The latest indictment of former President Trump, in Georgia, differs from the other three cases he faces in one key respect.
The case brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) shines a light on the role Republican officials played in pushing back on Trump’s false claims of election fraud and thwarting his plans to overturn the result.
This alone greatly complicates Trump’s preferred narrative, whereby he is the put-upon victim of President Biden and Democrats as he seeks to regain the White House. The former president labeled the indictments against him “election interference” in three social media posts Friday.
Such claims sit uneasily with the resistance he encountered in Georgia from Republican figures like Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
As Trump again stokes fictions about fraud in the aftermath of the indictment, Kemp has again become an important opponent.
The Georgia governor has left virtually no doubt that he is skeptical about the former president’s 2024 candidacy, which is animated in large part by grievances about the 2020 defeat.
On Friday, Kemp told a conservative gathering in Atlanta, “It should be such an easy path for us [the Republican Party] to win the White House back but … We have to be focused on the future, not something that happened three years ago.”
Earlier in the week, Trump took to Truth Social to promote a press conference that he contended would provide “irrefutable” evidence of the “Presidential Election Fraud which took place in Georgia.”
Kemp promptly shot back on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter: “The 2020 election in Georgia was not stolen. 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,” he wrote.
Kemp added, “The future of our country is at stake in 2024 and that must be our focus.”
Trump later canceled his proposed press conference, contending that his lawyers would “prefer putting this … in formal Legal Filings.”
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Martha Zoller, a Georgia-based radio host and Republican consultant, suggested Kemp’s vocal opposition could have played some role in the cancellation.
“You saw that he canceled that press conference saying his lawyers didn’t think it was a good idea?” Zoller told this column. “I don’t know when he has done anything because his lawyers thought it was a good idea.”
Kemp is mentioned several times in the indictment. Willis cites a phone call Trump placed to the governor on Dec. 5, 2020, as well as several tweets attacking him over the election as “overt” acts “in furtherance of the conspiracy” to overturn the election.
Trump, who denies wrongdoing, is expected to plead not guilty to all charges.
The tensions between Trump and Kemp have bubbled up regularly since 2020. Trump strongly backed the governor’s 2022 primary opponent, former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.).
Trump made a startling remark, even by his standards, when he said during a rally in Perry, Ga., in September 2021 that Democrat Stacey Abrams “might be better than having your existing governor, if you want to know the truth.”
But Kemp thumped Perdue, who ran an underwhelming campaign, and the result delivered a significant blow to Trump’s prestige.
Raffensperger also won his primary and general election battles in 2022, despite Trump’s furious opposition.
Now, their political endurance is a reminder that Trump-skeptical GOP dissidents are not always doomed to defeat.
“If Raffensperger had lost, if Kemp had lost, it would be a very different conversation,” said Doug Heye, a former communications director of the Republican National Committee. “But Trump went after them as hard as he has gone after anyone and it didn’t work.”
But there is more than the animus among Trump, Kemp and Raffensperger to the situation that is now unfolding.
The facts of the case in Georgia are a political reminder that resistance to Trump’s plans crossed party lines.
Zoller cited the Trump call to Raffensperger, during which the then-president pressured Raffensperger to “find” just enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory in the state and threatened him with vague but ominous consequences if he did not.
“Honestly, the fact that he called and was pushing was a mistake — he shouldn’t have got involved himself,” Zoller said.
Zoller said she voted for Trump twice but no longer considers herself a supporter. While she has some misgivings about the legal cases mounted against the former president, she also contends that Kemp has done a better job of building a winning Republican coalition in Georgia than Trump has done nationally.
Referring to Trump, Zoller said: “You need to forget your base because we already know they are not going anywhere. You need to start working on suburban and exurban women like me that you’ve lost.”
The Georgia indictment itself, in which Trump is charged with 13 offenses including racketeering, includes a plethora of details about the then-president and his allies being at odds with the state’s Republicans.
Beyond Kemp and Raffensperger, Republican members of the Georgia Legislature mostly failed to sign on to efforts to step in, despite being pushed to do so by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), among others.
The indictment also refers to a legal filing against Kemp, filed by Trump and attorney John Eastman. Prosecutors allege the duo had “reason to know” that the filing was replete with “materially false statements.”
Everyone expects Trump to continue with his claims that the indictments against him are politicized.
But the details in Georgia make that a much tougher task.
The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage.