A good question, and one which Raphael Warnock mostly dodged in the finale of the Georgia special-election runoff debate last night. The national media coverage of the debate between Warnock and Kelly Loeffler focused singularly on Loeffler’s deferral to Donald Trump on whether the presidential election was finished. However, this exchange was the final word that Georgia voters saw in the only debate of the runoff season, and Trump wasn’t even part of Warnock’s rebuttal.
Instead, Warnock tried to change the subject away from his arrest by claiming that police were later grateful for his obstruction:
If so, they must have really changed their minds. At the time that Warnock got arrested, an officer from the child-abuse unit involved in the investigation said she’d never seen obstruction like it:
The ministers interrupted a police interview of a counselor Wednesday in a room at the camp and, after investigators moved the interview to a nearby picnic area, interfered again and subsequently tried to prevent a camper from directing police to another potential witness, according to charging documents.
“I’ve never encountered resistance like that at all,” said Trooper Diane Barry of the state police Child and Sexual Assault Unit in Westminster. Barry said the counselors consented to the interviews after being told they were free to go at any time and were not obligated to answer her questions.
In other words, the specific allegation in the arrests state that Warnock and Mark Andre Wainwright went beyond ensuring that everyone got Mirandized. Even if that was their motivation, ministers do not have any special standing to represent others in an investigation. They can’t interfere with police interrogations in the way attorneys can; in fact, they don’t have any standing at all in that process.
Note too that Warnock never answers another part of that question: just what was the nature of the alleged abuse, and who did it involve? It’s been eighteen years, so it’s not as though the potential victims involve are still minors. If someone who got arrested for obstructing a child-abuse investigation runs for public office, he or she had better be prepared to explain those circumstances in detail, especially these days. Imagine, for instance, Warnock in a confirmation hearing for Brett Kavanaugh, and explain how that works given Democrats’ objections at the time.
One might think that the national news media might be curious about that answer, too. Not NBC News, although they dedicate nearly half of their coverage to Loeffler’s refusal to budge on her deferral to Trump’s challenges:
Loeffler was asked at the start of the debate whether she believed the election in the state, where President-elect Joe Biden won the presidential contest, was “rigged” — an allegation Trump has leveled without proof. She responded that it was “very clear” that there were issues, calling for investigations to be completed quickly. But she did not go further.
Asked again, she said that the process “is still playing out” and that “we also have to make sure that Georgians know we have a process that works.”
Asked directly whether Trump lost, Loeffler said he “has every right to use every legal recourse available.”
True enough, although it’s also true that most of the challenges in Georgia have been absurd. Still, candidates can make absurd challenges right up to the point where they exhaust the patiences of judges. It’s a fair point to cover, but NBC barely covers any of Loeffler’s arguments against Warnock except for one mention of her accusation about him being a “radical liberal” in favor of defunding the police. In fact, they only allow a single paragraph well past the jump for any of Loeffler’s arguments:
Over and over again, Loeffler referred to Warnock as “radical liberal Raphael Warnock” in addressing him and highlighted comments he had made about police, criminal justice and the military during sermons he delivered as the top pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. She claimed that Warnock would “defund police” and raise taxes on working-class Georgians and that she is “fighting for the American dream every day.”
The report does manage to mention even further down that Warnock also dodged the court-packing issue:
.@ReverendWarnock REFUSES to say where he stands on packing the Supreme Court with liberal activists.
— Kelly Loeffler (@KLoeffler) December 7, 2020
He’s “really not focused on it”? Riiiiiight.
At any rate, Georgia voters are likely to be more focused on what happens in the Senate than what happens to Trump’s futile election challenges, which will be moot by the time the runoff takes place. The media might obsess over Trump, but Georgia voters will understand that this vote will determine the post-Trump period and whether Democrats take full control in Washington. The last answer here, and the curious dodge on court-packing as well, should matter much more in their decision.