Jan 6 hearing highlights pressure on state election officials

Hearing featured testimonies from officials who faced dangerous threats for refusal to overturn 2020 elections.

The fourth hearing on the January 6, 2021 attack laid out how Donald Trump and supporters pressured state officials [Chip Somodevilla/Pool via Reuters]

In testimonies that occasionally became emotional, state officials who oversaw the 2020 election process in a number of crucial states described to the January 6 investigation committee a relentless campaign of pressure by Donald Trump, his associates, and his supporters to illegitimately overturn the results on the vote, based on false claims of fraud.

Adam Schiff, a Democratic legislator on the panel, said that claims of fraud were ‘precursors’ to January 6.

Trump’s supporters put pressure on legislators and election officials that sometimes turned hostile.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told the committee that his wife received sexually threatening texts and his daughter-in-law had her home broken into.

An election employee in Georgia, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, told the committee that Trump supporters entered her grandmother’s home threatening to make a citizen’s arrest and looking for Moss and her mother.

Here are some of the hearing’s highlights:

  • State election officials delivered emotional testimony detailing the pressure they faced, including violent threats from Trump supporters, to overturn the election.
  • Georgia election officials dispelled conspiracy theories promoted by Trump that purported to prove election fraud.
  • In a recording played for the committee, Trump told an election official in Georgia to “find” 11,000 votes that would enable him to win the election.
  • The panel highlighted the ‘fake electors’ plot that would have replaced existing state electors with new ones who would overturn the election for Trump.
  • Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers became emotional as he recounted how he was asked to violate his oath of office in service of Trump’s reelection.

Below is a timeline of the hearing as it unfolded:

Next hearing will focus on Trump’s push to ‘corrupt’ Justice Department

The next committee hearing, which is set for Thursday, will focus on Trump’s efforts to “corrupt” the Justice Department in his attempt “to cling to power”, Thompson has said.

He added that Trump was the “driving force” behind that campaign.

Wandrea "Shaye" Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman.
Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, a former Georgia election worker, is comforted by her mother Ruby Freeman, right, as she recounts the threats she and her family endured from Trump supporters who wanted to overturn the election [Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo]

Dozens of witnesses ‘took the Fifth’, Cheney says

Cheney has said that more than 30 witnesses who testified before the committee had invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, which allows witnesses to remain silent and refuse to answer questions.

“Roger Stone took the Fifth; General Michael Flynn took the Fifth; John Eastman took the Fifth,” she said, referring to former Trump aides and allies.

“Others like Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro simply refused to comply with lawful subpoenas, and they have been indicted.

“[Former White House chief of staff] Mark Meadows has hidden behind President Trump’s claims of executive privilege and immunity from subpoenas. We’re engaged now in litigation with Mr Meadows.”

Republicans dismissive of January 6 hearings

As officials and election workers shared stories of how they and their families were impacted by a campaign of pressure from Trump to overturn the 2020 election, which often resulted in violent threats to them and their family members by the former president’s supporters, Republican legislators dismissed the hearings.

In one tweet, the House Judiciary GOP said that people were “falling asleep” at the hearing and Representative Jim Jordan said that “Americans know better” than to trust the “bogus January 6 narratives”.

Panel wants former White House counsel Pat Cipollone to testify: Cheney

Cheney has said the panel is working to secure testimony from former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.

“Our committee is certain that Donald Trump does not want Mr Cipollone to testify here,” Cheney said.

“Indeed, our evidence shows that Mr Cipollone and his office tried to do what was right; they tried to stop a number of President Trump’s plans for January 6.”

She added that while witnesses in upcoming hearings will talk about the former White House lawyer’s efforts, the committee thinks “the American people deserve to hear from Mr Cipollone personally”.


Moss’s mother says she lost sense of security after Trump attack

In a recorded testimony, Moss’s mother Ruby Freeman, who was singled out by Trump himself in 2020 for bogus claims of election fraud, has told the committee that she lost her “sense of security” after the election.

