The fourth hearing of the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 focused Tuesday on the pressure former President Trump and his allies put on public officials to overturn results in key states.
Led by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), alongside committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R- Wyo.), the hearing featured testimony from the Republican Arizona House speaker, two officials from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and a pair of former Fulton County, Ga., election workers.
Here are some key takeaways from the hearing:
The committee gets its star witness
Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Republican first elected to the Legislature nearly 30 years ago, appeared in person before the committee, which GOP members of Congress have panned as a partisan panel given only two Republicans serve on the nine-member committee. Bowers’ profile as a conservative Republican who put country over party provided the panel with a witness whose testimony delivered a message to partisans opposed to the hearings : The attack on the Capitol should be viewed as an attack against America rather than through a political lens.
Bowers, who detailed appeals from the former president and his allies who encouraged him to violate his oath of office to help Trump stay in the White House, began his testimony by denying Trump’s claim that he had told the president in November 2020 that Arizona’s election was rigged and Trump had won.
“I did have a conversation with the president. That certainly isn’t it,” Bowers told Schiff, adding that he had never said “anywhere, [to] anyone,[at] anytime” that the election was rigged.
Bowers told the committee he had asked Trump‘s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani on multiple occasions for evidence of voter fraud in Arizona but never received any. He repeatedly stressed that he would not violate his oath.
Still, Bowers testified, Giuliani would argue, “Aren’t we all Republicans here?”
“He said, ‘We’ve got lots of theories. We just don’t have the evidence,’” Bowers said of Giuliani. “And I don’t know if that was a gaffe or maybe he didn’t think through what he said, but both myself and others in my group … both remembered that specifically and afterwards kind of laughed about it.”
When he learned that a secret group of alternate electors had met privately in Arizona and sent their electoral votes to Washington, Bowers recalled thinking of the book, “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.”
“I just thought, ‘This is a tragic parody,’” Bowers said.
He also read aloud a personal journal entry from December 2020 in which he drew on his faith:
“It is painful to have friends who have been such a help to me turn on me with such rancor. I may in the eyes of men not hold correct opinions or act according to their vision or convictions, but I do not take this current situation in a light manner, a fearful manner or a vengeful manner. I do not want to be a winner by cheating. I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to. With any contrived desire towards deflection of my deep foundational desire to follow God’s will, as I believe He led my conscience to embrace. How else will I ever approach Him in the wilderness of life knowing that I ask of this guidance only to show myself a coward in defending the course He led me to take?”
Following the end of Bowers’ testimony, Schiff, Cheney and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) all approached him and gave him a hug while thanking him for his words.
Trump ignored warnings that ‘someone’s going to get killed’
The committee showed a now well-known video clip of Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer of the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, speaking on Dec. 1, 2020. Acknowledging that Trump “likely lost” the state of Georgia, Sterling urged the outgoing president to “stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence.”
“Someone’s going to get hurt,” he warned at the time. “Someone’s going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed. And it’s not right. It’s not right.”
The committee highlighted a retweet from Trump, who added a response to a tweet quoting Sterling that day. The original tweet also included a video clip of Sterling’s remarks.
The fact that Trump implicitly acknowledged the original post by retweeting it from his Twitter account suggests he was aware of the harm his rhetoric could inspire well before Jan. 6, 2021, when Congress was set to meet to certify the results of the presidential election.
Sterling said one particular tweet accusing a first generation American of treason with a GIF of a noose led him to his boiling point.
“I lost it,” Sterling said. “I just got irate.”
Trying to counter the president’s megaphone was “frustrating,” Sterling testified.
“Oftentimes, I felt our information was getting out but that there was a reticence of people who needed to believe it to believe it because the president of the United States, who many looked up to and respected, was telling them it wasn’t true, despite the facts,” he said.
He likened the effort to using “a shovel trying to empty the ocean.”
“The problem you have,” Sterling continued, “is you’re getting to people’s hearts.”
Sterling recalled walking an attorney through five or six claims that were untrue. The attorney told him, “‘OK, I get that,’” Sterling said, “but at the end he goes, ‘I just know in my heart they cheated.’”
“Once you get past the heart, the facts don’t matter as much,” Sterling concluded.
Faith reemerges in another hearing
At a hearing last week, staff for former Vice President Mike Pence said the team prayed on the morning of Jan. 6. Former Pence aide Greg Jacob told the panel Thursday his faith “sustained” him through the insurrection, during which he read through his Bible.
