Russell “Rusty” Bowers, the Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, repeatedly paused in an apparent effort to compose himself during his testimony Tuesday, as he described the consequences of refusing to violate his oath of office by declaring Donald Trump the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
Trump and his lawyers were central to the intense pressure campaign on Bowers once it had become apparent that Joe Biden had won several key states, including Arizona. In the last weeks of his presidency, Trump leaned on a number of state officials, trying to convince them to state publicly that election fraud had invalidated Biden’s win, but they refused. Bowers was among them, as he testified at the fourth public hearing held by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“There was no ― no evidence being presented of any strength ... anything that would say to me, ‘You have a doubt. Deny your oath.’ I will not do that,” Bowers said of Trump’s fraud claims.
He said his belief in the Constitution, which he called “divinely inspired,” is “a tenet” of his faith.
“And so for me to do that, because somebody just asked me to, is foreign to my very being,” Bowers said. “I will not do it.”
Trump’s team argued many times in court that various forms of election fraud had taken place in 2020. The courts, however, repeatedly ruled against him, determining there was no such evidence.
Bowers described conversations with Trump’s team where he asked if he could see the evidence that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani claimed to have. Giuliani said he would produce it, but he never did, Bowers testified.
The Arizona lawmaker also pushed back on an effort by Trump’s allies to convince him to hold a vote to decertify the state’s slate of electors, in order for a pro-Trump slate of electors to take their place.
Bowers said that John Eastman, a lawyer for Trump, told him: “Just do it and let the courts sort it out.”
Bowers recounted his response: “You’re asking me to do something that’s never been done in the history of the United States.”
At another point, Bowers read a short excerpt from his personal journal that was written in late 2020, at the request of committee member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).
“I do not want to be a winner by cheating. I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to,” Bowers read. He explained how his office received more than 20,000 emails and “tens of thousands” of voicemails and texts from Trump supporters at the time.
The “circus,” as he referred to the election aftermath, even showed up on his doorstep. Bowers testified that Trump supporters came to his home, upsetting his chronically ill daughter. (She died several weeks later.)
“At home ... it is the new pattern in our lives to worry what will happen on Saturdays, because we have various groups come by,” Bowers testified. “They have had video panel trucks with video of me, proclaiming me to be a pedophile and a pervert, a corrupt politician.”
“So it was disturbing,” he said. “It was disturbing.”
Shortly before the hearing began, Trump released a statement disparaging Bowers, calling him “the latest [Republican in name only] to play along with the Unselect Committee” ― his nickname for the House panel. Trump claimed that Bowers told him in November 2020 that the election “was rigged” and that Trump had “won Arizona.”
He concluded with an apparent threat: “Bowers should hope there’s not a tape of the conversation.”
Under oath, Bowers hit back. He said that while he did have a conversation with the president, “that certainly isn’t it.”
“Anywhere, anyone, any time has said that I said that the election was rigged, that would not be true,” Bowers testified.
The House committee investigating the Capitol attack is expected to hold another hearing Thursday as it continues its inquiry.