State election officials have recounted how Donald Trump supporters threatened them and their families after they refused to help the former president overturn his 2020 election defeat.
The congressional committee investigating the deadly January 6, 2021 riots at the US Capitol by Trump supporters shifted its focus on Tuesday to the Republican’s pressuring of state officials as he sought to remain in the White House.
It was the fourth of at least six public hearings the nine-member Select Committee is holding this month on its nearly year-long investigation of the attack on the Capitol by thousands of Trump supporters as vice president Mike Pence met with members of Congress to formally certify Trump’s defeat by Democrat Joe Biden.
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“We received… in excess of 20,000 emails and tens of thousands of voice mails and texts, which saturated our offices and we were unable to work, at least communicate,” Rusty Bowers, speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, told the US House of Representatives Select Committee investigating the attack on the Capitol.
He said the harassment has continued, with demonstrations at his house, confrontations with neighbours and other threats and insults that continued even when his daughter was gravely ill.
“It was disturbing, it was disturbing,” Bowers – who had campaigned for Trump in 2020 and said he had wanted him to be re-elected – testified, his voice breaking.
Bowers described conversations with Trump and his close aides including his personal lawyer 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 will not break my oath,” Bowers said, recounting a conversation with Giuliani.
At a raucous rally on January 6, Trump urged supporters to march on the Capitol.
He had seized on that date – when Pence was to certify the election – as a last-ditch chance to hold onto the White House despite his loss at the polls.
“What happened to Mike Pence wasn’t an isolated part of Donald Trump’s scheme to overturn the election. In fact, pressuring public servants into betraying their oath was a fundamental part of the playbook,” Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, chairperson of the committee, said.
Thompson was referring to a hearing last week that focused on pressure Trump and his associates put on Pence to oppose formal certification of the November 2020 presidential election result.
The committee also played audio and video recordings in which close Trump associates – and the president himself – urged state officials to reject the election results.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer at the Georgia secretary of state’s office, were due to testify.
The committee’s seven Democrats and two Republicans have used the hearings to build their case that Trump’s efforts to overturn his defeat amounted to illegal conduct, far beyond normal politics.
Biden in November 2020 defeated Trump in both Georgia and Arizona, flipping two states that had previously backed Republicans in presidential elections.
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 has remained a frequent target of Trump’s criticism.
The secretary of state nonetheless last month held off a Trump-backed challenger, Republican House member Jody Hice, to win the Republican Party’s primary as he ran for re-election.
Trump has denied wrongdoing while repeating claims he lost only because of widespread fraud that benefited Biden.
US state and federal officials have rejected claims of widespread irregularities in the 2020 vote.
Trump and his supporters – including many Republican members of Congress – dismiss the January 6 panel as a political witch hunt but the panel’s backers say it is a necessary probe into a violent threat against democracy.