Georgia GOP state senator rallies allies in call to punish Fulton DA over 2020 election indictments

Demonstrators gather outside the Georgia Capitol to call for a special session to investigate Fulton DA Fani Willis. (Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder)

One group of Georgia state lawmakers is calling for a special legislative session to defund, investigate, impeach or otherwise punish Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis after she charged former president Donald Trump and 18 others with trying to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. That group includes Republican Sens. Colton Moore of Trenton and Brandon Beach of Alpharetta and Rep. Charlice Byrd of Woodstock.

Another larger and more powerful group has not signed on to do that. Its members include all of the state’s other 233 legislators, but Moore and his trio are not going away quietly, continuing their calls at a press conference and rally at the Capitol Thursday.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp said going after Willis would “ignore current Georgia law and directly interfere with the proceedings of a separate but equal branch of government” and House Speaker Jon Burns said the plan “flaunts the idea of separation of powers, if not outright violates it.”

It would also mean convincing two-thirds majorities in both chambers – meaning Moore and Beach would need to talk 36 of their fellow senators into joining in, and Byrd would have the heavy job of convincing 119 of her colleagues to defy the governor and speaker. More than a few Democrats would need to join their conservative GOP colleagues in the plan to exact punishment on Willis, who is also a Democrat.

But Moore said he’s not giving up that easily, firing back at Kemp at a Capitol press conference and rally Thursday.

“The governor has made some statements in his own press conference a week ago that are very disgraceful to the office, the most prestigious office in this state, he calls and references me a grifter and a scammer,” he said. “I represent 200,000 hardworking Georgians in Northwest Georgia. The people that I represent that duly elected me, they sweat hard for their tax dollars and they don’t want their tax dollars funding this type of corrupt government power.”

Sen. Colton Moore speaks before an unusually crowded press conference. (Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder)

Moore narrowly won a first term in the state Senate in 2022, tallying fewer than 15,000 votes in a primary that determined who would represent a reliably red district at the Tennessee border.

Moore said he wants his colleagues to use the power of the budget to direct dollars away from Willis’ office.

“The language would state, all of this money can be used at your discretion, except for Fulton County, and then, constitutionally, to my understanding, we do have to fund the office with something, but I’m proposing one dollar.”

In a gaggle with reporters, Moore indicated that he had not met with the Senate Budget Office or legal counsel to see if his plan is legally possible.

“What do you mean legally possible?” he asked. “I’m a member of the Legislature. I’m a member of the Republic. I don’t ask permission from the Office of Planning and Budgets as to how my constituents’ tax dollars can be spent.”

Moore also dismissed questions about how law enforcement would prosecute suspected criminals with a dollar from the state.

“She’s not fighting crime now, and that’s more the reason to investigate her,” he said.

Sen. Colton Moore and Rep. Charlice Byrd. (Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder)

“Fulton County will have to pay for it,” he added. “The Fulton County Commission will have to tax their citizens more, or they will have to reallocate their tax dollars and fund Fani Willis, but my citizens that I represent do not want their tax dollars going to Fani Willis.”

Moore may lack enough lawmaker support to deliver on his threat, but he did have the support of a crowd of several dozen believers who packed into the seats of a legislative conference room to hear his press conference, cheer him on and at times boo members of the media. Some of the crowd were members of the Tea Party Patriots.

Tea Party cofounder Jenny Beth Martin said Willis’ actions crossed the line into blatantly political.

“District Attorney Fani Lewis (sic) has abused her power of office for partisan political purposes, and that is wrong,” she said. “Her wrongful prosecution – which I actually think is a persecution – must be defunded, and an investigation must ensue. And if that investigation leads to an impeachment, so be it.”

Multiple audits, recounts and legal challenges found no evidence of widespread legal fraud in the 2020 election, but none of those auditors, recounters or challengers were in the crowd Thursday. Instead, most were convinced the election had been stolen and Trump was being punished for speaking up.

“It’s okay to challenge the election,” said Bruce LeVell, an ally and advisor to Trump. “The election was over. ‘Let me call Brad (Raffensperger, Georgia Secretary of State) up. Brad, I know I won. I know there’s 11,000 (votes). Go back and look.’ That’s called questioning. That’s called asking questions.”

Bruce LeVell. (Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder)

The indictment alleges Trump led a criminal conspiracy to overturn his loss. Parts of that alleged conspiracy includes trying to convince Raffensperger to illegally inflate his vote total, using fake electors to override votes, intimidating election workers into falsely admitting to miscounting votes and breaking into election equipment.

Some Republicans appear fed up with Moore’s goals and tactics – which include posting legislative colleague’s phone numbers to social media and publicly disparaging those who disagree with him and using language some fear could incite violence against legislators, prosecutors or grand jurors.

The unhappy atmosphere has led some to speculate he may face punishment, including being kicked out of the caucus, but Moore struck a defiant tone Thursday.

“We do go into caucus behind closed doors starting on Monday for three days. It’ll be the first time that the Senate Republican caucus has met officially as a caucus since this has went down. My answer to your question and my answer to my fellow Republicans is make my day. Vote me out of the caucus.”

Moore pledged to continue to make Republicans’ lives difficult up until the session begins in January, at which point he will continue making Republicans’ lives difficult.

“I’m going to continue to call, and I’m sure other colleagues are as well, to call for a special session up until we are in session, and at that point, I will motion to amend the budget and defund Fani Willis, and we will have a roll call vote,” he said.

This story was provided by WABE content partner Georgia Recorder.