State election officials testified before the January 6 committee on Tuesday, recounting how Donald Trump and his allies pressured them to overturn the results of the 2020 US presidential election in the weeks leading up to the deadly Capitol attack.
Trump continued his efforts even after members of his own party repeatedly told him that reversing the election results would violate state laws and the US constitution, the officials testified.
As a result of Trump’s persistence, election officials and poll workers were subjected to violent, hateful and at times racist threats from the former president’s supporters.
The hearing came days after the panel heard about Trump’s pressure campaign on his vice-president, Mike Pence, to interfere with the congressional certification of the results.
“Today we’ll show that what happened to Mike Pence wasn’t an isolated part of Donald Trump’s scheme to overturn the election,” said Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chairman of the committee. “In fact, pressuring public servants into betraying their oaths was a fundamental part of the playbook.”
Rusty Bowers, the Republican speaker of the Arizona house, was among those testifying at the Tuesday hearing. Less than an hour before the start of the hearing, Trump released a statement mocking Bowers as a “RINO”, meaning Republican in name only, and claiming that Bowers had said the election in Arizona was rigged.
Testifying before the committee, Bowers acknowledged that he spoke to Trump in the days after the election, but he denied ever claiming his state’s results were tainted by fraud. “Anywhere, anyone, anytime who said that I said the election was rigged – that would not be true,” Bowers said.
Instead, Bowers repeatedly pressed Trump and his lawyers to present valid evidence of widespread fraud in Arizona’s results. According to Bowers, Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s campaign attorneys, told him: “We’ve got lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence.”
Despite his failure to present any evidence to substantiate his baseless claims, Trump heavily leaned on Bowers to send a fake slate of Republican electors to Congress, as part of a larger bid to overturn the election results. Bowers said he told Trump, “You’re asking me to do something against my oath, and I will not break my oath.”
The committee presented additional evidence on Tuesday that Republican members of Congress were involved in the scheme to overturn the election. Bowers said he received a call from Republican congressman Andy Biggs on the morning of January 6, asking him to decertify the Arizona electors. Bowers refused to do so.
The panel then shared a text exchange between Pence’s legislative affairs director, Chris Hodgson, and an aide to Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican of Wisconsin, on January 6. In the texts, Johnson’s aide said he needed to deliver an alternate slate of electors for Wisconsin and Michigan to Pence, who oversaw the congressional certification of Biden’s victory.
Hodgson replied, “Do not give that to him.” (A spokesperson for Johnson said he “had no involvement in the creation of an alternate slate of electors and had no foreknowledge that it was going to be delivered to our office”.)
Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, also testified on Tuesday about Trump’s relentless campaign to reverse Biden’s victory in the battleground state. In an infamous phone call that was made public just days before the January 6 attack on the Capitol, Trump asked Raffensperger, a Republican, to “find” enough votes to reverse Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia. Adam Schiff, a member of the select committee who led the questioning at Tuesday’s hearing, said Trump’s chief of staff contacted Raffensperger’s office 18 times to arrange the call.
Raffensperger refused to acquiesce to Trump’s demands, earning him praise from many Americans even as the former president’s supporters attacked him as a traitor. In the weeks and months after the election, Raffensperger and his family members received violent threats, and many people sent “disgusting”, “sexualized” texts to his wife, he told the committee. At one point, someone broke into the home of Raffensperger’s widowed daughter-in-law.
Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss, a former Georgia poll worker who became the center of baseless conspiracy theories about the election, testified that she and her mother also received violent and often racist threats over their work. Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, are both Black.
In her recorded testimony to the committee, Freeman said she was forced out of her home for two months after the election, because of security concerns.
“There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere,” Freeman told the committee. “Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you?”
Schiff echoed Freeman’s message, accusing Trump of violating his oath of office by promoting lies about the election and endangering Americans like Freeman in the process.
“Whether his actions were criminal will ultimately be for others to decide,” Schiff said in his closing statement. “But what he did was without a doubt unconstitutional. It was unpatriotic, and it was fundamentally un-American.”
The Tuesday hearing could bolster calls for Trump to be charged over his role in inciting the deadly January 6 insurrection. According to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll, 58% of Americans now believe that Trump should face criminal charges in connection to the Capitol attack.
Schiff made a point of underscoring the ongoing threats facing American democracy in the wake of the January 6 insurrection.
“If the most powerful person in the world can bring the full weight of the presidency down on an ordinary citizen who is merely doing her job, with a lie as big and heavy as a mountain, who among us is safe? None of us is,” Schiff said.
“Our democracy held because courageous people like those you heard from today put their oath to the constitution above their loyalty to one man or to one party. The system held, but barely. And the question remains: will it hold again?”