Arizona’s top lawmaker testified Tuesday about the intense pressure Donald Trump piled on him to overturn the 2020 election, as congressional hearings into the former president’s bid to cling to power after his defeat entered a third week.
Members of the committee probing the January 2021 assault on the US Capitol have spent much of June setting out their initial findings that Trump led a multi-pronged conspiracy to overturn the election, culminating in the insurrection in Washington.
The committee said in its fourth hearing that Trump and his allies were personally involved in pushing Republican-controlled legislatures to flip the results in several swing states, away from Joe Biden and into Trump’s column.
Rusty Bowers, speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, testified about pressure to reverse his state’s results, from Trump and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Bowers said Trump demanded a hearing at the Arizona State Capitol to investigate allegations of election fraud but Bowers responded that the evidence didn’t warrant a hearing, “and I did not want to be used as a pawn.”
“You are asking me to do something against my oath, and I will not break my oath,” Bowers told Trump, according to his testimony.
Bowers said he asked Giuliani “on multiple occasions” for evidence of his stolen election claims.
He told committee members Giuliani said “we’ve got lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence.”
The official testified that he received 20,000 emails and tens of thousands of voicemails that “saturated” his office as the Trump campaign ratcheted up the pressure, making it impossible to work.
He has been accused loudly and falsely of being a pedophile and corrupt by protesters outside his home and office, he said.
– ‘Part of the playbook’ –
Bowers was one of several top Republican state officials who found themselves lent on to thwart the will of millions of voters based on bogus claims of fraud, the panel said.
“A handful of election officials in several key states stood between Donald Trump and the upending of American democracy,” committee chairman Bennie Thompson said, adding that “pressuring public servants into betraying (their) oath was a fundamental part of the playbook.”
Liz Cheney, the committee’s vice chair, said Trump was aware that his false claims of fraud could lead to violence, but continued to pressure state officials regardless.
Trump, she said, had a “direct and personal role” in the campaign, alongside Giuliani and another of the ex-president’s lawyers, John Eastman.
US presidents are not elected directly by citizens, but chosen by “electors” named to a body called the electoral college.
Each state gets as many electors as it has members of Congress and there are 538 in total.
The committee says a key plank of the plot to subvert the 2020 election was getting pro-Trump Republicans in swing states won by Biden to submit official-looking but fake certificates claiming they were the legitimate electors.
The committee says it will demonstrate that Trump pressed his vice president Mike Pence to accept these “fake electors” when he was overseeing certification of Biden’s victory on January 6, 2021.
Pence ultimately refused to recognize the pro-Trump slates and the president’s supporters rioted for hours at the Capitol in unprecedented scenes of brutality that led to at least five deaths.
Witnesses also included Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, whom Trump infamously pushed to “find” enough votes to overcome Biden’s lead in the battleground state in a phone call that is the subject of a state-level criminal probe.
– ‘Public trust’ –
Underscoring the effect on local officials, Michigan State Senator Mike Shirky told investigators he received “just shy of 4,000 text messages” shortly after the Trump campaign posted his personal details online.
Also appearing in person will be Shaye Moss, a former Georgia election official who processed ballots in 2020.
Trump and Giuliani falsely accused Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman of “rigging” the count with “suitcases” full of ballots for Biden.
Thompson warned that the threat Trump and his allies pose to US democracy was not over.
“People who believe that lie are now seeking positions of public trust,” he said.
“If that happens, who will make sure our institutions don’t break under the pressure?”
Trump issued a statement, read out during the hearing, attempting to discredit Bowers, accusing him of being a “RINO” — “Republican In Name Only” — and claiming that he’d told Trump the election was rigged and that he had in fact won Arizona.
Bowers said both elements were false.