WASHINGTON, June 21 (Reuters) – U.S. state election officials told on Tuesday how supporters of Donald Trump threatened, insulted and harassed them, sometimes showing up at their homes, after they refused to help the former president cancel his 2020 election defeat.
The congressional committee investigating the deadly January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters heard how a flood of calls and emails crippled the operations of the speaker’s office in the Arizona House of Representatives .
“We received … over 20,000 emails and tens of thousands of voicemails and text messages, which overwhelmed our offices and we were unable to work, at least communicate,” President Rusty Bowers told the select committee of the United States House of Representatives.
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The committee on Tuesday focused on the Republican’s pressure on state officials as he sought to stay in the White House despite losing the November 2020 presidential election.
It was the fourth of at least six public hearings the committee is holding this month into its nearly year-long investigation into the attack, which took place as Vice President Mike Pence was meeting with members of Congress to officially certify Trump’s defeat to Democrat Joe Biden.
The seven Democrats and two Republicans on the committee used the hearings to bolster their argument that Trump’s efforts to reverse his defeat amounted to unlawful conduct, far beyond normal politics.
Much of Tuesday’s testimony tied the president directly to the pressure campaign, including an effort to replace state voters with officials believed to support Trump’s efforts to reverse the election result.
Bowers said the harassment continued in the weeks leading up to the Capitol riot, with protests at his home, a gunman confronting his neighbor and other threats and insults continuing even when his daughter was seriously ill. She died in January 2021.
“It was disturbing, it was disturbing,” Bowers – who had campaigned for Trump in 2020 and said he had wanted him re-elected – testified, his voice cracking.
In a noisy rally on Jan. 6, Trump urged his supporters to march on Capitol Hill. He had seized this date, when Pence had to certify the election, as a last chance to retain the White House despite his defeat at the polls.
Bowers described conversations with Trump and his close aides, including his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and adviser John Eastman, who urged Bowers to reject the election results.
“You’re asking me to do something against my oath and I won’t break my oath,” Bowers said, recounting a conversation with Giuliani.
The committee also released audio and video recordings in which close associates of Trump — and the president himself — urged state officials to reject the election results.
Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gabriel Sterling, COO of the Georgian Secretary of State’s Office, described false claims Trump and his supporters made about voting in their state, including accusations that thousands of deceased or minors had voted.
Raffensperger said the state conducted nearly 300 investigations into the allegations and found nothing wrong. “Every claim we checked. We walked the rabbit trail to make sure our numbers were accurate,” he said.
The committee also heard from Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss, a former Georgia state election worker who sued for threats — including racial threats — against herself, her mother and grandmother, after that Trump targeted her by name after Biden won her state in the presidential election.
“It turned my life upside down,” Moss said.
The FBI told Moss’ mother, Ruby Freeman, to leave her house because of the threats.
“There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere. Do you know what it feels like to be targeted by the President of the United States? The President of the United States is supposed to represent every American , not target one. But he targeted me, Lady Ruby, a small business owner, a mother, who stood up to help Fulton County run an election amid the pandemic,” Freeman said. in a videotaped testimony.
Reuters first reported details of the ordeal Moss and Freeman endured in December, when they described threats of lynching and racial slurs, as well as alarming visits by strangers to their home. Read more
Trump called Raffensperger on January 2, 2021, telling Georgia’s top election official in a recorded conversation to “find” enough votes for him to win Georgia. Raffensperger remained a frequent target of criticism from Trump.
The secretary of state nonetheless last month held off a Trump-backed challenger, Republican House member Jody Hice, to win the Republican Party primary as he ran for re-election. Read more
Trump has denied wrongdoing, while repeating false charges he only lost due to widespread fraud that benefited Biden. Trump and his supporters — including many Republican members of Congress — dismiss the Jan. 6 panel as a political witch hunt, but the panel’s supporters say it’s a necessary investigation into a violent threat to democracy .
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Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Richard Cowan and Doina Chiacu; additional reporting by Rose Horowitch and Linda So; edited by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis, Howard Goller and Cynthia Osterman
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