WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump’s plan to overturn the 2020 election was not limited to his vice president, witnesses testified Tuesday at a hearing of the January 6th Committee – it spanned multiple states and targeted everyone from the Arizona speaker of the house to a part-time Georgia election worker and her mother.
The pressure campaign on former Vice President Mike Pence took center stage at the committee’s previous hearing. On Tuesday, though, the public heard video depositions and public testimony from elected Republican officials in four different states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania — about the role Trump wanted them to play in the plan.
The first witness of the day was, Rusty Bowers, the Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives. Bowers testified that Trump and Giuliani called him and said they had evidence of massive voter fraud in his state. They wanted him to hold a public hearing at the Arizona State Capitol to hear that evidence – and, more importantly, to use his power to remove the electors that had been certified for President Joe Biden and replace them with electors for Trump.
In multiple calls, Bowers said, Giuliani promised the evidence but never delivered it. Giuliani also played to party loyalty, telling Bowers, “Aren’t we all Republicans here?”
Bowers said he told the president and at least three of his lawyers – Giuliani, Eastman and Jenna Ellis – that he would not put Arizona through the turmoil of what they were asking. He also rejected a request from Arizona Congressman Andy Biggs to sign onto a letter support the decertification of the state’s electors. Bowers said he told them in no uncertain terms he thought they were asking him to violate his oath to the Constitution.
“It is a tenet of my faith that the Constitution is divinely inspired. Of my most basic, foundational beliefs,” Bowers said. “So for someone to ask me to do that just because they’ve asked me to is foreign to my very being. I will not do it.”
Bowers, in what would become a common thread of testimony for the day, said he began being harassed and threatened after he refused to take part in Trump’s plan. That harassment included “tens of thousands” of messages sent to his office and a video panel truck that would drive past his house proclaiming him a “pedophile, a pervert and a corrupt politician.” Bowers said individuals would come to his house to yell at and argue with him and his neighbors, including one man wearing a militia patch and carrying a pistol. The harassment outside was especially troubling to Bowers’ daughter, who was gravely ill and staying with them at the time.
All of that, Bowers said, came after he told Trump, Giuliani and Eastman that their evidence wasn’t nearly good enough for him to do what they wanted.
“You’re asking me to do something that’s never been done in the history of the United States,” Bowers said. “I’m going to put my state through that without sufficient proof, and that’s going to be good enough for me?”
Eastman, Bowers said, told him yes.
“He said, ‘My suggestion would be, just do it and let the courts figure it out,” Bowers said.
The Big Lie Comes to Georgia
Georgia was a particular obsession of Trump, committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said. Trump spoke frequently about the state, which he lost by approximately 12,000 votes, including during his speech at the Ellipse on Jan. 6. In a now-infamous phone call, Trump asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the exact number of votes he needed to beat Biden.
In the call – which is now the subject of a criminal investigation in Fulton County, Georgia – Trump repeated many of the debunked conspiracy theories that he and Giuliani were promoting publicly, including that a “suitcase of ballots” had been pulled out from under a table at the State Farm Arena. Trump also claimed thousands of dead people had voted – the actual number, Raffensperger said, was four.
“Every single allegation we checked,” he said. “We ran down the rabbit trail to make sure our numbers were accurate.”
Like Bowers, Raffensperger and Gabriel Sterling, the COO of the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, testified about the torrent of threats and harassment they received after Raffensperger declined to join his plan. Raffensperger said his cell phone and email were “doxxed” and his wife began receiving disturbing sexualized threats. Someone also broke into his daughter-in-law’s home. In the phone call, Trump suggested Raffensperger could face criminal charges.
The campaign didn’t stop with Raffensperger. Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, traveled personally to Georgia to a signature certification site. And Trump called Francis Watson, who was Raffensperer’s chief investigator at the time. In the call, Trump claimed falsely that he’d won Georgia and encouraged her to look for voter fraud that would prove it.
“When the right answer comes out you’ll be praised,” Trump said.
Raffensperger, who won the Republican primary for Georgia Secretary of State in May against the Trump-backed U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, said he felt all the messages and threats were intended to pressure him to “just walk away.”
“Sometimes the job requires you to stand up and take the shots for following the law,” Raffensperger said. “So that’s what we did.”
‘He Targeted Me’
Prior to November 2020, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss had served as an election worker in Georgia for 10 years without incident. She enjoyed her job and thought she was helping preserve the right to vote her grandmother had taught her to hold dear. On Election Night she was just doing her job at the voting site at State Farm Arena in Fulton County, Georgia.
Then, in a video call with members of the Georgia State Senate, Giuliani accused her and her mother Ruby Freeman of taking part in a “plot” to rig the election. Giuliani said Moss and Freeman were passing around USB cards “as if they were vials of heroin or cocaine” and suggested they should be questioned. Their names were reported widely by pro-Trump media in connection with alleged – but entirely unsupported – claims of voter fraud. Trump himself mentioned Moss and her mother 18 times in his call with Raffensperger. The backlash from Trump’s supporters, Moss testified Tuesday, was swift.
Moss and Freeman had to flee their homes under threat of violence. Moss received racist threats over social media. At one point, she said, she answered the phone to hear her 70-year-old grandmother screaming on the other end. A group of people had broken into her home looking for Moss and Freeman, saying they intended to make a citizen’s arrest.
Since then, Moss said, she’s become a virtual recluse. She almost never goes out. She’s scared to give anyone her name. And she feels guilty that she encouraged her mother to apply to be an election worker as well.
Freeman, who was in the committee room Tuesday, testified in a video deposition about her own experience. She was all her life, she said, known as “Lady Ruby.” She named her small business after the nickname, and even had t-shirts made up with the name on it.
“I have it in every color,” she said. “I wore that shirt on election night. I haven’t worn it since. I’ll never wear it again.”
“I’ve lost my name,” she continued. “I’ve lost my reputation. I’ve lost my sense of security. All because a group of people, starting with #45 and his ally Rudy Giuliani, decided to scapegoat me and my daughter Shaye to push their lies about how the election was stolen.”
In the deposition, Freeman said she’d had to leave her home of 21 years because of the threats against her and her daughter. The reason for all of it, she said, was Trump.
“There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere,” she said. “Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you? The president of the United States is supposed to protect every American, not target one. But he targeted me, Lady Ruby.”
The January 6th Committee’s next hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Thursday. The committee was expected to hear testimony about Trump’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department to lend public support to his claims of election fraud, including testimony from former acting attorney general Jeff Rosen.
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