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In surprisingly good shape politically, Raffensperger makes his grand jury appearance

By Tom Baxter

Tom Baxter’s column will return next week.

Last week Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger spent more than five hours testifying before a special Fulton County grand jury. We have a pretty good idea of what he said — he’s written a book about it already — but it would be interesting to know how he said it.

The organizers of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, which begins a series of nine hearings in prime time Thursday night, have signaled explosive new evidence regarding former President Donald Trump’s involvement in the attempt to overturn the 2020 election. But it’s unlikely the committee is going to uncover any evidence that is closer to a smoking gun than the recording of the telephone conversation in which Trump alternately cajoled and threatened Raffensperger to “find” the votes needed to overturn the election results in Georgia.

The length of time Raffensperger spent testifying seemed to bear out Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ stated intention to go beyond Raffensperger’s conversation with Trump to probe other possible evidence of election tampering. It’s likely Raffensperger was also questioned about an earlier telephone conversation with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and the resignation of former U.S. Attorney B.J. Pak, among other topics.

The process by which this might lead to real trouble for Trump is fairly complicated. This grand jury can issue subpoenas and will make recommendations to Willis, but she would then have to go to another grand jury if she decides to seek indictments.

There are a lot of ways all that could come to nothing, but Willis has gotten into Trump’s head far enough for him to issue a social media broadside against “the young, ambitious, Radical Left Democrat “Prosecutor” from Georgia.” A blue county Democrat couldn’t ask for a sweeter recommendation.

It’s clear that in the closing days of this year’s primary campaign, Trump understood that he’d picked the wrong candidate to wreak vengeance on Gov. Brian Kemp in former U.S. Sen. David Perdue. The former president didn’t withdraw his support from Perdue as publicly as he did former U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks in the Senate race in Alabama, but it was clear he had disconnected as Perdue’s poll numbers sank.

Trump was reported to be stunned by Raffensperger’s outright victory in his primary, however. When he recruited U.S. Rep. Jody Hice to challenge Raffensperger, he must have believed he’d picked the ideal candidate for his voters in Georgia, and Raffensperger hasn’t got the kind of statewide network Kemp has. He wasn’t the only one who was shocked that things didn’t turn out that way.

As he headed for the Fulton County Courthouse last week, Raffensperger might well have reflected that his appearance wasn’t nearly as fraught politically as it might have been if he’d ended up in a runoff with Hice. Instead, it’s his Democratic rivals who still have a runoff to deal with.

An updated analysis that includes Election Day voters indicates that some 67,000 people who voted in the 2020 Democratic primary voted in the Republican primary this year, leading to speculation that Democrats were what kept Raffensperger out of a runoff. This has led some Republicans to propose that the state moves to party registration as a requirement for participating in primaries.

“We’re trying to make the primary pure,” newly elected state Sen. Colton Moore said. “Even if it’s just a small percentage (of crossover voters), let’s say 2 percent or 3 percent, in a race, that’s enough to sway the outcome to where a party isn’t getting its nominee.”

Not only is this a disastrously bad idea from a party-building standpoint, the premise it’s based on — that crossover voters decided the outcome for Raffensperger — is shaky. Even if all 67,000 of those people voted the same way (which they didn’t), subtracting them would have left Raffensperger leading Hice by about 155,000 votes. He would have faced a runoff against Hice, but he would be the heavy favorite to be his party’s nominee.

It turns out some of those people who voted Democrat two years ago, voted Republican in previous years. Voters change their minds, often more than once. Requiring them to stay in one party or the other is likely to have the effect of even more voters becoming independents, and declaring a pox on both parties.

Tom Baxter

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 Political Report, an online publication, for four years. Tom was the consultant for the 2008 election night coverage sponsored jointly by Current TV, Digg and Twitter, and a 2011 fellow at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. He has written about the impact of Georgia’s and Alabama's immigration laws in reports for the Center for American Progress. Tom and his wife, Lili, have three adult children and seven grandchildren.


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  1. OneandDone June 13, 2022 10:10 am

    Fani Willis is a one term DA. We elected her and we will put her on the street again.Report

  2. overit in Atlanta June 13, 2022 10:37 am

    NOBODY but Fani Willis cares about this $hit $how. Its all about her and her reelection. Mid terms cant arrive soon enough.Report


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