ATLANTA — President Donald Trump escalated his criticism of Gov. Brian Kemp and called for his resignation.
In the wake of the 2020 general election and after his loss in Georgia to President-elect Joe Biden, Trump has settled on an unlikely target to attack: the Republic governor he endorsed in 2018.
For weeks, the president has taken to social media, calling Kemp a “clown,” “fool,” “RINO," “complete disaster,” “stupid,” has called for U.S. Rep. Doug Collins to challenge him in 2022 and finally on Wednesday demanded Kemp resign.
“@BrianKempGA should resign from office,” Trump tweeted. “He is an obstructionist who refuses to admin that we won Georgia, BIG!”
Hearings from Atlanta on the Georgia Election overturn now being broadcast. Check it out. @OANN @newsmax and many more. @BrianKempGA should resign from office. He is an obstructionist who refuses to admit that we won Georgia, BIG! Also won the other Swing States.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2020
The outburst comes just days out from the consequential U.S. Senate runoffs that Republicans must win to hold majority control of the upper chamber. Both Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed by Kemp, have been walking a thin line between Trump and Republican state officials who have pushed back against the president's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.
Trump’s outrage is not tied to any concrete evidence of election tampering in Georgia. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — another subject of the president’s attacks — has repeatedly upheld that multiple investigations have found no evidence of widespread fraud.
Kemp dismissed Trump’s call for his resignation during a press conference, calling it a “distraction” from the most important task at hand: reelecting Perdue and Loeffler. The Republican governor said he has more important issues needing his attention than "what somebody is tweeting."
“Let me tell you what I’ve been focused on today, and I think it is what the people of Georgia want me focused on, and that is making sure if they need a hospital bed, they’re going to get one,” Kemp said during a hasty press conference Wednesday.
“And I’ve been focusing politically on the more important question that I believe we’ve seen in our state and the country in a long time and that is sending David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler back to the United States Senate to save this country from socialism and handing the keys to Pelosi, Schumer, AOC and Bernie Sanders,” he continued. “And that is what everyone else should be doing. All of this other stuff is simply a distraction.”
A signature audit of absentee ballots in Cobb County, overseen by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, did not find any widespread fraud throughout the 15,000 mail-in ballots reviewed, according to the final report.
The GBI and secretary of state office investigators found just 10 absentee ballots where the signature did not match or the signature was missing but agents confirmed the correct voters submitted those ballots.
The audit contradicted Trump’s claims that have caused a rift in the state’s GOP party. Frustrated state officials have started to push back against the president, who Republicans worry is causing distrust of the democratic process — first Raffensperger, then Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, and now, publicly, Kemp.
“All of these things are a distraction,” Kemp said Wednesday. "I’ve supported the president — I've said that many times. I've worked as hard as anybody in the state on his reelection up through November 3rd. I've supported the legal process that him or any other campaign can go through in this state. But at the end of the day also have to follow the laws and the Constitution."
In early December, Trump held a rally in Valdosta where for nearly two hours he rattled off complaints about his loss in Georgia and baseless voter fraud claims — at an event that Republicans desperately needed him to show support for Loeffler and Perdue.
The day before the Jan. 5 runoffs, the president will again visit Georgia, this time Dalton, to rally for the two Republican candidates. Kemp told reporters he had not received an invitation but would still do everything he can to help Perdue and Loeffler's reelection campaigns.
"No one — whether you're mad at me, whether you like me — should get distracted by anything other than getting out to vote to save our country, quite honestly, from a socialist agenda," Kemp said. "... That is where my focus is. I don't want to wake up on January 6th and wonder what else I should have done."