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Greg BluesteinDaniel Malloy
Jim Galloway

Bob Barr tones down his talk of impeachment

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Former congressman Bob Barr, at a recent debate of GOP candidates in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey. John Amis, AJC.

Former congressman Bob Barr, at a recent debate of GOP candidates in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey. John Amis, AJC.

Former congressman Bob Barr, now seeking a comeback in the race for Georgia’s 11th District congressional seat, raised eyebrows in January when he told a well-known conspiracy theorist that if he were to win the election, he would attempt to impeach President Barack Obama.

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blogA former federal prosecutor who helped lead impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, Barr said the Obama administration had acted illegally both in postponing mandates in the federal health care law, and through softening enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Here’s what Barr said on Jan. 23 to Alex Jones:

I think it really has come to that. It’s not something I like to say. When I left the House before, after we impeached Clinton, my hope was that we would never have to go through that process again. But we do. Mr. President, you are not above the law. You cannot ignore the law….

If you like to do your own research, here’s the YouTube clip:

Barr disputes any change of heart, and says even then that his remarks were predicated on a first holding a formal inquiry. But below is what he said about impeachment in a recent interview with our AJC colleague Jeremy Redmon for a forthcoming profile about his congressional race:

“I have not called for the impeachment of the president. What I have called for is that Congress should never be afraid to inquire into – and this ought to be a constant exercise that the Congress goes through as part of its oversight responsibility: Is the president operating within the bounds of the law? Is the president carrying out seeing that the laws be faithfully executed in the language of Article II of the Constitution? And you do that through an inquiry.”

Would Barr pursue an inquiry for investigating whether to impeach President Obama?

“First thing is first. First I have to get through the primary. Then I have to get through a runoff, if we in fact have a runoff. Then I need to be sworn in in January of 2015. I need to get assigned to committees. And I would anticipate serving on the same committees that I served on before: Judiciary, Financial Services and (Oversight and Government Reform). (Then) look into exactly what the issues are and the problems are at that time and then make those decisions.

“I am certainly not going to be so arrogant, which is something we see too much of in Washington, to say, ‘Oh, yeah. I’m going to do that when I get in.’ Let’s get up there first and then look and see exactly what is going on, what the evidence is, what the issues are and make those decisions. But they are important decisions and I am certainly not going to shy away from them.”

Is Barr changing what he said in January?

“No. I’m not. I give a lot of interviews. And if you want to focus on just one out of a hundred interviews, that is fine. I’m not sure what the point of that is. There are a lot of interviews that I have done out there. And I have just laid out for you what my position is.

“If you want to go back and nitpick and say, ‘Oh, you said something a little bit different here,’ that is your prerogative certainly, but I’m not quite sure that serves the purpose of trying to educate the public as to what my views are and what my positions are and what the other candidates’ views and positions are.”

***

Republican Karen Handel will attempt to open a new line of attack against her Republican opponents in the U.S. Senate race. She will announce later this morning that she’s releasing her tax returns for the last five years and called upon her rivals to follow suit.

Her campaign manager Corry Bliss calls it an “effort to promote government transparency.” It also seems designed to put businessman David Perdue, a former Fortune 500 chief executive worth millions, in a tight spot. Perdue hasn’t disclosed exactly how much he’s worth – campaign filings show a wide range – and this gambit seeks to force his hand.

Handel’s returns will be made available at her campaign office for review.

***

Democrat Michelle Nunn will report about $2.4 million in contributions for the first three months of the year, her strongest fundraising quarter to date in her bid for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat.

Nunn spokesman Nathan Click says 20,000 donors have contributed to the campaign in eight months. He would not say how much cash she has on hand.

***

Republican businessman David Perdue raised $567,000 and only chipped in $6,000 of his own money in the first quarter, likely via in-kind donations of campaign expenses. He finished March with $700,000 on hand, having spent $1.6 million.

***

We’ve seen Gov. Nathan Deal take executive action on medical marijuana and privatizing foster care, and he’s exploring a way to require more autism coverage for kids. Yet one area he doesn’t expect to take administrative steps involves the ethics commission.

He said he’ll continue to tweak his proposal to expand the five-member ethics board to a 12-person panel, plus a chairman. But he said he’s not exploring executive workarounds to overhaul the troubled agency before January.

Said Deal:

“I’ve already made my proposal for what I think will be necessary in the area of campaign finance disclosure and enforcement. That I think will require legislative action. I don’t think we can change that by executive order.”

***

In case you missed it on Saturday, one of our number had an excellent piece on campaign trackers, keying on the troubles one has foisted on U.S. Senate candidate David Perdue. A taste:

Trackers hired to follow foes are as much a staple of the modern political campaign in statewide and national races as a Facebook page. In addition, anyone with a smartphone and a YouTube account can publish an off-message moment. It has made political research more dynamic and made candidates that much more cautious about everything they say.

[U.S. Rep. Jack] Kingston recalled a tracker at one event closely recording a conversation he had with his mother.

“What suffers is public discourse,” Kingston said. “You have to think about what you say being taken out of context. … Not only are your speeches recorded, but private conversations are as well.”

Riffing off that article, Tom Crawford of the Georgia Report sent us these paragraphs he’s posted on the bloodhound who has been stalking Democratic candidate for governor Jason Carter:

The tracker’s full name has been known for some time by the Carter campaign. He is a lanky, blonde-haired operative named Ben Jarrard who was a member of the golf team when he attended North Georgia College. (Here’s a 2011 article from the Gainesville Times about Jarrard’s golf skills.) He’s been listed on Jack Kingston’s Facebook page as a supporter of Kingston in the Senate race.

Jarrard was a legislative aide to state Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) during the 2013 legislative session, then transferred to the Georgia Republican Party payroll this year when he hired on as a tracker.

According to the Republican Party’s disclosure reports, Jarrard is paid $1,877 a month in two installments for his work, which is slightly higher than the wages earned by an entry-level employee at Walmart. As of March 31, Jarrard had been paid a total of $5,225.28 in salary and reimbursed $941.72 for mileage and other expenses by the state GOP. Party records list him as having a Buckhead area address near Piedmont Hospital.

Jarrard’s father is a top-level appointee in Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration: he’s Joe Jarrard, an Army officer for 20 years who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Deal appointed Joe Jarrard in September 2011 as the deputy adjutant general of Georgia’s Army National Guard, a position that pays $170,140 a year. That appointment was made shortly after the governor named state Sen. Jim Butterworth (R-Cornelia) as adjutant general.

***

Some would argue politics is already a business that’s oily enough, but our AJC colleague James Salzer sends word that south Georgia state Sen. Tommie Williams’ olive oil has won a Gold Award in the New York International Olive Oil Competition. Williams’ Terra Dolce Farms’ medium arbequina was included on the organization’s annual list of the world’s best olive oils, along with entrants from Spain, Italy, Greece, Uruguay. Mexico, Australia and, of course, the United States.

Williams, R-Lyons, former president pro-tempore of the Senate, harvested his first crop of olives last year. He isn’t the only state lawmaker in the business. Rep. Jason Shaw, R-Lakeland, is partner in Georgia Olive Farms and produced the state’s first certified extra-virgin olive oil a few years back.

***

Art Gardner, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate running on a platform of moderation, wants it known that, regardless of David Perdue’s apology, he thinks Karen Handel’s educational background is a legitimate topic for discussion. From a lengthy email he sent us:

As anyone who has followed my campaign in this Senate primary can see, I have focused on substantive ideas rather than slogans, issues rather than personalities, qualifications rather than style. At the last debate in Savannah, I tried to foster a real discussion about the qualifications of the candidates.

One of the things I said is that Georgia has a right to expect that its next Senator is well educated. Since that remark by me, a bit of a political dust-up has flared between David Perdue and Karen Handel over Ms. Handel’s education credentials or lack thereof.

While I don’t endorse the comments of Mr. Perdue about Ms. Handel’s lack of a college degree, I can’t agree with Ms. Handel that education doesn’t matter. Education very much matters to me and to Georgians as well. We have over 300,000 students in our universities and colleges in Georgia right now. Try telling them (and their parents) that one’s education doesn’t matter.

Further, we candidates are not seeking some ordinary office. We are seeking a U.S. Senate seat, one of the highest elected offices one can seek anywhere in the world. It is not unreasonable to expect that those seeking such high office would be highly qualified and credentialed.

Moreover, I can appreciate both the value of higher education and the dignity of those who, for one reason or another, don’t attain that. For 10 years I earned my living with my hands — I was a car mechanic without a college degree. I was a good, honest mechanic and an excellent diagnostician.

I have had more life experiences since then and learned more and earned an engineering degree and a law degree. But my basic intelligence is not any greater now than before. So this is not about looking down on people who don’t have a college degree — that was me for a decade. But I don’t think I would have been well qualified to run for the Senate seat if I had remained a mechanic and never earned a college degree. The reality is that credentials do matter to people.

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