By LISA MASCARO and FARNOUSH AMIRI – Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) – The House Committee 1/6 presented tuesday Donald Trump’s relentless pressure to cancel the 2020 presidential electionaimed at showing that this led to widespread personal threats against the stewards of American democracy – the election workers and local officials who pushed back against the efforts of the defeated president.
The panel investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol has resumed with a focus on Trump’s efforts to undo Joe Biden’s victory in the most local way – relying on those responsible from key battleground states to outright reject ballots or submit alternate voters for the final count in Congress. The pressure was fueled by the defeated president false allegations of voter fraud which, according to the panel, led directly to the riot on Capitol Hill.
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President Bennie Thompson said, “A handful of election officials in several key states have stood between Donald Trump and the overthrow of American democracy.”
The hearing opened with chilling accounts of the deluge of verbal attacks facing state and local elected officials, including Arizona Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who said he was doing the subject of a ‘disturbing’ online smear campaign, bull horn protests at his home and a gun. – man waving taunting his family and neighbors.
Bowers ran through an account of being called by Trump one Sunday after returning from church when the defeated president presented his proposal to have the state replace his voters for Joe Biden with those who favored Trump.
“I said, look, you’re asking me to do something that’s against my oath,” Bowers told the committee.
Bowers insisted on seeing evidence of Trump voter fraud, which he said Trump’s team had never produced beyond vague allegations. He recalled Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, telling him at one point, “‘We have a lot of theories, we just don’t have the evidence.'”
Trump wanted Bowers to hold a hearing at the state Capitol, but the Republican leader said there was already a “circus” atmosphere during the election. The panel showed video footage of protesters at the Arizona state house, including a key figure, the cocked hat wearing Jacob Chansleywho was later arrested during the Capitol Riot on January 6, 2021.
Trump nonetheless pressed the Arizona official, including in a follow-up call, suggesting he expected a better response from a fellow Republican.
But Bowers testified under oath that because of his faith, including a belief that the US Constitution is divinely inspired, what the president was asking him to do was “alien to my very being.”
Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, vice chair of the panel, hugged Bowers during a break from the hearing.
She implored Americans to heed the evidence presented, saying, “Donald Trump didn’t care about threats of violence. He did not condemn them, he made no effort to stop them.
“We can’t let America become a nation of conspiracy theories and thug violence.”
The public hearing, the panel’s fourth this month, stems from its year-long investigation into Trump’s unprecedented bid to stay in power, a sprawling ploy the Jan. 6 committee chairman likened to a ” coup attempt”.
Thompson, D-Miss., highlighted recent New Mexico election disputes and said, “The danger has not gone away. It is corrupting our democratic institutions.”
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger testified to Trump’s phone call asking him to “find 11,780” votes that could topple his state to prevent Biden’s election victory.
Raffensperger and his deputy Gabe Sterling were key witnesses, along with Wandrea “Shay” Moss, a former Georgia election worker who, along with her mother, said she faced such severe public harassment from allies of Trump that they felt unable to lead a normal life.
Although the committee cannot charge Trump with any crime, the Justice Department is closely monitoring the panel’s work. Trump’s actions in Georgia also come under scrutiny. grand jury investigationand the district attorney is expected to announce his findings this year.
Trump defended himself on social media, describing his phone call to Raffensperger as “perfect”, similar to how he described his 2020 call with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy who results in his first indictment.
During the call days before the Jan. 6 attack, Trump repeatedly cited debunked fraud allegations and raised the prospect of a “criminal offense” if Georgia officials did not change the count of the state. The state had counted its votes three times before certifying Biden’s victory by a margin of 11,779.
Raffensperger’s public testimony came weeks after he appeared before a special grand jury in Georgia investigating whether Trump and others unlawfully attempted to interfere in the state’s 2020 election, and after Raffensperger beat a Trump-backed challenger in the primary elections last month.
Sterling, Raffensperger’s chief operating officer, has become a notable figure in Georgia’s lengthy post-election count and presidential ballot recount, with his regular updates often broadcast live in a divided nation. At one point, the soft-spoken Republican implored Americans to tone down the heated rhetoric.
“Death threats, physical threats, intimidation, it’s too much, it’s not good,” he said.
Bowers also revealed a second phone call with Trump in December 2020 which he said was mostly a casual conversation, although Trump also referenced their first conversation.
Moss, who had worked for the Fulton County Elections Department since 2012, and her mother, Ruby Freeman, a temporary election worker, sued for defamation in December 2021. Moss claimed that conservative outlet One America News Network and Giuliani falsely spread allegations that she and her mother engaged in voter fraud during the election. The case against OAN has since been fired with a settlement.
The select committee also worked to unravel the elaborate system of “fake voters” who sought to have representatives in no less than seven battlefields – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada and New Mexico – sign certificates falsely indicating that Trump, not Biden, had won their states.
Conservative law professor John Eastman, Trump’s attorney, pushed fake voters in the weeks following the election. Trump and Eastman summoned hundreds of voters in a January 2, 2021 call, encouraging them to send in alternate lists from their states where Trump’s team alleged fraud.
The bogus voter idea was designed to issue a challenge on Jan. 6, 2021, when Congress convened in joint session, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding over what is usually a ceremonial role to accept the vote count of the States. But the effort fell apart, as Pence refused repeated requests from Trump to simply stop certifying Biden’s victory – a power he believed he did not possess in his purely ceremonial role.
At least 20 people linked to the fake voter scheme have been subpoenaed by the House panel. The committee says it will also show it has gathered enough evidence through its more than 1,000 interviews and tens of thousands of documents to link the various efforts to overturn the election directly to Trump.
Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington and Bob Christie in Phoenix contributed to this report.
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