Jun 21, 2022 - Politics

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers recalls pressure to overturn Biden's win

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers testifies to the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol
Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers testifies on June 21, 2022, to the House select committee on the Jan. 6 insurrection. Screenshot from PBS livestream of hearing.

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers asked former President Donald Trump and his attorneys for evidence of their claims that undocumented immigrants and dead people voted in the 2020 election.

  • But he was told by Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani, "We've got lots of theories, we just don't have the evidence."

What happened: Bowers testified Tuesday to the U.S. House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

  • In his 40 minutes as a witness, he provided somber, measured testimony about attempts by Trump and his allies to persuade him to decertify Arizona's electoral votes for Joe Biden and to replace them with Trump electors.
  • Trump and Giuliani alleged that there had been massive election fraud in Arizona, claiming that 200,000 undocumented immigrants and 5,000-6,000 dead people had cast ballots in the state.

Yes, but: Neither Trump nor anyone from his campaign ever provided any evidence of fraud, Bowers said.

Why it matters: Had Bowers acquiesced to Trump's request, it could have created greater turmoil in an already volatile situation and created momentum for pro-Trump forces to make similar attempts in other swing states that Biden won.

  • Bowers said Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs called him on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, and asked him to support the decertification of Arizona's Biden electors.

During that call, Bowers said both Trump and Giuliani asked him to sanction an official legislative hearing where lawmakers could hear evidence and "take action" regarding the election, and to support a legal theory that the legislature could replace Arizona's Biden electors.

  • Bowers said he was unfamiliar with any state or federal law that would permit the electors to be replaced, and that to do so would violate his oath of office.
  • He said he rejected the request to call an official legislative hearing because he "didn't want to be used as a pawn."

Flashback: A group of Republican lawmakers ultimately held an unofficial hearing at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Phoenix on November 30, 2020, where Giuliani and others expounded on baseless claims that the election results were fraudulent.

What he's saying: "It is a tenet of my faith that the [U.S.] Constitution is divinely inspired, of my most basic foundational beliefs. So for me to do that because somebody just asked me to is foreign to my very being. I will not do it," said Bowers, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Driving the news: Before the House committee hearing began Tuesday, Trump issued a statement claiming that Bowers told him he'd expected to lose his re-election and would have been out of office without Trump's help, and acknowledged that the election was rigged and that Trump won Arizona.

  • Bowers told committee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D) that he did have a conversation with the president, but he never said the election was rigged.
  • Bowers' Mesa-based district is heavily Republican and he was at no risk to lose the general election in 2020.

Bowers confirmed to Axios that what he actually told Trump was that, by driving GOP turnout in the election, the president helped other Republicans win their legislative races.

  • Republicans narrowly retained control of both the state House of Representatives and Senate, with one-vote majorities in both chambers.

Arizona was one of several contested states won by Biden where Trump electors still sent their votes to Congress in the hopes that they would be certified as their states' official electoral votes.

Bowers' refusal to support the efforts to subvert Arizona's election results led protesters to regularly visit his home on weekends, he said.

  • Some protesters would yell through loudspeakers, accuse him of being a pedophile, and argue with and threaten his neighbors.

Between the lines: Bowers, who has become a target of supporters of false claims that the election was rigged, is termed out of the state House and is running for the Senate.

  • In the Republican primary, he faces former Sen. David Farnsworth, whom Stop the Steal advocates are backing.

Editor's note: The caption in this article has been corrected to note that Bowers testified on June 21, not July 21.

  • This story has been corrected to show Rep. Adam Schiff is a committee member (not the committee chair). Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-MS, chairs the committee.
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