Donald Trump’s supporters in front of The Capitol, January 6, 2021 (Leah Millis/Reuters)
Testimony in the Capitol Attack hearings has laid out Donald Trump’s plot to overturn the November 2020 election, intimidating state officials and trying to prevent President-elect Joe Biden’s victory through Trump’s “fake electors”.
The fourth day of the House select committee’s hearings presented evidence of Trump’s direct involvement in the replacement of electors in key states such as Georgia and Arizona.
Trump called Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, asking her to speak with his lawyer John Eastman, one of the architects of the plot. McDaniel, an ardent defender of Trump in public, said in a video deposition that Trump wanted her to understand “the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors”, even as more than 60 legal challenges to the election by Trump’s camp and its allies were unsuccessful.
White House counsel told Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and other aides that the scheme was not legally sound, testified White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. Although Eastman told Trump that the effort had no legal basis, the two men persisted with the plot.
Meanwhile, Trump was pursuing the complementary tactic of pressuring State officials. Last year his intimidation of Republican officials, such as Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Arizona’s House Speaker Rusty Bowers, came to light. However, the Committee hearing connected the evidence, with testimony from Raffensperger, Bowers, and election staff who faced Trump-incited threats of violence, rape, and death.
Bowers told the committee of Giuliani’s statement in a phone call, “We’ve got lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence.” Eastman followed up with the demand to replace electors, “Just do it and let the courts sort it out.”
Defying the legal advice, Trump’s camp sought the fake electors up to January 6, the day of the Congressional certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory. Hours before the session, an aide to Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin told an aide of Vice President Pence that Johnson wanted to give Pence a list of Trump electors from Michigan and Wisconsin, two key states won by Biden.
Pence’s aide rebuffed the attempt.
Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona asked Boweer if he would support the decertification of Arizona’s Biden electors. “I said I would not,” Bowers testified yesterday.
Raffensperger, a target of Trump’s vilification after he refused to throw out votes for Biden, told the Committee of the threats that included sexual violence against his wife. Trump supporters broke into the home of his son’s widow.
As his daughter was dying, Bowers was deluged by more than 20,000 emails and tens of thousands of voice mail messages and texts. Trump supporters came to his home.
It is the new pattern or a pattern in our lives to worry what will happen on Saturdays because we have various groups come by and they have had video panel trucks with videos of me proclaiming me to be a pedophile and a pervert and a corrupt politician and blaring loudspeakers in my neighborhood.
Trump’s vindictive campaign included elections workers, who spoke of the damage after Trump and Giuliani named them in false claims of fraud.
Georgia workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss were assailed with racist messages and phone calls. Moss recalled “a lot of threats, wishing death upon me, telling me that, you know, I’ll be in jail with my mother and saying things like, ‘Be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920.’”
Freeman fled her home after the FBI warned her that she could be in danger. Trumpists showed up at at Moss’s grandmother’s house, trying to find Moss for a “citizen’s arrest.”
Moss said the intimidation “turned my life upside down”, forcing her to quit the electoral work which she loved.
I don’t want anyone knowing my name. I don’t want to go anywhere with my mom because she might yell my name out over the grocery aisle or something. I don’t go to the grocery store at all. I haven’t been anywhere at all. I’ve gained about 60 pounds. I just don’t do nothing anymore. I don’t want to go anywhere.
The Next Phases
The Committee has now documented the first two phases of Trump’s coup attempt: the campaign of falsehoods about the election, and the failed effort for states to replace electors.
The next hearing will focus on the third phase, also unsuccessful, for the Justice Department to overturn the election. That will be followed by the detail of the fourth phase: the plot for Vice President Pence to block Biden’s certification.
When Pence refused to go along with the plan, Trump and his inner circle prepared for January 6 rallies to march on the Capitol and halt the Congressional process.
Committee vice-chair Rep. Liz Cheney of Wisconsin called on other Trump advisors to lift their refusal to testify in public. She spoke about White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who advised Trump that his schemes were illegal.
They tried to stop a number of President Trump’s plans for January 6. But we think the American people deserve to hear from Mr. Cipollone personally. He should appear before this committee, and we are working to secure his testimony.