State officials tell Jan. 6 panel how they impeded Trump’s demands to overturn 2020 election

Election worker: ‘Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you?’

From left, Rusty Bowers, Arizona House Speaker, Brad Raffensperger, Georgia secretary of state, and Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer of the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, are sworn in during the Jan. 6 select committee hearing in the Cannon House Office Building on Tuesday.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
From left, Rusty Bowers, Arizona House Speaker, Brad Raffensperger, Georgia secretary of state, and Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer of the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, are sworn in during the Jan. 6 select committee hearing in the Cannon House Office Building on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted June 21, 2022 at 6:26pm

Former President Donald Trump’s sweeping endeavor to enlist fake slates of electors in states that Joe Biden won in order to overturn the 2020 presidential election was met with stiff resistance from GOP state officials who, in the face of death threats, decided against accommodating Trump’s demands.

Doing so, one official from Arizona and two from Georgia told the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, would have violated their oaths of office and to the Constitution. 

That push to ignore the will of the voters and replace Biden’s slates of electors in key battleground states that the now-president carried — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — included efforts by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., the select committee alleged Tuesday.

Trump and former attorney Rudy Giuliani called Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Republican, shortly after the 2020 election. During that conversation, Bowers said they claimed thousands of dead people and undocumented immigrants purportedly voted in the 2020 election. Bowers asked for evidence and said he “never” received it.

They also asked Bowers to convene a committee hearing in the Arizona state House and wanted to use that committee platform to replace Biden electors. Bowers refused, saying their lack of evidence did not merit a hearing. Bowers told Giuliani that they were asking him to do something “against” his oath and that he vowed not to “break” it.

“I didn’t want to be used as a pawn,” Bowers told the committee. 

Bowers recounted Giuliani telling him that they don’t have evidence to support their claims. “We’ve got lots of theories. We just don’t have the evidence,” Bowers said Giuliani told him.

Biggs also allegedly played a role in trying to pressure Bowers to support a move to decertify Biden electors. Biggs called Bowers and asked if he would support the decertification of the electors, which Bowers said he would not do.

A Republican senator was also implicated in the effort to use fake electors.

A text exchange between Sean Riley, a staffer for Johnson, and an aide to Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6, 2021, the day Pence was set to certify and count the electoral votes, showed that Johnson wanted to give Pence alternate slates of electors for Michigan and Wisconsin. That offer was rejected by Pence’s staffer, Chris Hodgson. A Johnson aide later tweeted what amounted to an attempt to distance Johnson from the allegation, saying the lawmaker did not know the fake electors would be delivered to the office, calling it a staff-level exchange.

Laura Cox, a former Michigan Republican Party chair, told the panel that her state’s GOP electors were planning to meet in the state Capitol and hide overnight so they could cast votes for alternate electors out of sight. Cox called the plan “insane” and “inappropriate.”

The committee revealed testimony indicating Trump’s own legal team in the White House did not believe the attempt to submit false electors was on solid legal footing. Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, told the committee in a recorded interview that the White House counsel’s office concluded the plan to have alternate electors meet and cast votes for Trump in swing states he lost was not legally sound. Meadows, Giuliani and Giuliani’s associates were present for the meeting, according to Hutchinson.

‘Dangerous and escalating’

Panel member Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., led the questioning of witnesses and remarked that Trump was vengeful when officials gave him answers he didn’t want.

“Anyone who got in the way of Donald Trump’s continued hold on power after he lost the election was the subject of a dangerous and escalating campaign of pressure,” said Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee.

Days before Jan. 6, Trump implored Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the votes to overturn Trump’s loss in Georgia, a key swing state in the 2020 election. The president told Raffensperger he was taking a “big risk” if he didn’t follow orders.

Trump, Giuliani and others in his camp made false allegations that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia, using a video of Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss, a former election worker in Fulton County, to falsely accuse her and her mother, Ruby Freeman, of engaging in a voter fraud scheme at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. That disproved allegation contended there were suitcases full of fraudulent votes for Biden.

“We didn’t see any evidence of fraud in the Fulton County episode,” William Barr, Trump’s former attorney general, told the select committee in a taped deposition.

Trump also tried to sway Frances Watson, who was then the chief investigator of the Investigations Division for the Office of the Georgia Secretary of State, into tipping the outcome of her probe in his favor. “When the right answer comes out, you’ll be praised,” Trump told her in a recorded conversation.

Ultimately, three vote counts by the Georgia secretary of state found that Trump “came up short,” Raffensperger said. He noted that he and his office “followed” the law and the Constitution.

Trump’s campaign to malign Bowers and Raffensperger has led to them receiving death threats and having protests outside their homes. After the election, Raffensperger’s wife started receiving sexualized threats and people broke into his daughter-in-law’s home.

Moss, who has since left her election job, said she has gotten threats “wishing death upon me” and racist tirades. People barged into her grandmother’s home, seeking to make a citizen’s arrest of her. 

Freeman, Moss’ mother, had to be moved from her home by the FBI for a period of time because of the threats.

“There is nowhere I feel safe,” Freeman, one of the Fulton County election workers who was falsely accused by Trump and Giuliani of engaging in a voter fraud plot, told the committee during a taped deposition. “Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you?”