“There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere. Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you?” Freeman said.

“The president of the United States is supposed to represent every American not to target one. But he targeted me, Lady Ruby – a small business owner, a mother, a proud American citizen, who stand up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of the pandemic.”

Ruby Freeman
Ruby Freeman, mother of Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, a former Georgia election worker harassed by Trump supporters, said she lost her “sense of security” following the 2020 election [Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo]

Moss says false fraud allegations turned her life ‘upside down’

In an emotional testimony, Moss has told the committee that being falsely identified by Trump aides as someone who engaged in election fraud turned her life “upside down”.

“I no longer give out my business card. I don’t transfer calls. I don’t want anyone knowing my name,” she said.

“I don’t go to the grocery store at all. I haven’t been anywhere at all. I gained about 60 pounds. I just don’t do nothing anymore. I don’t want to go anywhere. I second-guessed everything that I do,” Moss added.

Georgia election worker describes threats by Trump supporters

Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, a former Fulton County, Georgia election worker, has described to the committee receiving a barrage of threatening messages, including racist abuse, after Giuliani mentioned her and her mother by name, falsely accusing them of engaging in election fraud.

“It was just a lot of horrible things there … Wishing death upon me, telling me that I’ll be in jail with my mother and saying things like, ‘be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920’,” she said.

Moss, who is Black, added that many of the messages were racist.

Wandrea "Shaye" Moss
Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, a former Elections Department employee in Fulton County, Georgia, told the panel that she, her mother and grandmother have all been harassed by Trump supporters [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Raffensperger dispels Trump claims of fraudulent votes in Georgia

Trump and his supporters had claimed that thousands of dead people, underage voters and unregistered voters cast ballots in Georgia.

Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger said there were zero underage voters and four ballots from people found to be dead.

“Every single allegation we checked. we ran down the rabbit trail to make sure that our numbers were accurate,” Raffensperger said.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger before the January 6 panel, where he said that former President Trump asked him to “find” 11,000 votes [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

‘I need 11,000 votes; give me a break,’ Trump told Raffensperger

In the same phone conversation with Georgia’s secretary of state mentioned below, Trump reiterated his call for finding just enough votes for himself in Georgia to overturn the election results.

“The real truth is I won by 400,000 votes at least,” Trump says without evidence. “So what are we going to do? I only need 11,000 votes, fellas. I need 11,000 votes; give me a break.”

‘I just want to find’ votes to overturn election, Trump told Georgia official

The panel has played a recording of a call between Trump and Raffensperger from early in 2021, where the former president tells the Georgia secretary of state that he wants to find enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory in the southern state.

“All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won to state,” Trump tells Raffensperger in the recording.

‘Whatever you can do’: Trump urged Georgia official to take action to overturn vote

The committee has played a recording of a phone conversation between Trump and Frances Watson, the chief investigator for Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger, where the then-president urges the state official to take action to overturn the election.

“Whatever you can do, Frances,” Trump tells Watson on the tape.

Georgia official dispels ballot ‘suitcase’ conspiracy theory

Gabriel Sterling, Georgia secretary of state chief operating officer, has dispelled election fraud claims based on a tape that showed election workers running ballots – from what Trump’s supporters described as a suitcase – through voting machines.

Sterling explained that the purported suitcase was an official box containing absentee ballots.

He said some ballots were run more than once to remedy any mis-scanning or misalignment by the machines in what he called a “standard procedure” that does not affect the vote count.

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers
Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers got emotional as he described how Trump supporters descended on his home ‘arguing and threatening’ him, his neighbours and family [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Testimony could be used by US Justice Department

Al Jazeera’s Heidi Zhou Castro speaking at the Capitol in Washington, DC, said polling shows Americans’ opinions are fairly set about the events of January 6, 2021.

However, the investigation results could be used elsewhere.

“Another practical outcome from these hearings, may be nudging the Department of Justice toward making a criminal case against some of these actors including the former president himself Donald Trump,” Zhou Castro said.

