The House select committee probing the Jan. 6 Capitol riot focused its fourth public hearing on how former President Donald Trump and his allies pressured officials in the critical swing states of Georgia and Arizona to challenge President Joe Biden’s victories in the 2020 election.
Tuesday’s hearing revealed new information on how Trump, his team and a handful of Republican lawmakers worked behind the scenes to try to remove electors and replace them with a slate of pro-Trump ones picked by his team and the Republican National Committee. The panel also heard emotional testimony from state election officials who recalled in chilling detail the violent threats and intimidation many of them endured in the wake of the 2020 election.
Here are the main takeaways:
Trump had a ‘direct and personal role’
Witnesses testified under oath to Trump’s direct involvement in efforts to reverse elections in key states by either decertifying Biden’s win or sending an alternate slate of fake pro-Trump electors to cast ballots in the electoral college.
“Trump had a direct and personal role in this effort,” said committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.
Arizona Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers said he refused to cede to Trump and Rudy Giuliani when they asked him to hold an official committee hearing at the Arizona capitol to prop up their claims of election fraud. Bowers said they wanted the hearing to justify arguments to remove and replace the electors.
“I did not feel that the evidence, granted in its absence, merited a hearing, and I didn’t want to be used as a pawn,” Bowers said.
He recalled telling them: “You’re asking me to do something against my oath, and I will not break my oath.”
Bowers also said Trump lawyer John Eastman asked him in a separate call to hold a vote to decertify Arizona’s electors.
“Just do it and let the courts sort it out,” Bowers recalled Eastman as saying.
Bowers said he replied: “You’re asking me to do something that’s never been done in history — the history of the United States — and I’m going to put my state through that without sufficient proof? And that’s going to be good enough with me?”
The committee also said that the RNC was involved in helping the Trump campaign organize fake slates of electors at Trump’s “direct request.”
RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel told congressional investigators that Trump, during a phone conversation, “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,” according to a replay of part of her taped deposition.
McDaniel said the RNC’s role was “more just helping them reach out and helping them assemble them, but my understanding is the campaign did take the lead and we just were helping them in that role.”
GOP lawmakers helped Trump
The committee revealed new information that put two Republican members of Congress, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, in the spotlight.
On Jan. 6, 2021, a staffer for Johnson texted an aide to Pence, stating that Johnson wanted to give the then-vice president an “alternate” slate of electors from Michigan and Wisconsin. The texts came minutes before Pence was set to preside over a joint session of Congress to confirm Biden’s electoral victory.
Pence’s aide replied: “Do not give that to him.”
A spokeswoman for Johnson tweeted Tuesday afternoon: “The Vice President’s office said not to give it to him and we did not. There was no further action taken. End of story.”
Bowers also testified before the committee that Biggs called him on the morning of Jan. 6, asking if he “would support the decertification of the electors.”
“And I said I would not,” Bowers testified.
Witnesses described ‘disturbing’ threats
Multiple state election officials described “disturbing” threats, harassment and other forms of retaliation after being targeted in lies about the election being spread by Trump and his allies.
“Up until even recently, it is a pattern in our lives to worry what will happen on Saturdays,” Bowers testified.
He said groups of Trump supporters driving video-panel trucks with “blaring loudspeakers” would drive by his house accusing him of being a pedophile, a pervert and a corrupt politician. Bowers said that they would start arguments with neighbors, recalling one instance where the protestor brandished a gun.
Visibly emotional, Bowers said the harassment outside his home also “upset” his daughter, who at the time was gravely ill and died in late January.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he started receiving texts from all over the country after the election because Trump supporters publicly shared his private cell phone number, a harassment tactic called doxxing. Then, he said, his wife became a target and started receiving “sexualized attacks, which were disgusting.
“And then some people broke into my daughter-in-law’s home and my son has passed and she’s widow and has two kids. And so we’re very concerned about her safety also,” he said.
Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss, a former Georgia election worker, cried as she described how her life has been turned “upside down” after Giuliani falsely accused her and her mother of election tampering.
“I haven’t been anywhere at all. I’ve gained about 60 pounds. I just, don’t do nothing anymore,” she said. “It’s affected my life in a major way. In every way. All because of lies. From me doing my job, the same thing I’ve been doing forever.”
The committee played clips of testimony from Ruby Freeman, Moss’ mother, who said she was also tarred with false election-fraud claims.
“I’ve lost my name, and I’ve lost my reputation. I’ve lost my sense of security. All because a group of people, starting with number 45, and his ally, Rudy Giuliani, decided to scapegoat me and daughter, Shaye, to push their own lies about how the presidential election was stolen,” Freeman said.
The committee’s work is ongoing
The select committee has made clear that the seven public hearings it has planned for June represent just its initial findings from the nearly year-long investigation of the Capitol riot.
The panel last week said that it wants to hear from more witnesses, including Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
At the end of Tuesday’s hearing, Cheney called on former White House counsel Pat Cipollone to speak with the investigators.
It’s certain that “Trump does not want Mr. Cipollone to testify here,” Cheney said, because the evidence shows that he and his office “tried to do what was right.”
“We think the American people deserve to hear from Mr. Cipollone personally,” she said, adding that the panel is “working to secure his testimony.”