican challengers in landslide victories, with Raffensperger winning a four-way contest outright with a little help from left-leaning voters. 

The Fulton County case marks the fourth time the former president has been indicted this year, and it is the second indictment directly tied to his attempts to stay in power after losing his bid for reelection. 

Trump, who has publicly dismissed the cases against him as politically motivated as he tries to win back the White House next year, faces a total of 13 counts in Georgia.

The former president and his allies are being prosecuted under Georgia’s RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act, which is patterned after federal law designed to target mafia leaders. 

Some of the other charges defendants face include making false statements and writings, impersonating a public officer, conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree and conspiracy to commit election fraud. 

The indictment alleges the defendants “refused to accept that Trump lost, and they knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump.” The “criminal organization” also included 30 unindicted co-conspirators, according to the indictment. 

And it includes charges for other high-profile Georgia Republicans, including then-Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer and Shawn Still, who was a fake elector in 2020 and later elected to the state Senate. 

“The evidence at trial will show that Sen. Still is innocent as the day is long. We look forward to our day in court to clear his good name,” said Tom Bever, who is Still’s lawyer at Smith, Gambrell and Russell in Atlanta.

A special prosecutor will be assigned to look at Lt. Gov. Burt Jones’ actions separately, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Jones, who was a state senator during the 2020 election, was one of 16 “fake” electors who gathered at the state Capitol within weeks of President Joe Biden’s victory in a scheme to claim Georgia’s Electoral College votes for Trump.

The Jackson Republican is one of the 30 unindicted co-conspirators who are referenced but not named in the indictment. But he was ruled off limits during in the Fulton County special purpose grand jury investigation after District Attorney Fani Willis held a fundraiser for the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.

Jones focused on Willis in a statement about the indictment Tuesday.

“The Fulton County District Attorney has spent millions of taxpayer dollars and thousands of man hours over the past two and a half years orchestrating a constant media and PR campaign for the sole purpose of furthering her own political career,” Jones said in a statement Tuesday.

Current state party leader, Josh McKoon, defended the slate of alternate electors Tuesday in an email to supporters, comparing a fake elector’s vote to a provisional ballot that only “preserves their right to vote if it is determined that their vote should be counted.”

“The Georgia Republican Party stands firmly on the side of a criminal justice system that does not have separate tracks depending on whether you have the ‘right’ political views,” he wrote. 

‘Witch hunt’

Among Trump’s political allies, the Fulton County indictment was met with now-familiar outrage. 

Georgia GOP First District Chair Kandiss Taylor, who unsuccessfully challenged Kemp in last year’s primary, blasted Georgia Republican lawmakers for not coming to the former president’s aid.

“The silence of ALL GA Legislators is DEAFENING!” she said in a Tuesday morning post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “We have a literal witch-hunt going on in GA against innocent men and (women) and the man we elected President and NOTHING. We see you. We won’t forget. COWARDS. Don’t ask for a dime of our money. Don’t ask for a minute of our time.” 

Georgia Congressman Buddy Carter, a Pooler Republican, called for a congressional investigation into “DA Willis’ WITCH HUNT against the former president.” Congressman Andrew Clyde of Athens accused Willis of attempting to rig the 2024 election.

“SHAM INDICTMENT #4,” he tweeted. “This isn’t about the 2020 election. It’s about the 2024 election. The Left is dangerously abusing the power of prosecution to interfere in the upcoming election because they’re terrified of facing President Trump at the ballot box.” 

Conservative firebrand Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene had a lot to say about the indictment Tuesday, alleging that the indictment is communist and intended to abridge conservatives’ free speech.

The Rome Republican also suggested that voters care more about economic issues than prosecuting the former president.

“The media and elite Democrats need to stop pearl clutching in their Trump Derangement support groups and go out in the real world where seniors and working folks can’t afford food, bills, and gas,” she posted to social media.

Carter, Clyde and Greene were among the six Georgia representatives to formally object to the election results during the congressional proceedings held on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters disrupted the process. 

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Jill Nolin
Jill Nolin

Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.

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Ross Williams
Ross Williams

Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal. His work earned recognition from the Georgia Associated Press Media Editors and the Georgia Press Association, including beat reporting, business writing and non-deadline reporting.

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