The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol in Tuesday's hearing detailed the threats made to state lawmakers and election officials and workers in Arizona and Georgia, as President Donald Trump and his allies tried to get them to overturn the election results in their states.
The committee sought on Tuesday to bring to light the severity of the threat to democracy in the days and weeks after the election, given the enormous and persistent pressure by the president and by Rudy Giuliani on officials and ordinary Americans to promote the "big lie" that Trump had won the election. The ability of these Americans to withstand that pressure came at a great personal cost.
"Our democracy held because courageous people like you heard today put their oath to the constitution above their loyalty to one man," Committee member Rep. Adam Schiff said.
"The system held but barely and the question remains, will it hold again?"
The hearing laid out the plan hatched by Trump and his allies in Arizona to replace the bona fide Biden electors with phony ones. The fake electors gathered in Arizona, which Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers referred to as a "tragic parody." Bowers refused to have any involvement in the fake electors plan being pushed by Giuliani.
Texts showed by Schiff revealed that Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin could also have played a part in the false electors scheme. The texts, between Johnson's chief of staff and an aide to Pence, showed Johnson's aide informing Pence's aide that the senator was ready to deliver fraudulent ballots to Pence. "Do not give that to him," Pence's aide responded.
Bowers said a "tenet of my faith is that the Constitution is divinely inspired," and that what he was being asked to do was "foreign to my very being."
The Arizona House speaker also described what his personal life has been like since the election. In emotional testimony, Bowers said that until "very recently," his family had begun to dread Saturdays, when Trump supporters would drive around his neighborhood and falsely announce that he was a "pedophile" and a corrupt politician. He recounted an argument between a neighbor and a man with a pistol, and also talked about the reactions of his family.
"At the same time, on some of these, we had a daughter who was gravely ill who was upset by what was happening outside and my wife, that is a valiant person, very strong, quiet, very strong woman," he said, growing emotional. "So it was disturbing." Bowers did not mention that in early 2021, his daughter died after her illness.
Fulton County election worker Wandrea Arshaye ("Shaye") Moss, who was falsely accused, along with her mother, of carrying out a fake ballot scheme and called them professional vote scammers, allegations that led to death threats and intimidation, and forced them into hiding, committee aides said. The committee showed video of Moss' mother, Ruby Freeman, testifying that she had "lost my name" after all the threats.
Moss said that her life had been upended since the election.
"I haven't been anywhere at all – I gained about 60 pounds, I don't do nothing anymore, I second-guess everything I do," Moss said. "It's affected my life in a major way, in every way. All because of lies for me doing my job, same thing I've been doing forever."
Moss said that she and none of her colleagues at Fulton County still work there.
Committee vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney said that Trump "did not care about these threats of violence" and said, "we cannot let America become a nation of conspiracy theories and thug violence."
Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson said in his opening statement that "pressuring public servants to betray their oaths was a fundamental part" of Trump's "playbook."
Thompson said Trump's pressuring of these election officials was based on the "big lie." "The lie hasn't gone away. It's corrupting our democratic institutions," Thompson added, specifically noting that a New Mexico county official refused to certify the recent primary results.
The committee also heard testimony from two Republicans in Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer for the secretary of state's office. Raffensperger and Sterling detailed how they were pressured by Trump to find more votes in their states.
"I think sometimes moments require you to stand up and just take the shots — you're doing your job," Raffensperger said. "And that's all we did. We just followed the law & followed the constitution. At the end of the day, President Trump came up short."
The committee will hold the next public hearing on Thursday at 1 p.m.