Former President Donald Trump’s Georgia indictment has spurred varied responses from Republicans both inside and outside the state.

On the fringes of the party, a call for a special legislative session to undermine Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has gained steam from pro-Trump voters, including the former president, while other lawmakers propose using a new prosecutor oversight panel to investigate the DA.

All of this comes as Gov. Brian Kemp continues to warn his party of the perils of focusing on the past rather than the future 2024 election.

This week, we look at how the indictments are deepening the Republican rift between Trump’s biggest supporters and the rest of the GOP.

Even before racketeering charges were announced against Trump and 18 others stemming from a failed effort to overturn the 2020 election results, Republicans were already attacking the prosecutor and the process.

So it’s no surprise that shortly after the indictment was handed up in Fulton County, Republicans began a full-throated effort to denounce the charges and demand action.

One powerful rallying cry on the far right emerged: a special legislative session that would strip funding from Willis’ office, with a potential impeachment inquiry that could remove her from the job.

The main argument has been brought by freshman State Sen. Colton Moore of Trenton, who quickly sent a letter — citing the wrong part of the state Constitution — demanding a special session.

He then joined several right-wing media outlets to expound on his push, starting with The Charlie Kirk Show.

"We have a district attorney using taxpayer money, using her government authority to persecute her, a political opponent to the tune of the death penalty," he said. "I will not be a sitting senator in this state and potentially have the former president be executed in the state of Georgia."

To be clear, nobody is facing execution for the failed attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election, but it’s an example of the light-on-fact, heavy on extreme rhetoric and language that Moore and other Trump allies have used against the Fulton County district attorney and the charges brought.

It’s also not the most inflammatory or threatening thing Moore has said about his demands, including comments comparing the indictments to Nazism, suggesting a potential civil war if a special session isn't called and more. A call to defund the prosecutor investigating Trump and remove her from office picked up steam in the pro-Trump right, even making it to the indicted former president himself, who fired off a video supporting Moore on his Truth Social website.

"Highly respected Georgia State Sen. Colton Moore deserves thanks and congratulations of everyone for having the courage and conviction to fight the radical left lunatics who are so badly hurting the great state of Georgia, and frankly the USA itself," Trump said.

However, this groundswell of grassroots support for this action against Fani Willis has not translated into real-world legislative support.

While Trump and some social media voices may be with Moore, math is not.

It would take three-fifths of each chamber in the General Assembly to call a special session. To get to that point would require Democratic support that isn’t going to happen. It would also require more than the three Republicans who've signed on, representing just 1% of the 236 members under the Gold Dome.

In fact, Republican House Speaker Jon Burns penned a lengthy letter to his caucus outlining technical and logical deficiencies with Moore’s demands to "defund a duly elected district attorney of this state and her office in an attempt to interfere with the criminal justice system."

Burns went on to say that trying to remove funding from the DA’s office would have an unintended consequence of harming the ability to prosecute serious crimes like murder, rape and gang crimes — all things that Republicans ostensibly want to see addressed.

He also noted that any attempt to remove funding for one DA would have to be taken from every district attorney in the state, adding that "targeting one specific DA in this manner certainly flaunts the idea of separation of powers, if not outright violates it."

Over on the Senate side, most of Moore’s GOP colleagues signed a letter condemning his efforts as a “publicity and fundraising campaign” and offered instead the route of sending Willis to a new prosecutor oversight council signed into law this year and supported by every Republican except Colton Moore.

The most interesting response came from Gov. Brian Kemp, who is all too familiar with fringe Republican calls for a special session to change something that Trump doesn’t like.

At a recent press conference dealing with Hurricane Idalia damage, the governor took time out between updates about cell service and disaster recovery to hit back against the calls to punish Fani Willis at any cost.

"I did want to take just a few minutes to speak to some history that's trying to repeat itself over the last few days here in Georgia," he said. "Many of you will recall that in the final weeks of 2020, I clearly and repeatedly said that I would not be calling a special session of the General Assembly to overturn the 2020 election results because such an action would have been unconstitutional. It was that simple. Fast forward today. Nearly three years later, memories are failing fast. There have been calls by one individual in the General Assembly, and that got it outside of these walls by the former president for a special session that would ignore current Georgia law and directly interfere with the proceedings of a separate but equal branch of government."

Kemp slammed the demand by Moore as impossible and politically irresponsible, and reminded his fellow conservatives of the penalties the party suffered just a few years ago.

"These are the distractions that get you to lose elections," he said. "The last time we were talking about special sessions here in the state of Georgia, just a few weeks later, the Republican majority lost two U.S. Senate seats, and I can tell you that as long as I'm governor, we're gonna stay focused on the issues that help all Georgians."

If you’ll remember, Kemp stood up to Trump’s pressure campaign and is one of the few Republicans to have done so without suffering electoral consequences — also because he’s focused on an economic message, record budget surpluses, tax cuts, pay raises for teachers and law enforcement and more.

"That's what helps people fight through Joe Biden's 40-year-high inflation, not focusing on the past or some grifter scam that somebody's doing to help them raise a few dollars into the campaign account," Kemp added.