Trump had ‘particular obsession’ with Georgia, Thompson says

The panel reopened the session with a focus on Georgia.
Panel Chairman Bennie Thompson has said that while Trump made election fraud claims in all the key states he has a “particular obsession” with Georgia.

With Biden’s 2020 victory, the southern state went to a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1992.

Witnesses Brad Raffensperger, Georgia secretary of state; Gabriel Sterling, Georgia secretary of state chief operating officer; and Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss, a former Georgia election worker are being featured.

Chairman Bennie Thompson swears two witnesses as other panel members look on.
State officials from Georgia and Arizona said during the hearing they found no evidence to back up Donald Trump’s fraudulent claims that the election had been stolen [Chip Somodevilla/Pool via Reuters]

Threats and intimidation continue: Bowers

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers said in the wake of his refusal to go along with Trump, his office received tens of thousands of voicemails and texts “which saturated our offices” making communication and work difficult.

He said people still gather at his home, leaving literature, “and arguing and threatening with neighbors and with myself” including one man armed with a pistol, Bowers told the panel.

Bowers calls plot to replace electors ‘tragic parody’

Asked about what he thought about the “fake electors” plot, Bowers said it reminded him of the mafia-themed book, The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, which was turned into a comedic movie.

“I just thought this is a tragic parody,” Bowers told the committee.

Former President Donald Trump criticises witness

In a statement issued Tuesday, Trump called Bowers a ‘RINO’ – a ‘Republican in name only’ and claimed Bowers had told him the election was rigged.

Adam Schiff recounted the statement and asked about its veracity – Bowers denied the assertion.

“Anywhere, anyone, anytime has said that I said the election was rigged – that would not be true,” Bowers told the panel.

Panel highlights ‘fake electors’ plot

The committee has played a video detailing what it called a plot to appoint “fake electors” in swing states that Biden had won.

“President Trump in his campaign were directly involved in advancing and coordinating the plot to replace legitimate Biden electors with fake electors not chosen by the voters,” Schiff said.

The video featured former Trump lawyers who said that they distanced themselves from the scheme to replace electors and warned that it was illegal.

Bowers moved to tears describing pressure to overturn vote

Rusty Bowers struggled to hold back the tears as he described the pressure campaign by Trump’s aides to overturn the 2020 election results, which he stressed would have violated his oath to the state and the US Constitution.

“You’re asking me to do something that’s never been done in history, the history of the United States,” Bowers recalled telling Giuliani. “And I’m going to put my state through that without sufficient proof… No, sir.”

Top Arizona legislator says Giuliani suggested removing Biden’s electors

Arizona House Speaker Bowers has told the panel that Giuliani on a call suggested holding a hearing to remove and replace Biden’s electors after the current president won the state.

“He said: ‘Well, we have heard by an official high up in the Republican legislature that there is a legal theory or a legal ability in Arizona that you can remove the electors of President Biden and replace them, and we would we would like to have a legitimate opportunity through the committee to come to that end’,” Bowers said.

He added that he told Giuliani: “You are asking me to do something that is counter to my oath when I swore to the Constitution to uphold it.”

Rusty Bowers, Brad Raffensperger and Gabe Sterling are sworn in
Rusty Bowers, Arizona state House Speaker, from left, Brad Raffensperger, Georgia Secretary of State, and Gabe Sterling, Georgia Deputy Secretary of State, are sworn in at the fourth hearing [Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo]

Pressuring state officials ‘precursor’ to January 6: Schiff

Congressman Adam Schiff has drawn a link between Trump’s pressure campaign against election officials and the attack on the Capitol by the former president’s supporters.

“The state pressure campaign and the danger it posed to state officials and the state capitols around the nation was a dangerous precursor to the violence we saw on January 6 at the US Capitol,” Schiff said.

Video shows Trump aides contacting state officials

The committee has played a video featuring testimonies from election officials who described being pressured by Trump aides to reject the 2020 vote.

