By Tom Baxter

Suppose that after an hour’s badgering, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had given in and promised to “find” those 11,760 votes President Donald Trump was asking for. What then?

If there even was a “what then.” The news that Trump attempted to call the Georgia official 18 times over the past couple of months belies any notion that the call on Saturday was part of the buildup to the last-ditch effort to block congressional certification of the Electoral College vote this Wednesday. It’s been on Trump’s mind continuously since the election.

If he could by extraordinary means have gained Georgia’s 16 electoral votes, Trump would still have been short of what he would need to change the outcome of the presidential election. Georgia attracted the president’s interest because it was his closest loss, and of course because of the intense attention the dual Senate runoffs have received. Maybe Lin Wood has had something to do with it. But despite these reasons to be distracted by it, Georgia can’t give Trump what he really wants.

Nor will bringing caravans of supporters into Washington Wednesday as the Senate labors through what is likely to be a protracted session concluding with the certification of Joe Biden’s victory. But it will be quite a show.

Into all the buzz about the phone call and its potential impact on the runoffs came the news Monday afternoon that B.J. Pak, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, was resigning his post due to “unforeseen circumstances.” A Trump appointee who has generally been given good marks for his job performance, Pak had said previously he would stay on until Jan. 20. His abrupt departure, still mysterious, was another jolt for already rattled Georgia Republicans.

One of the reasons Trump gave Raffensperger as proof that he really won Georgia was the size of his rallies in the state compared to Biden’s, albeit that the Trump campaign encouraged big crowds while Biden’s was more COVID-conscious. There were only a few hundred supporters at Biden’s appearance in Atlanta Monday afternoon for Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, ahead of the throngs expected Monday night for Trump’s rally in Dalton for David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

But Biden looked loose as a goose Monday, exhorting Democrats to turn out for “Jon and the Reverend” and donning a “VOTE” face mask after his stump speech. He made no mention of the Trump tape story, although he lambasted the Trump administration for “surrendering” to COVID-19. He didn’t seem very worried about what Trump might do to hang on to the presidency, even though all 10 living former secretaries of Defense were concerned enough to send a public letter to Trump declaring the election over and warning against involving the military in politics.

Trump’s speech in Dalton several hours later was a marked contrast to the one he gave in Valdosta last month, even though he said a lot of the same things, and the crowds at both rallies cheered him enthusiastically.

But in Valdosta he was on time and focused, and seemed to genuinely connect with his audience. The Dalton rally looked on television more like an aging rock band’s greatest hits tour. Trump even brought up Hillary Clinton and got the old “Lock her up” chant.

“By the way, we won this state,” were virtually his first words after stepping off the Marine One helicopter. He put Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Mike Lee publicly on the spot to help block Biden’s certification, promised — twice — to return to Georgia to campaign against Gov. Brian Kemp and the “crazy” Raffensperger, and took complete credit for the elections of Kemp and Karen Handel.

Occasionally, the president got around to Tuesday’s runoffs, although as he mentioned a couple of times, he wasn’t crazy about doing rallies for other people. He’d get no credit if they win, he lamented, and if they lose, “they’ll blame Trump.”

The outcome of Tuesday’s runoffs will be as important as they’ve been ballyhooed to be. But no matter what combination of the four candidates gets to Washington, they’ll be walking into a deeply fractured chamber. At least a dozen Republican senators are defying Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to object to Biden’s certification Wednesday, signaling the end of his iron grasp on the GOP caucus. And a short walk by Joe Manchin could be disastrous for a Democratic majority.

Tom Baxter has written about politics and the South for more than four decades. He was national editor and chief political correspondent at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and later edited The Southern...

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  1. President Trump’s legacy is a nightmare in American history
    By George Wilson
    The Trump legacy is a nightmare in American history. Here are a few reasons:
    Poor management: We can start with the beginning of the administration and its poor transition in taking over the government and the high turnover of personnel and staff during the administration. Of Mr. Trump’s 15 initial cabinet members, nine, so far, have not survived his term. In the White House, 59 of his 65 top aides have left, many of them before the end of Mr. Trump’s first year. That’s more than any other recent president. In certain positions, serial turnover; Mr. Trump has had six communications directors and deputy national security advisers. Hence. this has led to confusion in policy at all levels of government and the public’s mind.
    Poisoning the body politic: Trump’s never-ending lies have weakened democratic institutions and norms. For example, according to a Pew research poll, only 10 percent of Republicans trust in mass media as opposed to 73 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of independents.
    On another matter, the elections were not fraudulent as Trump proclaimed. For example, when 15,000 absentee ballots were audited in Cobb County, no voter fraud was found. Nor, despite Trump’s claims, has fraud been found anywhere else.
    Finally, Trump has told over 20,000 lies and misleading claims, often amplified by the FOX Network, right-wing radio, and social media sources.
    Missed opportunities: In not working with our allies in creating good trading agreements, he has increased the power of China, who stepped into the vacuum created by Trump policies.
    Corruption: Trump’s parting gift to dictators solidifies his authoritarian legacy. His administration has moved forward with a slew of major arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (Yemen dead now tally 233,000), and Egypt. Also, we cannot forget the massive amounts of money paid to his resorts to house government employees, like secret service agents. And don’t forget the pardons to his convicted criminal friends.
    Failed in business: As proven by his business failures and bankruptcies, Trump is not a very good businessman. Why should we have thought he would be a solid president?
    The American economy was on an upward trajectory when he came into office, after the Obama Administration. Trump’s contribution to overall economic growth was little more than not messing up the ongoing (Obama) economic expansion … until he ignored the combined human and economic impacts of Covid-19. The Trump Administration’s economic performance must be looked at in its entirety, not merely by its performance before 2020. Anything else is political apologias.
    Overall: Judged in its entirety, Trump’s economic performance has been a failure – and on the human side, a disaster. Think about it, the handling and response to the Covid-19 crisis, the economy, international relations with our allies, ignoring climate change, backing out on the Iranian nuclear treaty, the vaccine rollout, and finally the vaulted trade deficit that has never been higher.
    Finally, Trump should be prosecuted for his crimes, to restore justice and the rule of law. Politically this may be a problem at the federal level, but may not at the state level.

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