The push from other Republicans seeking to send Willis to this prosecutor oversight panel has parallels in the post-2020 effort that saw some Republicans send Fulton County’s elections board through a performance review panel that ultimately declined to take over their operations.

The governor raised eyebrows during that press conference, making news by saying what ordinarily wouldn’t be newsworthy in that he would follow the law.

"Up to this point, I have not seen any evidence that DA Willis' actions — or lack thereof — warrant action by the prosecuting attorney oversight commission," he said. "That will ultimately be a decision that the commission will make. Regardless, in my mind, a special session of the General Assembly to end run around this law is not feasible and may ultimately prove to be unconstitutional. The bottom line is that in the state of Georgia, as long as I'm governor, we're going to follow the law and the Constitution, regardless of who it helps or harms politically."

Gov. Brian Kemp is pushing back on efforts by former President Donald Trump and others to pressure lawmakers into calling a special session to punish the prosecutor who indicted Trump this month.

Gov. Brian Kemp is pushing back on efforts by former President Donald Trump and others to pressure lawmakers into calling a special session to punish the prosecutor who indicted Trump this month.

Credit: Stephen Fowler / GPB News

It quickly became clear in the aftermath of the charges being announced that a special legislative session to go after Willis was a nonstarter. But that didn’t deter Moore and his fellow pro-Trump activist friends.

In a crowded room in the Georgia State Capitol complex, Moore and the Georgia Freedom Caucus — very few in number but loud in voice — were joined by a who’s who of people that have been found at the edge of many conspiracies about Georgia elections and policies in the last few years.

After public pushback from Republican leaders at the state Capitol, was Moore capitulating in his tone or backing down on his call? Nope.

"My friends, I call this press conference today because we need to set the record straight on a few things," he said. "My fellow Senate colleagues have published a statement and they've recognized to their constituents that we do have a problem."

What about Georgia’s popular Republican governor throwing cold water on his plan?

"The governor has made some statements in his own press conference a week ago that are very disgraceful to the office, the most prestigious office in this state," Moore said. "He calls and references me a grifter and a scammer. My friends, I represent 200,000 hardworking Georgians in Northwest Georgia. The people that I represent that duly elected me. They sweat hard for their tax dollars and they don't want their tax dollars funding this type of corrupt government power. I challenged the governor to go to Northwest Georgia, find anyone working hard for their tax dollars, and ask them, 'Do you want your tax money funding District Attorney Fani Willis?'"

Moore has found an audience, one that includes election deniers, vaccine skeptics and others who tend to overestimate how many people agree with their viewpoints and demand capitulation from those who don’t.

"You see, this governor wants to elaborate that we have a separation of powers," he continued. "Well, we do. But any high school kid coming out of government class understands that we also have a thing called checks and balances. My role as a senator is to call a special session on behalf of my constituents and any Georgian who feels that their tax dollars shouldn't be going to Fani Willis."

In a gaggle with reporters after the press conference, Moore didn’t express contrition for any of the harassment his fellow Republican lawmakers have seen because of his amplified calls to reach out to them, noting that he'd deleted "probably 200-plus voicemails" from people leaving "very derogatory and threatening things."

When asked if there could be anything done to turn down the temperature on the rhetoric, Moore said no.

"Unfortunately, I think our constituents are very upset, right, and that's why we see the the hard emotions, that's why we see the many splits amongst the Republican Party."

The splits among Republicans over how to respond to Trump’s indictments are pretty indicative of the larger splits in the party over what to do about Trump.

At the rally for the ill-fated special session demands, several Georgia GOP officials spoke and denounced the state’s popular Republican governor, who was re-elected in a relative landslide and who crushed a Trump-backed primary challenger, because he would not wield the power of his office to break the law and attack a prosecutor who argued that the former president himself broke the law.

For example, Brian Pritchard, a failed House candidate who was himself accused of illegally voting while serving a felony sentence for forgery and theft, is now a vice chair of the state Republican Party, and had this to say about Georgia’s governor, secretary of state and attorney general.

"They say you never say anything negative about a Democrat,  you never say a negative word about a Democrat," he said to cheers. "I do: I never fail to mention Brian Kemp, Brad Raffensperger and Chris Carr!"

All three of those mentioned are self-described conservative Republicans. All three faced pro-Trump primary challengers who pandered to claims of election denial, and all three won decisively in the primary and general elections.

So what does this disconnect between Trump and other well-liked Republican leaders mean for a key battleground state like Georgia next year? It’s too soon to tell, although polls show a likely Trump-Biden rematch will come as voters in key states — and from both parties — have rejected Trump’s vision in recent elections.

On the next episode of Battleground: Ballot Box

There will be at least two trials for those charged with racketeering in connection with Donald Trump’s failed effort to overturn his last presidential defeat, with two people heading to trial next month and the rest likely sometime next year.

We look at the latest legal updates in the Georgia election interference case.

Battleground: Ballot Box is a production of Georgia Public Broadcasting and is produced by Chase McGee. Our engineer is Jake Cook, our editor is Josephine Bennett and the theme music was created by me, Stephen Fowler. Subscribe to our show at or anywhere you get podcasts.