The real drama behind today's fourth hearing
The January 6 Committee intends to fortify the remaining pro-democracy faction in the Republican Party
Today’s fourth hearing focused on how Trump corruptly pressured state legislators and election officials to change election results — leaning on state officials to alter the vote and to create slates of fake electors pledged to Trump — and their unwillingness to go along with Trump. But under the surface of today’s hearing and its revelations lurks the civil war that Trump has created within the Republican Party — between the dwindling number of Republican officials who maintain their oaths to the Constitution, and Republican officials who were (and still are ) willing to bend — and the committee’s attempt to fortify the former.
1. The committee highlighted Republicans who maintained their oaths of office and did not just refuse Trump’s demands but also stood up to mobs unleashed by Trump.
Rusty Bowers, speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, testified that in phone calls with both Trump and Giuliani after the election, Giuliani asserted that hundreds of thousands of undocumented people had voted, and that many ballots were from people who had died. Bowers asked for evidence to back this claim but never received it. Trump asked Bowers to hold a hearing at the Arizona State Capitol to investigate allegations of election fraud, but Bowers did not believe that the evidence “merited a hearing” and “did not want to be used as a pawn.” Bowers later told Trump, “You are asking me to do something against my oath, and I will not break my oath.” Bowers’s emotional testimony described the threats he endured as a result.
Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, testified that President Biden carried the state of Georgia by approximately 12,000 votes. All ballots were twice recounted by hand, with no difference in the result. The committee played the recording of Trump trying to push Raffensperger to “find” just as many votes as he needed to beat Biden. “I just want to find 11,780 votes,” Trump said. “Give me a break.” But Raffensperger testified that “there were no votes to find. It was an accurate count that had been certified.” When Raffensperger refused Trump, Trump threatened him with a “criminal offense.” Raffensperger subsequently received threats to himself and his family, as did his wife and widowed daughter-in-law.
Gabriel Sterling, a top election official in Georgia, also testified today. He had publicly disputed Trump’s false claims of election fraud in the 2020 election. Weeks after the election, Sterling warned the public that unless Trump stopped making false claims, “someone is going to get killed.” Trump dismissed Sterling’s warning in a tweet, reiterating — again, without evidence — that “thousands of votes” in Georgia were fraudulent.
Shaye Moss, an election worker in Georgia was the last to testify. After Giuliani likened Moss, a Black woman, to a low-level drug dealer, she and her mother were subject to a wave of online threats and harassment — including death threats, some racist in nature. Shaye’s mother's house was invaded by election deniers. She and her mother continue to live in fear. Moss’s testimony was a powerful illustration of what Trump has wrought: Regular Americans doing public service jobs being subject to threats and intimidation from Trump followers.
Today’s hearings also added to the list of traitors in the Republican Party, willing to break their oaths of office. They include Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. It was revealed today that an aide to Johnson wrote to a Pence aide that Johnson wanted to hand-deliver to Pence a slate of fake electors from Wisconsin. Pence’s aide responded: “Do not give that to him. Today’s testimony also added evidence of the traitorous behavior of Representative Andy Biggs, Republican of Arizona. Bowers testified that Biggs called him on the morning of Jan. 6 and asked him to support the effort to overturn the election. Bowers says he told Biggs he would not.
2. The committee made much of the fact that its witnesses are Republicans who wanted Trump to win. Raffensperger, for example, described himself today as a conservative Republican who wanted Trump to win in 2020. He said he had to “follow the law and follow the Constitution.”
Clearly, one of the purposes of the committee hearings is to fortify those remaining Republican officials and lawmakers around the country who continue to honor their oaths of office. The committee’s strategy underscores the stark reality that, no matter how much Democrats revile Trump, it is Republicans who will ultimately decide his fate — and whether Trump remains a force in American politics.
3. A third revelation today is that the attempted coup continues — to this day. I was struck by the fact that even this morning, before the committee hearing began, Trump issued a statement claiming that Bowers had told him after the the 2020 election that the election in Arizona was rigged. Bowers denied under oath that he had said this to Trump. Clearly, Trump wants the entire committee hearings to be seen as his word versus the committee’s. If he decides to run for office (which seems increasingly likely), this will be his strategy.