DAfter Donald Trump claimed that Ruby Freeman had inserted fake ballots in the 2020 election, Ruby Freeman was threatened with eath. Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, said people who believed Trump’s lies broke into his widowed daughter in law’s home. The top Republican in Arizona’s State House described crowds outside of his home harrassing his family while they were caring for his “gravely ill” daughter inside.
At the fourth public hearing by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol on Tuesday, current and former state officials explained in harrowing detail how Trump’s scheme to overturn the election disrupted their lives, sometimes in ways they were still recovering from well over a year later.
Rusty Bowers, the Arizona House Speaker, grew visibly emotional multiple times as he testified about the abuse he and his family endured after he resisted the Trump campaign’s efforts to get him to work to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the state. “I didn’t want to be a pawn,” he said. Bowers shared with us a portion of his diary that describes how John Eastman, Trump’s lawyer, asked Bowers to organize a session in the state legislature to elect Trump fake electors. “I do not want to be a winner by cheating,” Bowers read. “I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to.”
After Bowers, a Republican, stood up to Trump’s pressure, his home and neighborhood became the site of loud and threatening protests for days. One of them took to a loudspeaker to call Bowers a “pedophile.” Inside his home, his 42-year-old daughter was dying and upset by what was happening outside, as was his wife, who is a “valiant person, very strong, quiet, very strong woman,” he said. “It was disturbing.” Their daughter would pass away a few weeks later.
Bowers testified that multiple people in Trump’s inner circle worked to persuade him. Rudy Guiliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, asked him to hold a hearing to showcase the allegations of voter fraud, which he argued would enable the legislature to decertify the election results. Bowers stated that Giuliani could not support any of these claims. “We have lots of theories,” Guiliani told him. “We don’t have the evidence.”
Arizona was among the few states Trump lost, and was then targeted by Trump in the following weeks.
“Donald Trump had a direct and personal role in this effort, as did Rudy Giuliani, as did John Eastman,” Rep. Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming and the vice chair of the committee, said on Tuesday. “In other words, the same people who were attempting to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to reject electoral votes illegally, were also simultaneously working to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election at the state level.”
The committee showed testimony that Trump himself activated the Republican Party’s apparatus to build alternative groups of false electors in those states. Ronna McDaniels (chairwoman of Republican National Committee) described Trump calling Eastman on a telephone call in order to get Eastman to tell her that Trump required the RNC for help with assembling fake electors. “Essentially, he turned the call over to Mr. Eastman, who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors in case any of the legal challenges that were ongoing changed the result of any of the states,” McDaniels said. “My understanding is the campaign did take the lead and we just were helping them in that role.”
Georgia was the state that attracted Trump’s attention after his election. During Tuesday’s hearing, Raffensperger explained the pressure campaign he faced from Trump and others, intent on reversing Biden’s victory in the state. He described being “doxxed” —his phone number and other personal information shared online—allowing right-wing extremists to intimidate him. His wife of 40 years, he said, received a “sexualized text, which was disgusting.” Some people broke into his daughter-in-law’s home. “My son passed,” he said. “She’s a widow.”
The last witness of the hearing, Shaye Moss, described the trauma she and her mother experienced as Georgia election workers who wound up in Trump’s crosshairs. Both Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, were at the center of a conspiracy theory promulgated by Trump’s campaign, which disseminated surveillance footage from their Fulton County vote counting station. Trump’s lawyer used a clip that was spliced to suggest the pair took 18,000 fake ballots from a suitcase, and then illegally put them in a voting machine. As the committee pointed out Tuesday, Trump mentioned Freeman’s name 18 times in an infamous phone call with Raffensperger, when the president asked him to “find 11,800 votes”—the number he needed to overtake Biden in Georgia.
Moss testified about receiving vile threats from Trump supporters, one of whom said she and her mother should “hang for treason.” Her mother was forced to move out of her home for two months.
The harassment “turned my life upside down.” Moss told the committee. “I don’t want anyone knowing my name … I don’t want to go anywhere. Every decision I make is second-guessed. It’s affected my life in a major way, in every way. All because of lies.”
“There is nowhere I feel safe,” Moss testified, adding at another point, “I felt horrible for picking this job.”
The committee members plan to host at least three additional hearings. The next one is scheduled for Thursday and will examine Trump’s efforts to get the Department of Justice behind his attempted coup. In later hearings, the Department of Justice will be examined as to the actions and motivations behind the attack on the Capitol by the Proud Boys.
Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who handled much of the questioning during Tuesday’s hearing, said those who testified deserved praise for showing courage and putting “their oath to the Constitution above their loyalty to one man or to one party.”
“The system held,” Schiff said, “but barely.”
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