Former President Donald Trump and his allies — most notably his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani — implored Republican election officials and lawmakers in the battleground states of Arizona and Georgia to go along with their scheme to keep the 45th president in power by any means necessary despite his 2020 election loss, the select committee investigating last year’s Capitol riot heard Tuesday.
At one point, Republican Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers recalled taking a call from Trump and Giuliani, during which he was pushed to sign off on a plan to remove the state’s pro-Biden electors and replace them with a slate loyal to Trump.
“I said, ’Look, you are asking me to do something that is counter to my oath that I swore to the Constitution, to uphold it, and I also swore to the constitution and the laws in the state of Arizona, and this is totally foreign as an idea or a theory to me,’” said Bowers, who did not say who specifically pitched the idea to him.
“‘I would never do anything of such magnitude without deep consultation with qualified attorneys,” he continued. “I said, ‘I’ve got some good attorneys, and I’m going to give you their names, but you’re asking me to do something against my oath, and I will not break my oath.’”
During the same call, Bowers recalled, Giuliani claimed to have evidence that hundreds of thousands of votes by illegal immigrants had swung the Grand Canyon State to Biden. But when the former New York City mayor was asked to produce proof of his claim during a later meeting with GOP legislators, he was forced to back down.
According to Bowers, Giuliani admitted: “We’ve got lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence.”
“I don’t know if that was a gaffe or maybe he did not think through what he said, but both myself and others in my group … both remember that specifically,” Bowers said. “And afterwards, we were kind of laughing about it.”
The pressure campaign continued up to the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, when Bowers said he received a call from Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.).
“He asked if I would sign on, both to a letter that had been sent from my state, and/or that I would support the decertification of the electors and I said I would not,” he recalled.
During a video presentation, the committee also alleged that Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) sought to give Vice President Mike Pence alternate slates of pro-Trump electors ahead of the joint session of Congress certifying the 2020 Electoral College results — which was disrupted by the riot.
“Johnson needs to hand something to VPOTUS please advise,” read a message from Johnson chief of staff Sean Riley. When Pence legislative aide Chris Hodgson asked for details, Riley responded: “Alternate slate of electors for MI and WI because archivist didn’t receive them.”
“Do not give that to him,” Hodgson responded.
Johnson spokesperson Alexa Henning later said on Twitter: “The senator 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. This was a staff to staff exchange. His new Chief of Staff contacted the Vice President’s office.”
In exchange for his defiance of the then-president, Bowers said, he was subject to a prolonged campaign of threats and harassment by Trump supporters.
“At home, up until even recently, it is the new pattern, or a pattern in our lives to worry what will happen on Saturdays,” he said, “because we have various groups come by, and they have had video, panel trucks with video of me, proclaiming me of being a pedophile, a corrupt politician, and blaring loudspeakers in my neighborhood, and leaving literature both on my property, arguing and threatening with neighbors and with myself … It was disturbing, just disturbing.”
The panel played a video clip of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson recounting similar protests outside her home, and committee vice chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said during her opening remarks that “Donald Trump didn’t care about the threats of violence. He did not condemn them. He made no effort to stop them.”
Turning to Georgia, the panel played a series of audio clips from Trump’s infamous Jan. 2, 2021 phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — in which the president called on Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes.”
During the call, Trump alleged Georgia officials would find people “shredding ballots, because they have to get rid of the ballots, because the ballots are unsigned, the ballots are corrupt … which is totally illegal, it’s more illegal for you than it is for them, because you know what they did and you aren’t reporting it.”
“You know, that’s a criminal offense, and you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you,” Trump continued.
As Raffensperger insisted again and again that the Georgia vote count was accurate, Trump still insisted it had been rigged, saying “we won the state.”
“Why wouldn’t you want to find the right answer, Brad?” Trump asked, adding that “everyone’s going to look very good if the truth comes out.”
“The real truth is I won by 400,000 votes at least,” he continued.
“So what are we going to do here? … I only need 11,000 votes,” Trump said. “Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.”
Committee member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) revealed that then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows texted or called Raffensperger’s office 18 times in an attempt to set up the call.
Meadows also set up a call between Trump and Raffensperger’s then-chief investigator Frances Watson in December 2020.
During that discussion, Trump pressed Watson to take action in favor of his campaign saying, “When the right answer comes out you’ll be praised.”
“Whatever you can do, Frances, would be appreciated,” Trump added, according to the call audio.
Schiff described the effort from the White House at the time as “quite persistent.”
As the former president and his allies pushed various claims of election fraud – including that 18,000 ballots had been smuggled in at night to skew the Georgia count – Gabriel Sterling, the COO/CFO for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, told the committee that it was “frustrating” to keep up with the misinformation.
He revealed that even his own family members struggled to ignore Trump’s claims because ”the president of the United States, who many looked up to and respected, was telling them it wasn’t true.”
”It was kind of like a shovel trying to empty the ocean,” Sterling said in his testimony.
At one point, Raffensperger noted that 28,000 voters in the Peach State did not bother to cast a ballot in the presidential election, but did weigh in on other races.
“One Republican congressman ended up getting 33,000 more votes than President [Donald] Trump,” the secretary of state said. “That’s why President Trump came up short.”
Tuesday’s hearing also featured live testimony from former Georgia election worker Wandrea “Shay” Moss and a pre-taped video deposition from her mother Ruby Freeman, who were both accused by Trump and Giuliani of “rigging” the election.
Specifically the mother and daughter were accused of passing a USB drive to each other while working a ballot-counting arena. Moss revealed to the committee that it was actually a “ginger mint.”
“Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States targeting you? The president of United States is supposed to represent every American, not to target one,” Freeman said in her deposition. “But he targeted me, Lady Ruby! A small business owner, a mother, a proud American citizen who stood up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of the pandemic.”