The House January 6 select committee will use its’ next hearing to demonstrate that former president Donald Trump knew his efforts to browbeat elected officials in Georgia and Arizona into helping him reverse his 2020 election losses in those states could lead to violence, according to select committee aides.
The panel’s fourth hearing will take place at 1pm ET on Tuesday, and is set to feature a quartet of officials who were on the receiving end of the pressure campaign mounted by Mr Trump and his allies even after he was advised that his chosen course of action was illegal.
“What you will hear during this hearing will demonstrate that President Trump and his allies drove a pressure campaign based on lies,” a select committee aide said on Monday. “These lies led to threats to put state and local officials and their families at risk. These lies perpetuated the public's belief that the election was stolen and tainted by widespread fraud, and ... contributed to the violence of January 6”.
The aide added that the panel would be “taking a close look at how the President's allies came up with these schemes to pressure Republican controlled legislatures and other state officials to reverse the certification” of the 2020 election.
The task of questioning witnesses and presenting evidence at Tuesday’s hearing will largely fall to California Representative Adam Schiff.
Mr Schiff, a former federal prosecutor who chairs the House permanent select committee on intelligence, was the lead manager during Mr Trump’s first impeachment trial in early 2020 and led the intelligence committee investigation that found Mr Trump to have blackmailed Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky during a July 2019 phone call.
One of the four witnesses Mr Schiff will question is Brad Raffensperger, the incumbent secretary of state of Georgia.
Mr Raffensperger, a Republican who defeated a Trump-endorsed challenger for the Peach State’s top elections job last month, became a target for Mr Trump after the then-president became the first Republican to lose Georgia’s electoral votes since voters there delivered the state to Bill Clinton in the 1992 election.
Almost immediately, Mr Trump and his allies began amplifying a series of falsehoods about non-existent voter fraud which they claimed tainted Mr Biden’s victory. Mr Trump also began pressuring Mr Raffensperger and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp not to certify Mr Biden’s win, or alternatively, to also certify a fake set of pro-Trump electors that then-vice president Mike Pence could have used as a reason to throw out the legitimate electoral votes for Mr Biden.
The pressure campaign mounted by Mr Trump in Georgia went so far as to include an in-person visit to a ballot-counting site by Mark Meadows, the ex-GOP congressman who served as Mr Trump’s chief of staff. It also included the now-infamous phone call between Mr Trump and Mr Raffensberger which took place just days before a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol in hopes of preventing final certification of Mr Biden’s win.
During that phone call — which is now at the centre of a criminal investigation being conducted by the Fulton County, Georgia, district attorney’s office — Mr Trump exhorted the Georgia secretary of state to “find” the votes necessary to give him a win in the state even though those votes did not exist, and threatened him with prosecution if he refused.
Also expected to testify is Gabriel Sterling, who served as the chief operating officer in Mr Raffensperger’s office during the 2020 election.
In early December 2020, Mr Sterling denounced Mr Trump’s false claims of election fraud during a televised press conference and pleaded with the then-president to stop lying about the conduct of the 2020 election in Georgia.
“It’s all gone too far. All of it,” said Mr Sterling, who told reporters that he and other Georgia officials had been receiving death threats from Mr Trump’s supporters.
“Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence,” he said, directing his remarks to Mr Trump. “Someone’s going to get hurt. Someone’s going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed”.
The select committee is also expected to hear two other witnesses, Georgia election worker Wandrea Moss and Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers.
Ms Moss, a former civil servant in the Fulton County, Georgia elections department, was targeted by Trump allies who claimed she had processed fake ballots for Mr Biden late on election night in 2020.
The false claims drew mobs of Mr Trump’s supporters to her home and the death threats she recieved from them were so numerous that she was forced into hiding. The John F Kennedy library awarded her a Profile in Courage award for her work during the 2020 election.
Mr Bowers, a Republican, was also honoured with a John F Kennedy Profile in Courage award for his refusal to bow to pressure from Mr Trump and his allies, who had pushed him to call a special legislative session to rescind Arizona’s electoral votes for Mr Biden after the Democrat became just the second Democrat in history to carry the Grand Canyon State.
He refused to consider such an action from Mr Trump despite multiple entreaties from the then-president, protests outside his home, and yet more calls from Mr Trump’s allies in Congress.
More recently, Mr Bowers effectively killed a bill that would have given Arizona legislators the power to reverse election results in a special session after each election.
The aide said the hearing would show that Mr Trump was indifferent to the possibility that his lies and his pressure campaign would result in real-world harm.
“Ultimately, I think at the end of this hearing, what you'll take away is that President Trump was warned that his actions — including repeating these false claims — risked inciting violence, and he did it anyway,” they said.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies