Takeaways from the January 6 House hearing: Trump’s state playbook; “hateful” threats

Washington — The House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol uprising is turning to former President Donald Trump’s campaign to pressure state and local officials to reverse his 2020 election defeat.

In its fourth hearing this month, the panel considered how Trump has focused on a few swing states, directly urging officials to decertify President Joe Biden’s victory or find additional votes for himself. It was part of a larger agenda that also involved dozens of lawsuits, pressure on Justice Department officials, and ultimately pressure on Vice President Mike Pence to reject Biden’s victory in the of the Congressional electoral count on January 6.

“Pressuring officials to betray their oaths was a fundamental part of the playbook,” committee chairman Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson said of Trump and his allies. “And a handful of election officials in several key states have stood between Donald Trump and the overthrow of American democracy.”

“THEY DID THEIR JOB”

The panel is sticking to a tight narrative as it argues to the American public that Trump’s efforts to reverse his defeat directly led to violence on Capitol Hill on January 6, when hundreds of his supporters stormed into the Capitol. and discontinued certification. of Biden’s victory.

The witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing were all public officials who were either directly approached by Trump or received threats for doing their jobs after Trump persuaded millions of his supporters – without any evidence – that he was in trouble. won, not lost, the election.

Arizona Republican State House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who testified in person, spoke of phone calls from Trump and his allies asking him to decertify legitimate voters in Arizona and replace them. Bowers said he repeatedly asked Trump’s attorneys to show evidence of widespread fraud, but they never provided any.

“You ask me to do something against my oath, and I won’t break my oath,” Bowers said. He recalled John Eastman, one of the main architects of Trump’s plan to create fake voter lists, telling him to “just do it and let the courts sort it out.”

Bowers also responded to Trump’s comments, released in a statement ahead of the hearing, saying he told the president the Arizona election was rigged. “I had a conversation with the president,” Bowers said. “It’s definitely not that.”

Other state officials told similar stories in videotaped testimony. Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler said he received repeated calls from Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and other Trump aides, but he refused to answer them. The calls continued even after Cutler asked them to stop.

FOCUS ON GEORGIA

Trump’s pressure was most intense in Georgia, where Biden narrowly won after years of GOP presidential victories in the state. Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his deputy, Gabe Sterling, testified that they became two of the president’s main targets as he advanced conspiracy theories and refused to bow to his pressure.

The committee released audio from the call where Trump asked officials to “find 11,780” votes that could topple the state to prevent Biden’s election victory.

“There were no votes to be found,” Raffensperger said.

Raffensperger said he and his team went through “every allegation” and “rabbit hole” that Trump and his allies presented to state election officials. But Trump would not accept it. He told Raffensperger it could only be dishonesty or incompetence if they couldn’t find the necessary number of votes.

Competing with Trump’s misrepresentations was like a “shovel trying to empty the ocean,” said Sterling, who spoke out publicly against Trump’s pressure in the weeks after the election. Sterling said he couldn’t even convince some members of his own family that the election result was valid.

THREATS AGAINST PUBLIC OFFICIALS

The hearing also considered how Trump’s threats endanger state officials.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has recounted how her “stomach sank” when she heard the sound of protesters outside her home one night after the election as she put her child to bed. She wondered if they had guns or if they were going to attack her house. “It was the scariest moment,” not knowing what was going to happen, Benson said.

Another Michigan official, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, told the committee he received 4,000 text messages after Trump posted his phone number online. Cutler, the speaker of the Pennsylvania House, said his information also came to light online, prompting protesters to show up at his house when his 15-year-old son was home alone.

Arizona’s Bowers told stories of people outside his house on loudspeakers and a man with a gun verbally threatening his neighbor. He wept as he spoke of his daughter, who he said was “seriously ill”, and his upset wife as people crowded outside.

“HATE” MESSAGES AND CHANGED LIVES

Some of the most moving testimonies of the day came from two former Georgia election workers who had their lives turned upside down after Trump and Giuliani spread false conspiracy theories that they were engaging in voter fraud.

The Justice Department has denied claims that Wandrea “Shaye” Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, smuggled in suitcases of illegal ballots and committed other acts of voter fraud in an attempt to alter the result.

Through tears, Moss said she was no longer leaving her house after being targeted by Trump, who mentioned them by name during the call 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 showed up at her grandmother’s house.

“It affected my life in a major way, in every way, all because of lies,” Moss said.

The committee played videotaped testimony with Freeman, who also sat in the courtroom behind her daughter. Freeman told the panel that she owned shirts of every color with her name on them — Lady Ruby, as she is known in her community — advertising her small business. But she no longer wears them.

“I lost my name and I lost my reputation. I lost my sense of security,” Freeman said.

GOP LEGISLATIVE INVOLVEMENT

As the committee struggled to convince GOP lawmakers to do interviews — five House Republicans have so far defied panel subpoenas — the committee revealed additional details about what the allies were doing. of Trump in Congress at the time of the insurgency.

The committee revealed a text from an aide to Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., to an aide to then-Vice President Mike Pence on the morning of Jan. 6, saying the senator personally wanted to deliver to Pence. an “alternative list of voters”. for MI and WI.

“Don’t give him that,” replied Chris Hodgson, Pence’s aide. The vice president released a statement around the same time, making it clear that he would do his ceremonial duty and declare Biden the next president.

Johnson’s spokeswoman Alexa Henning responded on Tuesday: ‘The vice president’s office said not to give it to him and we didn’t. No further action was taken. End of the 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 saying he would support bogus voter certification.

“I said I wouldn’t,” Bowers said.


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Raymond I. Langston