Tuesday’s hearing showed that faith played a prominent role in others’ lives as well during the days following the election.
Bowers said he leaned on his faith to explain why he rejected the Trump team’s pleas.
“It is a tenet of my faith that the Constitution is divinely inspired by my most basic foundational beliefs, and so for me to do that because somebody just asked me to is foreign to my very being,” he said. “I will not do it.”
In her closing remarks, Cheney co-signed Bowers’ comment.
“The Constitution is indeed a divinely inspired document,” she said.
She said that Tuesday’s hearing reminded the nation “what it means to take an oath, under God, to the Constitution.”
In an interview clip broadcast by the committee, former Fulton County election worker Ruby Freeman introduced herself to investigators and invoked her faith in God.
“I’ve always believed in when God says that he’ll make your name great, but this is not the way it was supposed to be,” said Freeman, a Black small business owner.
She was alluding to the chaos that enveloped her and her daughter’s lives after Trump and Giuliani singled them out for allegedly — in Giuliani’s words during a Georgia Senate hearing — engaging in “surreptitious illegal activity” on election day.
Freeman’s daughter, Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss, testified in person Tuesday to the racist threats she received with her mother seated behind her.
The cost of standing up to Trump
When the committee breaks for recess or adjourns a hearing, Thompson asks everyone in the hearing room to remain seated while committee members are escorted out by Capitol Police. But Tuesday’s hearing demonstrated the scope of safety concerns emanating from Trump’s false claims of voter fraud.
Bowers, the Arizona House speaker, said he has been inundated with tens of thousands of emails, voicemails and text messages and has had to adjust to having unwanted visitors at his home on Saturdays. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger‘s cellphone number and email address were posted online, and his wife has been targeted with “sexualized text messages,” he said. Moss has dealt with death threats, and the FBI advised her mother, Freeman, to leave her home for her own safety.
The threats and harassment have made plain the cost of standing up to Trump and defending the Constitution, according to Tuesday’s witness testimony.
“It is the new pattern or a pattern in our lives to worry what will happen on Saturdays because we have various groups come by. And they have had video panel trucks with videos of me, proclaiming me to be a pedophile and a pervert and a corrupt politician and blaring loudspeakers in my neighborhood and leaving literature both on my property and arguing and threatening with neighbors and with myself,” Bowers said.
“Some people broke into my daughter-in-law’s home,” Raffensperger testified. “My son has passed, and she’s a widow and has two kids. And so we’re very concerned about her safety, too.”
Moss said she’s gotten racist threats on social media, where people have told her she and her mother will go to prison. She also detailed a call she received from her grandmother, who told Moss that people had come to her home in an attempt to make a citizen’s arrest. Moss told the committee she blames herself for putting her family in this position by choosing to become, of all things, an election worker.
“I no longer give out my business card. I don’t transfer calls,” Moss said. “I don’t want anyone knowing my name. I don’t want to go anywhere with my mom because she might yell my name out. … I haven’t been anywhere at all. I’ve gained about 60 pounds. I just don’t do nothing anymore. I don’t want to go anywhere. I second-guess everything that I do. It’s affected my life in a major way — in every way. All because of lies from me doing my job. Same thing I’ve been doing forever.”
In her video testimony, Freeman, who is known to her customers and friends by the name “Miss Ruby,” said “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 No. 45 and his ally, Rudy Giuliani, decided to scapegoat me and my daughter, Shaye, to push their own lies about how the presidential election was stolen,” Freeman said.
For a while, she said, she even lost her home.
“Around the week of Jan. 6, the FBI informed me that I needed to leave my home for safety, and I left my home for safety around that time,” Freeman said. “I stayed away from my home for approximately two months. It was horrible. I felt homeless. I felt, you know, I can’t believe — I can’t believe this person has caused this much damage to me and my family, to have to leave my home.”
In his closing statement, Schiff invoked Freeman’s remark that that Trump was supposed to be the president of every American, not target them.
“If the most powerful person in the world can bring the full weight of the presidency down on an ordinary citizen who was merely doing her job with a lie as big and as heavy as a mountain, who among us is safe?” Schiff said. “None of us is. None of us.”
Times staff writer Anumita Kaur contributed to this report.