ATLANTA — The Georgia GOP convention was already expected to be an explosive moment in state and national politics. Now the two-day event is taking on an even more intense level of national relevance.
That’s because the two-day confab will be former President Donald Trump’s first political appearance since he broke the news himself Thursday that he was indicted on federal charges of mishandling classified documents after leaving office in 2021.
The Columbus convention will feature Trump allies who continue to echo his disproven claims of 2020 election fraud and amplify his criticism of criminal investigations against him in Atlanta, New York and Washington.
As one senior Republican said, the convention “just became ground zero for Trump’s defense.”
And that’s just one of the many plotlines to watch over the weekend. Others include:
—Fulton prosecutors examining whether Trump and others at the convention criminally interfered in Georgia’s 2020 elections will be watching the former president’s speech for any inadvertent disclosures;
—The former president’s expected visit to Columbus highlights the divide between the party apparatus and Gov. Brian Kemp, who has pushed the GOP to move on from Trump’s polarizing presidency;
—The growing political clout of far-right activists is a microcosm of the battle for the soul of the national party. Some in Georgia are pushing a proposal to punish perceived “traitors” by blocking them from running as Republicans in the future.
—The three-way race to succeed party chair David Shafer features a trio of contenders promising to repair the internal fissures that are dividing the party.
Minutes after learning that former President Donald Trump is facing more criminal charges, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy vowed, “House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable.”
One of those sure to be involved is U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who posted a long missive on Twitter accusing the federal government and Democrats of conspiring to defeat Trump in next year’s presidential contest.
“Democrats must literally shake with sweats when they see amazing packed out Trump rallies and overwhelming winning poll numbers week after week,” she wrote. “They must awake in the night with panic at the thoughts of us winning in 2024.”
U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, who is building a reputation as one of the House’s most hardline members, and U.S. Rep. Mike Collins were among the other conservatives who reacted immediately to the breaking news Thursday night.
There were fewer state-level Republicans willing to weigh in publicly, even those we are closely aligned with Trump like Lt. Gov. Burt Jones and Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer.
Reaction from Democrats was not widespread either, although those who released statements made it clear they support the case moving forward. Among them was state Rep. Scott Holcomb of Atlanta, an attorney and Army veteran.
“I had a top secret clearance when I was in the Army,” he said. “No one who is serious about national security can defend how Trump handled our nation’s classified secrets.”
Meanwhile, on the question of whether Donald Trump can still run for president after being indicted on federal charges, the answer is yes. In fact, according to legal experts, Trump can continue to run for president even if he is convicted of those crimes. There is no constitutional prohibition on running for president from prison, or even serving from prison if elected.
Only the voters can decide if a person’s imprisonment is reason not to select him or her. Reporting for duty at the White House would be another matter.