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The Georgia fervor to draft Sally Yates as a sign of Democratic angst

The draft Sally Yates campaign started by some local Democrats isn't just about convincing a symbol of the Trump resistance to run for governor next year. It also signals some ongoing angst over House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, a likely candidate for the seat.

The group of Democratic strategists urging Yates to run includes Tharon Johnson, a longtime adviser to Barack Obama and Kasim Reed; Jeff DiSantis, a campaign strategist for Michelle Nunn and Vincent Fort; and Seth C. Clark, a one-time adviser to state Rep. Stacey Evans.

Abrams, meanwhile, has signaled her admiration for Yates on Twitter:


One Georgia Democratic powerhouse who isn't Yates' biggest fan: U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

The civil rights icon and longtime Atlanta congressman called the Obama White House to try and block her appointment to be U.S. attorney at one point in 2009, according to The Wall Street Journal.

His alleged beef with Yates had to do with former Atlanta mayor Bill Campbell, a longtime friend of Lewis. She helped secure the fraud conviction that sent Campbell to federal prison.

If you don't,  Talking Points Memo had a digested version:

Lewis and other Georgia Democratic congressmen were tasked, as is routine, with sending a list of preferred U.S. Attorney candidates to the administration. Sally Yates, a longtime prosecutor in Georgia, was seen as an ideal candidate, but someone within the Democratic delegation cut her name from the list sent to the White House.


But the administration was still interested in Yates, so Lewis called White House Counsel Greg Craig directly to torpedo her candidacy -- because, the WSJ reports, Yates led the corruption probe that netted Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, a Lewis ally and friend. Campbell was sentenced to 30 months in prison in 2006 for tax evasion; at the same time, he was acquitted of bribery charges.


Lewis finally lifted his objections only after inquiries from the press made his position untenable. And the White House is now poised to nominate Yates for the job.

Lewis' office, through a spokeswoman, denied all of the above:

"Any phone calls Rep. Lewis made were made in confidence, as is the practice in any employment process. Any reservations that may have been raised about Ms. Yates do not relate to the fact that she prosecuted former Mayor Bill Campbell and any withdrawal of comments made were not a response to inquiries by the Wall Street Journal."


You’ll remember that after a first series of rallies, the tea party movement gathered steam in 2009 and 2010 through mass attendance at “town hall” meetings, targeting specific members of Congress.

It looks like Democrats want to duplicate the effort. A group calling itself the Town Hall Project has begun compiling a master calendar of public meetings. U.S. Rep. Jody Hice has made the list, with a Feb. 10 meeting at the Green County Farm Bureau in Greensboro, Ga.


Politico.com has obtained an off-the-record admission that the Trump administration is attempting to freeze out CNN by refusing to place its surrogates before the cable news network’s cameras:

 “We’re sending surrogates to places where we think it makes sense to promote our agenda,” said a White House official, acknowledging that CNN is not such a place, but adding that the ban is not permanent.


A CNN reporter, speaking on background, was more blunt: The White House is trying to punish the network and force down its ratings.


“They’re trying to cull CNN from the herd,” the reporter said.


Nick Ayers, the Cobb County native who served as a top aide on President Donald Trump's transition team, is involved in a new nonprofit designed to bolster the White House's agenda.

The Associated Press reports that Ayers and a handful of other top Trump campaign aides co-founded "America First Policies":

America First Policies will conduct research into public policies and promote Trump's favored causes, such as dismantling and replacing President Barack Obama's health care law and changing immigration policies.

One of its first tasks is likely to be advocacy for Trump's Supreme Court nominee, whom the president said he would announce Tuesday night. The group doesn't have yet have a public website, but its founders said to expect digital and television advertising around issues.


Former Georgia congressman John Barrow is said to be considering a bid for statewide office. But on Tuesday he took to Facebook with another announcement:

"I’m proud to announce that I’ve started a term of service as a volunteer staff attorney with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. It’s the kind of work that comes closest to what I was able to do in Congress — helping people who need help but can’t afford a lawyer. Only this time, I can do more than just ask the bad guys to do the right thing — I can fight for my clients in court!"

This has a precedent. Following his defeat in 2002, former Gov. Roy Barnes lent his talents to the legal aid organization for six months as a full-time volunteer.


U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson is taking over leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations panel Georgia colleague David Perdue held last year.

The committee announced Isakson would lead the subcommittee tasked with overseeing the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development and other international programs. Perdue ran the panel as a freshman in 2015 and 2016 but left the committee last month in order to serve on the Senate Armed Services, one of his dream assignments.

Isakson heads two other Senate committees, Ethics and Veterans Affairs, as well as a subcommittee focused on labor.


Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren offered a not-so-serious-but-still-eyebrow-raising Super Bowl wager to Georgia colleague Johnny Isakson on Tuesday.

Warren suggested that a confirmation vote for Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Department of Education, should be on the line as the New England Patriots take on the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

"That's more than a gamble," Isakson replied.

Watch the exchange here:


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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.