Former President Trump aggressively tried to get an Arizona Republican to violate his oath of office, pressured a Georgia official election to gin up non-existent votes, inspired vigilantes to break into his dead son’s home, and seemingly ruined the lives of a mother and daughter who have since given up being volunteer election workers.
Those were just some of the takeaways from the Jan. 6 Committee’s fourth hearing on Tuesday.
Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Republican who actively rooted for Donald Trump to win reelection in 2020, testified before the Jan. 6 Committee that the former president repeatedly tried to pressure him to take steps to overturn the election—a move he refused to do because it would have been clearly illegal.
“This is a tragic parody,” Bowers told the panel, recalling the utter stupidity and level of incompetence shown by Trump and his lawyers. Bowers was among several state-level politicians who were pressured to misuse legislatures to reverse election results and instead select fake electoral college voters loyal to Trump.
Bowers testified that one of those Trump attorneys, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, told him, “We have lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence.”
Bowers also testified that when he stood his ground and refused to convene Arizona legislators to do this, another Trump lawyer, disgraced college professor John Eastman, told him to “just do it and let the courts sort it out.”
“You’re asking me to do something against my oath, and I will not break my oath,” Bowers remembered responding to Trump, Giuliani, and others.
The Jan. 6 Committee started its fourth hearing Tuesday by laying out just how close former President Donald Trump came to achieving his goal.
Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said the “pressuring of public servants into betraying their oath was a fundamental part of the playbook” by Trump, and that only “a handful of officials… stood between Donald Trump and the upending of American democracy.”
Thompson also warned that Trump’s authoritarian threat continues, because Big Lie conspiracy theorists continue to get voted into office at local level, where they could stand in the way of certifying legitimate election results. Thompson pointed to one recent example—a New Mexico county commissioner (and leader of “Cowboys for Trump” who stormed the Capitol building last year) who refused to certify local primary election results and had to be overruled by the state’s Supreme Court last week.
Bowers, the top legislator in Arizona’s House of Representatives, recalled a phone call in which Trump and his team pushed Bowers to put together a sham committee of legislators with the express purpose of reversing the election results in that state.
Bowers described conversations with Eastman and Giuliani, who urged the Arizona politician to replace the electoral college “electors” slated to vote for Joe Biden with an alternate team who pledged loyalty to Trump.
On Tuesday, the committee displayed an email that seems to show how Trump’s team’s strategy relied on smoke and mirrors when the evidence didn’t add up.
“The fact that we have multiple slates of electors demonstrates the uncertainty of either. That should be enough,” Eastman wrote to a Trump campaign representative.
The committee highlighted an email by renowned conservative lawyer Cleta Mitchell, written just two days after the Nov. 3, 2020 election, that showed how this plan was in the works from the very beginning. In it, she asked Eastman to draft a legal memo outlining a novel way to have state legislatures seize control of the process of choosing electoral college voters.
“Why couldn’t legislatures reclaim that constitutional duty, and designate the electors,” she wrote. “What about that? The movement is stirring. But needs constitutional support.”
The pressure campaign also persisted until the very end—with help from members of Congress.
Committee investigators obtained a text message conversation in which a staffer for Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) tried to coordinate with a staffer for Vice President Mike Pence so that the vice president would get a list of “alternate” electors just hours before Congress would officially certify the 2020 election results with Pence on the dais. Trump’s team of loyalists took that route because the National Archives apparently would not accept them.
“Johnson needs to hand something to VPOTUS please advise,” Johnson staffer Sean Riley wrote Pence staffer Chris Hodgson at midday on June 6, 2021 . “Alternate slate of electors for MI and WI because archivist didn’t receive them.”
“Don’t give that to him,” Hodgson replied.
Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state who Trump called by phone in January 2021 to demand that he “find 11,780 votes” to swing the election and reverse his loss, told the committee that he fully supported Trump in 2020. But he asserted that the election in his state was conducted professionally—and that Trump was wrong.
“There were no votes to find… the numbers are the numbers. The numbers don’t lie,” Raffensperger testified. “Twenty-eight thousand Georgians skipped the presidential race, but they voted down-ballot in other races… that’s why President Trump came up short.”
Raffensperger wrote a book about the ordeal last year, putting it this way: “Now he was directly attacking the election itself. He was asking me, as Georgia’s secretary of state, to ‘find 11,780 votes’—enough for him to claim a win in our state.”
On Tuesday, the official state elections also described how angry Trumpists bombarded his wife with disgusting sexual messages and broke into the home of their dead son, spooking their daughter-in-law.
Over the weekend, Trump himself went on the defensive, making several rambling posts on his own Twitter wannabe Truth Social app targeting Raffensperger.
“My phone call to the Georgia Secretary of State, with many other people, including numerous lawyers, knowingly on the line, was absolutely PERFECT and appropriate. YES, it was a PERFECT CALL,” he posted on Sunday.
Then there’s the unusual call that Trump made to then-Georgia state elections investigator Frances Watson while her team was reviewing claims of election fraud. The committee said it has evidence that Trump’s team followed up that call with an absurd plan to send the Secretary of State investigations team Make America Great Again merchandise, including coins and autographed MAGA hats. White House officials managed to intervene.
Co-chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) noted how Trump’s public targeting of Bowers and Raffensperger led to death threats against these officials and their families.
“We cannot let America become a nation of conspiracy theorists and thug violence,” she said.
The hearing closed with emotional testimony from two former election workers in Fulton County, Georgia, a mother and daughter who were falsely accused by Trump and Giuliani of engaging in a secret plot to sneak in suitcases of illegitimate ballots.
Shaye Moss, who Giuliani publicly identified by name, told the committee that the conspiracy theories had a devastating effect on her family.
“It’s turned my life upside down,” Moss said. “I no longer give out my business card. I don’t transfer calls. I don’t want anyone knowing my name. I don’t want to go anywhere with my mom. I don’t go to the grocery store at all. I haven’t been anywhere at all. I’ve gained about 60 pounds. I just don’t do nothing anymore.”
Moss’ mother, Ruby Freeman, also had to leave her home for two months, after the FBI told her it wasn’t safe to stay in her home.
“There is nowhere I feel safe,” Freeman said. “Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you?”