AP file photo by Mark Humphrey / Legislative workers practice parliamentary procedure in the Senate chamber in Nashville in 2019.

Subverting justice

Former U.S. attorney for North Georgia, Byung J. "Bjay" Pak is our guy. More correctly, he was our guy — the top federal prosecutor for all of North Georgia — until he ran afoul of former President Donald Trump's deranged and corrupt effort to stay in power despite the fact that he'd lost the 2020 presidential election. And lost Georgia too.

Pak confirmed in August testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee that pressure from the Trump administration to probe false claims of election fraud in Georgia — and his refusal to say there was fraud when there wasn't — led to his abrupt resignation on Jan. 4.

The committee has spent eight months investigating how Trump and his allies attempted to overturn the results of the election. A report of that probe — including Pak's testimony — was released by the committee on Thursday.

In June, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that on New Year's Day, Jeffrey Clark, then the acting head of the Justice Department's civil division, exchanged messages with then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. The subject line of the thread was simply "Atlanta," and it indicated that Rosen wanted Clark to give Pak a call. That also was the day then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Rosen to ask Clark to look into allegations that Fulton County had not properly enforced signature-matching laws for absentee ballots.

In August, Pak told the committee he wrote his Jan. 4 resignation letter after a late-night Jan. 3 phone call with Richard Donoghue, then the acting deputy U.S. attorney general.

"That's when Mr. Donoghue relayed to me that the president was very unhappy and that he wanted to fire me, that he believed that I was a Never Trumper," Pak told lawmakers and their attorneys on Aug. 11, according to the transcript. "And Mr. Donoghue told me that he had told Mr. Trump that he thought that was incorrect, and that the President did not care but wanted me out of that spot."

Remember Rudy Giuliani's claims of a "suitcase full of ballots" in Fulton County and Sen. William Ligon's allegations about ballot handling in Cobb County? Those were the bogus claims of fraud that Pak's office was told to look into. He did, and found no fraud. None of it was substantiated, said Pak, a Republican who had previously served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017.

But Donoghue, a friend, had told Pak in an earlier conversation that Clark suggested a letter be sent to the Georgia General Assembly asking lawmakers to refuse to certify Electoral College votes for Biden.

"That's just highly crazy," Pak said he remembered saying to Donoghue during that conversation. "I think the words I used were — I think Rich used the words that this is bat-s**t crazy."

That was around New Year's Eve. Then came the probe orders, and on Jan. 2, Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and ask him to "find" votes — the exact number of votes plus one that Trump would have needed to best Biden in the state.

"I was very upset," Pak testified about learning of that conversation. "At the same time very disappointed because the call — the summary of the description about the call indicated that despite at least me and also the attorney general (William Barr) reporting up that there had not been widespread fraud, that the President was seeking to overturn the election or at least find ballots or represent that there was irregularities."

It was just another corrupt day in the Trump administration.


'Highly crazy,' Tennessee-style

It's not just Georgia that has been turned inside out by Trumpiness. Tennessee's General Assembly is still suffering from "highly crazy." Witness its plan for a second special session later this month so GOP members can push back on COVID-19 restrictions and mandates by governments and, possibly, businesses.

That Oct. 27 session would come after the Oct. 18 session called by Republican Gov. Bill Lee to consider $500 million in incentives promised to Ford Motor Co. for a planned $5.6 billion electric-truck production plant.

Lee, who early on stood in the way of locally imposed mask mandates and vaccine incentives, has thus far shown no interest in calling the General Assembly into session to address COVID-19, but lawmakers upset with mask mandates are exercising their ability under Tennessee's Constitution to call themselves into special session. It will take the signatures of two-thirds of each body or 66 members in the 99-member House and 22 members in the 33-member Senate. Some in the House also want to rein in the independent county health boards in six Tennessee counties, including Hamilton County.

You may recall that Trump mocked people wearing masks, and some GOP lawmakers have similarly decried President Joe Biden's move to mandate vaccination or weekly testing for employees of companies with 100 or more workers.

According to Times Free Press reporter Andy Sher, the COVID mandate hand-wringing in Nashville ratcheted up a notch when Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee announced Thursday it had terminated 19-front-line employees who refused to be vaccinated among its 900 or so workers whose jobs involve in-person contact with BlueCross colleagues or outside business and community groups.

How did these lawmakers get elected? This stuff is not just "highly crazy." It's you-know-what crazy.