The panel also revealed recordings that showed former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, whom the committee accuses of helping lead the effort to overturn the election, reaching out to state and local officials.

Election officials faced ‘dangerous’ pressure campaign: Schiff

Congressman Adam Schiff, a key Democrat who is set to take a leading role at the hearing, has said that state officials who refused to overturn the 2020 election faced a “dangerous” pressure campaign by Trump.

“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,” Schiff said.

“This pressure campaign brought angry phone calls and texts, armed protests, intimidation and all too often threats of violence and death.”

Representative Adam Schiff
Representative Adam Schiff said that Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen ‘was and is a dangerous cancer on the body politic’ [J Scott Applewhite/AP Photo]

Every effort to overturn election deserves attention: Cheney

Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on the January 6 panel, has stressed that each push by Trump to overturn the 2020 vote, whether directed at Pence or state officials, merits the attention of the Justice Department.

“Each of these efforts to overturn the election is independently serious,” Cheney said. “Each deserves attention both by Congress and by our Department of Justice. But as the federal court has already indicated, these efforts were also part of a broader plan. And all of this was done in preparation for January 6.”

The panel cannot press criminal charges but it can make recommendations to the Justice Department to indict individuals accused of wrongdoing.

Panel chair says Trump wanted state officials to overturn elections

Thompson has accused Trump of pressuring local election officials in swing states to overturn the results based on false allegations of fraud.

“He wanted officials at the local and state level to say the vote was tainted by widespread fraud and throw out the results – even though as we showed last week, there wasn’t any voter fraud that could have overturned the election results,” Thompson said.

The congressman explained the US election process where the vote takes place by state.

Each state is assigned a number of electors in proportion to its population. When a presidential candidate wins a state, he or she takes all the electors from that state.

Hearing begins

Panel chair Bennie Thompson has gavelled in the hearing.

The fourth January 6 hearing of the month by the congressional committee investigating the 2021 attack on the Capitol is under way.

State officials to testify

The hearing on Tuesday will feature election officials and legislators from two key swing states that Trump had falsely claimed he won in 2020.

Witnesses include Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers; Brad Raffensperger, Georgia secretary of state; Gabriel Sterling, Georgia secretary of state chief operating officer; and Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss, a former Georgia election worker.

Hearing will focus on Trump’s pressure on state election officials

Tuesday’s hearing will examine Trump’s pressure on state election officials to overturn the 2020 election. That campaign by the former president had targeted bureaucrats overseeing the elections in key swing states, many of whom were Republican.

“President Trump and his allies drove a pressure campaign based on lies, and these lies led to threats that put state and local officials and their families at risk,” the Reuters news agency quoted a committee aide as saying.

Trump rebukes Jan 6 panel – again

Trump, who had previously dismissed the January 6 congressional panel as “treasonous” and called the hearings a “kangaroo court”, has continued his verbal attacks on the committee.

“Let’s be clear, this is not a congressional investigation, this horrible situation that’s wasting everyone’s time. This is a theatrical production of partisan political fiction. That’s getting these terrible, terrible ratings and they’re going crazy,” Trump told an audience in Nashville, Tennessee, on Friday.

Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump has dismissed the hearings as a political ‘witch hunt’ [File: Harrison McClary/Reuters]

Key takeaways from last hearing

The last hearing on June 16 examined how Trump and some of his aides pushed then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn President Joe Biden’s election victory.

The committee heard from witnesses, including Pence confidants, how Trump wanted his vice president to use his ceremonial role of counting electoral votes from the states to reject the 2020 election results.

Legal experts, including a former conservative federal judge, argued that such a move would have been unconstitutional and posed a threat to US democracy.

Read the key takeaways from that hearing here.

January 6 hearing
The January 6 panel’s third hearing, on June 16, 2022, focused on Trump’s efforts to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s live coverage of a United States congressional committee’s public hearing on its inquiry into the January 6, 2021 US Capitol riot.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies