Georgia Republicans suspend state senator who wants to impeach DA for indicting Trump

Republican Georgia state Sen. Colton Moore speaks to reporters outside the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta, Sept. 7, 2023. Fellow state Senate Republicans suspended Moore from their caucus, Thursday, Sept. 28, saying Moore refused to follow internal caucus rules as he attacked fellow Republicans for not backing his push to impeach Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis for indicting Donald Trump (AP Photo/Jeff Amy)

Georgia’s Republican Senate Caucus is suspending a GOP state senator who attacked them for opposing his plan to impeach Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis for indicting former President Donald Trump.

The caucus announced Thursday that it was indefinitely suspending state Sen. Colton Moore of Trenton, who represents a district in Georgia’s northwest corner.

“Sen. Moore has a right to his opinion,” the caucus said in a statement. “However, during his advocacy for his ill-conceived proposal, Sen. Moore has knowingly misled people across Georgia and our nation, causing unnecessary tension and hostility, while putting his caucus colleagues and their families at risk of personal harm,” said the group, which has 32 of the Georgia Senate’s 56 members.

Moore attacked his colleagues as “Republicans in name only,” or RINOs.

“The Georgia RINOs responded to my call to fight back against the Trump witch hunts by acting like children and throwing me out of the caucus,” Moore wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “But I’m not going anywhere.”

It’s the latest display of a divide between Gov. Brian Kemp and many elected Republicans, on the one hand, and grassroots Trump backers who have captured control of Georgia’s Republican Party organization.

Kemp refused to endorse Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election and help him try to overturn his narrow loss in the state. Willis has charged Trump and 18 others, including the former state Republican Party chair, with crimes related to the effort. All have pleaded not guilty.

Moore will still be a member of the Senate and will still be a Republican, but may find it hard to pass legislation without the support of the majority caucus. But he already often functioned like a party of one in the body, voting against measures that all other Republicans or all other senators supported.

Moore was the most prominent backer of a special session to impeach and remove Willis or defund her office, winning Trump’s endorsement. Kemp denounced the call as “some grifter scam” to raise campaign contributions for Moore, in a news conference that was unusually impassioned for the buttoned-up Kemp.

Kemp called the push “political theater that only inflames the emotions of the moment,” saying a special session “would ignore current Georgia law and directly interfere with the proceedings of a separate but equal branch of government.” Kemp said he didn’t think Willis had done anything to merit removal.

Moore launched a petition for lawmakers to call themselves into special session, requiring signatures by three-fifths of both houses. That would require some Democratic support because Republicans have a less than 60% majority in each chamber. And the Senate would have required a two-thirds vote to remove Willis after the House impeached her. Moore never got close to persuading fellow Republicans, much less Democrats, winning the signatures of one Republican House member and one other Republican senator.

However, Moore attacked some other state senators. After Republican state Sens. Bo Hatchett and Shelly Echols issued a joint statement criticizing Moore’s call, they said Moore targeted them for retaliation and they received threats.

The caucus claimed Moore violated internal rules and was suspended by Republican leaders after refusing to follow those rules. The caucus claimed Moore was not being retaliated against for “his wrongheaded policy position.”

Some other Georgia Republicans have freely attacked Willis, including U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

“Fani Willis should be ashamed of herself and she’s going to lose her job. We’ll make sure of that,” Greene told reporters outside the Fulton County Jail, shortly before Trump arrived by motorcade to submit to booking and a mug shot.

Despite Moore getting the boot, some Republican state senators are backing a plan to seek Willis’ removal by a new state prosecutorial oversight commission. The Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission is supposed to begin work sometime after Oct. 1, when the state Supreme Court approves its rules. The body was created with the aim of disciplining or removing wayward prosecutors.

Some district attorneys, not including Willis, are already suing to overturn the law, saying it improperly infringes on their authority.

Kemp, while criticizing the timing of the Trump indictment, has said he hasn’t seen any evidence that the commission should discipline or remove Willis.