Jan. 6 panel examines how Trump pressured officials to overturn election results
A select House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 Capitol uprising is turning to former President Donald Trump’s campaign of pressure on state and local officials to reverse his 2020 election loss.
At its fourth hearing this month, the panel examined how Trump focused on a few swingstates, directly urging officials to deny President Joe Biden’s victory or seek additional votes for himself. It was part of a larger plan that also involved dozens of lawsuits, pressure on Justice Department officials and, ultimately, lobbying Vice President Mike Pence to seal Biden’s victory in the January 6 congressional election. to point.
“Pressuring officials to betray their oaths was a fundamental part of the playbook,” said committee chairman Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, on Trump and his allies. “And a handful of election officials in several key states stood between Donald Trump and the turmoil of American democracy.”
‘They did their job’
The panel sticks to a tight narrative as it argues to the American public that Trump’s attempts to undo his defeat led directly to the violence in the Capitol on Jan. 6, when hundreds of his supporters broke into the Capitol and de-certify interrupting Biden’s victory.
The witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing were all officials directly lobbied or threatened by Trump for doing their jobs after Trump convinced millions of his followers — without evidence — that he had actually won, not lost, the election.
Rusty Bowers, Speaker of the Arizona Republican State House who testified in person, spoke of phone calls from Trump and his allies asking him to decertify and replace Arizona’s legitimate voters. Bowers said he had repeatedly asked Trump’s lawyers to show evidence of widespread fraud, but they never provided it.
“You ask me to do something contrary to my oath, and I will not break my oath,” Bowers told them. He recalled John Eastman, a chief architect of Trump’s plan to create fake voters, telling him to “just do it and let the courts figure it out”.
Bowers also responded to Trump’s comments, released in a statement before the hearing, alleging he told the president that the Arizona election had been rigged. “I did have a meeting with the president,” Bowers said. “It certainly isn’t.”
Other state officials told similar stories in video testimonials. Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler said he received repeated calls from Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and other Trump associates, but he declined to answer them. The conversations continued even after Cutler asked them to stop.
Focus on Georgia
Trump’s pressure was greatest in Georgia, where Biden narrowly won after years of GOP presidential victories in the state. Georgian Foreign Secretary Brad Raffensperger and his deputy, Gabe Sterling, testified that they became two of the president’s main targets when he raised conspiracy theories and they refused to back down on his pressure.
The committee played audio of the call in which Trump asked officials there to find “11,780” votes that could turn the state around to prevent Biden’s election victory.
“There were no voices to be found,” said Raffensperger.
Raffensperger said he and his team went through “every allegation” and every “rabbit hole” Trump and his allies presented to state election officials. But Trump wouldn’t accept it. He told Raffensperger that it could only be dishonesty or incompetence that they couldn’t find the necessary number of votes.
Competing against Trump’s false statements was like a “shovel trying to empty the ocean,” said Sterling, who spoke out publicly against Trump’s pressure in the weeks following the election. Sterling said he was unable to convince even some of his own relatives that the election results were valid.
Threats to Civil servants
The hearing also examined how Trump’s threats endangered state officials.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson shared how her “stomach collapsed” when she heard the sounds of protesters outside her home one night after the election as she put her child to bed. She wondered if they had guns or would attack her house. “That was the scariest moment,” not knowing what’s going to happen, Benson said.
Another Michigan official, Senate Leader Mike Shirkey, told the committee about receiving 4,000 text messages after Trump posted his phone number online. Pennsylvania House speaker Cutler said his information was also revealed online, prompting protesters to show up at his house when his 15-year-old son was home alone.
Bowers of Arizona told stories over loudspeakers of people outside his house and of a man with a gun who verbally threatened his neighbor. He burst into tears as he spoke of his daughter, who he said was “seriously ill,” and of his wife who became upset when people were swarming outside.
‘Hateful’ messages and lives turned upside down
Some of the most emotional testimonies of the day came from two former Georgia election officials who saw their lives turned upside down after Trump and Giuliani spread false conspiracy theories that they engaged in vote fraud.
The Justice Department has debunked claims that Wandrea “Shaye” Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, imported suitcases of illegal ballots and committed other forms of voter fraud to try to change the outcome.
Through tears, Moss said she won’t leave her house after she was targeted by Trump, who mentioned them by name in the conversation with Raffensperger.
Moss, who is black, said he received “hateful”, racist and violent threats. She recalled one of them saying, “Be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920.” At one point, protesters turned up at her grandmother’s house.
“It’s impacted my life in a major way, in every way, all because of lies,” Moss said.
The commission played testimony on video with Freeman, who was also in the hearing room behind her daughter. Freeman told the panel that she owned shirts in every color with her name on them — Lady Ruby, as she’s known in her community — advertising her small business. But she no longer wears them.
“I’ve lost my name and I’ve lost my reputation. I’ve lost my sense of security,” Freeman said.
Involvement of GOP Legislators
While the committee has had a hard time getting GOP lawmakers to conduct interviews — five House Republicans have so far defied the panel’s subpoenas — the committee revealed some additional details about what Trump’s allies in Congress were doing at the time of the uprising .
The committee unveiled a text from an aide to Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., to an aide to then Vice President Mike Pence, on the morning of Jan. 6, stating that Senator Pence personally wanted an “alternative list of voters.” hand over”. for MI and WI.”
“Don’t give him that,” replied Pence assistant Chris Hodgson. The vice president released a statement around the same time making it clear that he would be doing his ceremonial duty and proclaiming Biden the next president.
Johnson’s spokeswoman Alexa Henning replied on Tuesday that “the vice president’s office said not to give it to him and we didn’t. No further action was taken. End of story.”
Bowers also revealed that Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, one of the lawmakers subpoenaed by the panel, asked him on the morning of Jan. 6 to sign a letter stating that he would support the certification of false voters.
“I said I wouldn’t,” Bowers said.