Jun 21, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Jan. 6 hearing reveals extent of Trump’s pressure campaign

A transcript of a phone call between Donald Trump and Brad Raffensperger, Georgia Secretary of State

A transcript of a phone call between former U.S. President Donald Trump and Brad Raffensperger, Georgia's secretary of state, appears on a video screen during the fourth Jan. 6 committee hearing. Audio revelead Trump asking Raffensperger to "find 11,780 votes." Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The Jan. 6 committee made the case during its fourth hearing on Tuesday that former President Trump and his key allies failed to find proof of fraud in the 2020 election, but tried to pressure GOP election officials to push that false narrative anyway.

Why it matters: The pressure campaign resulted in violent threats to election officials and went so far as to attempt to hand physical copies of false elector votes to Vice President Mike Pence.

The big picture: Through a mix of taped, closed-door testimony from Justice Department officials and public testimony from key election officials, the committee revealed the breadth of the Trump team's efforts — namely former Trump attorneys John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis — to get state officials to change the election results.

  • The Trump campaign had a call script for appeals to legislators that urged them to support appointing fraudulent pro-Trump electors in states where Biden won.
  • Meanwhile, state election officials testified that they repeatedly asked for Trump's attorneys to offer proof of their fraud claims — but never received them.
  • The committee also showed the human toll the false claims spread by Trump and his team has on election officials and poll workers, which include death threats and home break-ins.

Driving the news: Rep Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the vice chair on the panel, opened the hearing by arguing Trump knew his claims that the 2020 election was rife with fraud were “nonsense."

  • "As you listen to these tapes, keep in mind what Donald Trump already knew at the time he was making those calls — he had been told over and over again that his stolen election allegations were nonsense," Cheney said.
  • "Donald Trump did not care about the threats of violence. He did not condemn them, he made no effort to stop them; he went forward with his fake allegations anyway."

Mark Meadow's role in Georgia

In one of the hearing's biggest revelations, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said the committee obtained text messages indicating Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, wanted to send Georgia election investigators “a sh**load of POTUS stuff, including coins, actual autographed MAGA hats, etc.”

  • Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's Chief Operating Officer Gabriel Sterling detailed his efforts to debunk Trump and his team's false narrative.
  • Sterling said he "lost it" at a December appearance after learning of violent threats to his staffers.
  • Sterling's presser was met with sharp criticism from Trump and others.
  • Sterling testified on Tuesday: "It was frustrating. Often times I felt our information was getting out but there was a reticence of people that needed to believe it because the president of the United States, who many looked up to and respected, was telling them it wasn't true despite the facts."

The committee played audio between Trump and Raffensperger, which showed the extent of how hard the former president pushed him to find cases of fraud in Georgia.

  • Trump rattled off a series of false claims, each of which Raffensperger debunked in real time while speaking with Trump, the audio showed. Trump could be heard asking Raffensperger to "find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have."
  • "The numbers are the numbers and they don’t lie," Raffensperger testified. "Every single allegation we checked, we ran down the rabbit trail to make sure our numbers were accurate."

Raffensperger also testified that Trump supporters repeatedly threatened his life and his family, and some eventually broke into his daughter-in-law's home.

DOJ rubbished claims of election fraud

Former Trump DOJ officials testified in taped depositions that they told Trump there wasn't widespread fraud in Georgia, but he pressured state officials to find claims of fraud anyway.

  • Former Attorney General Bill Barr testified that he told Trump that allegations of voter fraud in Fulton County, Georgia, "had no merit": "We didn't see any evidence of fraud in the Fulton County episode," he said.
  • Richard Donoghue, former acting deputy attorney general, told the committee he told Trump: "I said something to the effect of, 'Sir, we’ve done dozens of investigations, hundreds of interviews. The major allegations are not supported by the evidence developed.'” 

Trump's campaign pressured Michigan's Laura Cox

  • Former chairwoman of the Michigan GOP, Laura Cox, told the Jan. 6 committee that fake Republican electors were planning to hide in the Michigan capitol building overnight to satisfy the requirement they meet in the state Senate chamber: "I told him in no uncertain terms that was insane and inappropriate."
  • Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel privately testified that the Trump campaign asked her to help facilitate an alternate slate of electors from Michigan.

Rusty Bowers' emotional testimony

Rusty Bowers, Arizona House Speaker and a Republican, publicly testified on Tuesday he never told "anyone," "anywhere," "any time" the election was rigged.

  • Bowers also said he demanded Giuliani and Ellis offer proof of the claims of fraud he was peddling, but they never did. "We've got lots of theories, but we just don't have the evidence," Giuliani said, according to Bowers.
  • Bowers said he told Eastman he was being asked to do something illegal — something that had never happened in the history of the country. Eastman's response, according to Bowers, who said he was paraphrasing: "Just do it, and let the courts figure it out."

Inside the room: Cheney hugged Bowers after his in-person testimony. Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) shook his hand.

Poll worker “Shaye” Moss recounts death threats

Wandrea’ ArShaye "Shaye" Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, poll workers in Georgia, “became the target of nasty lies spread by President Trump,” committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said.

  • Moss testified in person that she received "a lot of threats wishing death upon me, telling me that I'll be in jail with my mother and saying things like 'Be glad it's 2020 not 1920.'"
  • Moss said she is still afraid to leave her home: "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 anything anymore. I don't want to go anywhere."
  • Freeman said in a closed-door deposition she had to leave her home as Jan. 6 approached amid concerns about threats and violence.
  • “If the most powerful person in the world can bring the full weight of the presidency down on an ordinary citizen who is merely doing her job, with a lie as big and heavy as a mountain, who among us is safe? None of us. None of us,” Schiff said after questioning Moss.

Implications for members of Congress

Parting line: Cheney made a plea to her Republican colleagues and voters at home who have been skeptical to believe the Jan. 6 committee's findings.

  • "Do not be distracted by politics. This is serious. We cannot let America become a nation of conspiracy theories and thug violence," she said.

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