WASHINGTON ― The Republican leader of the Arizona House of Representatives and a mother-daughter team of Georgia election workers told Congress on Tuesday about the death threats they received just for doing their jobs.
“There is nowhere I feel safe ― nowhere,” Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman told the House Jan. 6 committee. “Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States to target you? The president of the United states is supposed to represent every American, not to target one.”
Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, put human faces on Donald Trump’s effort to overthrow American democracy, with testimony about the living hell their lives became after Trump and his legal team falsely accused them of stuffing ballot boxes.
High-ranking Republicans who stood up to Trump in 2020 suffered similar fates. Arizona House Speaker Russell “Rusty” Bowers said his office was so saturated with thousands of voicemails and emails from angry Trump supporters that “we were unable to work, or at least communicate” for days.
Bowers said that even recently, his family worries what will happen on Saturdays.
“We have various groups come by and they have had video panel trucks with video proclaiming me of being a pedophile, a corrupt politician,” Bowers said. “And blaring loudspeakers in my neighborhood, and leaving literature both on my property arguing and threatening with neighbors and with myself.”
Tuesday’s hearing by the House Jan. 6 committee portrayed the threats as part of a deliberate strategy by Trump to steal the election, a strategy that predictably resulted in the riot at the Capitol as Congress certified the final result.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a committee member and former federal prosecutor, said in his opening statement that when officials resisted Trump’s entreaties to stop counting ballots or to certify him as the winner even though he’d lost, the pressure only mounted.
“This pressure campaign brought angry phone calls and texts, armed protests, intimidation, and, all too often, threats of violence and death,” Schiff said. “State legislators were singled out. So, too, were statewide elections officials. Even local elections workers, diligently doing their jobs, were accused of being criminals, and had their lives turned upside down.”
In video depositions played during Tuesday’s hearing, Republican state lawmakers described what happened when Trump targeted them in his effort to get state legislatures to undo the results of the election in their states. Michigan state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R) said he received more than 4,000 text messages after Trump shared his phone number on Facebook.
“All my personal information was doxxed online,” Pennsylvania state House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R) said.
The bipartisan committee has been investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot for nearly a year. In a series of hearings that started earlier this month, the committee has portrayed the attack on the Capitol as the culmination of a Trump-led conspiracy that his own advisers told him had no legal justification.
Last week, the committee detailed Trump’s pressure campaign against his own vice president, Mike Pence. Trump spurred on the mob in an effort to intimidate Pence into throwing out Joe Biden’s election victory; the hearing revealed that a federal law enforcement source believed an extremist group involved in the riot “would have killed Mike Pence if given the chance.”
Tuesday’s hearing showcases Trump’s earlier efforts to overturn election results in Arizona and, more famously, in Georgia. The featured witnesses included Bowers and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans.
Bowers came under intense pressure from Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani to overturn Trump’s loss in Arizona. He survived targeted harassment and threats from Trump’s followers, as well as a recall attempt. In January 2022, he blocked a GOP bill that would have let the legislature overturn election results. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library honored him recently with a Profile in Courage Award.
Bowers said Giuliani and Trump campaign attorney John Eastman pressured him repeatedly to call the state House into session to undo the election. He said he told Eastman that doing so would be contrary to the oath to the Constitution he’d taken as a lawmaker.
“He said, ‘Just do it and let the courts sort it out,’” Bowers said. “You’re asking me to do something that’s never been done in the history of the United States.”
Bowers also revealed that U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) called him on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021.
“He asked if I would sign on both to a letter that had been sent from my state and that I would support the decertification of the electors and I said that I would not,” Bowers said.
Raffensperger and Georgia chief elections officer Gabriel Sterling testified about Trump’s efforts to coerce them into overturning his loss in their state. Both have already testified before a grand jury in Atlanta’s Fulton County, where prosecutors are investigating Trump and his inner circle based on his phone call to Raffensperger that the secretary of state recorded and that was later released to The Washington Post.
Raffensperger has said Trump threatened him on that phone call, and he described the results of the threat on Tuesday.
“After the election, my cellphone and email was doxxed. Eventually, my wife started getting texts,” Raffensperger said. “They started going after her, I think just to probably put pressure on me.”
Raffensperger also mentioned that someone broke into his widowed daughter-in-law’s home; Reuters reported last year that the Raffensperger family went into hiding for nearly a week as a result of the break-in.
Trump also tried to end Raffensperger’s political career by recruiting Georgia Republican Congressman Jody Hice to run against him in last month’s primary, but Raffensperger managed to win with a clear majority anyway, thereby avoiding a runoff, and is now almost certain to win a second term in November.
The second part of Tuesday’s hearing featured Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, a former Fulton County election worker whom Trump followers inundated with harassment, including threats of lynching, after conspiracy theorists falsely claimed she and her mother, also an election worker, had engaged in voter fraud to hurt Trump in Georgia. She also received a Profile in Courage Award for her work.
“I don’t want anyone knowing my name,” Moss told the committee. “I don’t go to the grocery store at all. I haven’t been anywhere at all. I gained about 60 pounds. I just don’t do anything anymore. I don’t want to go anywhere.”
Freeman, Moss’s mother, attended the hearing but did not testify in person. Instead, the committee played a video of her remarks during an earlier deposition with committee aides. She said the FBI told her to hide from Jan. 6 until after the inauguration, and that she hid for two months.
“I won’t even introduce myself by my name anymore,” Freeman said. “I get nervous when I bump into someone I know in the grocery store who says my name ― I am worried about who is listening. I get nervous when I have to give my name for food orders. I am always concerned of who is around me. I have lost my name and I have lost my reputation. I have lost my sense of security. All because a group of people, starting with Number 45 and his ally, Rudy Giuliani, decided to scapegoat me ― to push their own lies about how the presidential election was stolen.”