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House Select Committee’s ‘Georgia Day’ focuses on the pressure Trump put on state officials
- Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his deputy Gabriel Sterling testified before the January 6 select committee.
- Fulton County election worker Wandrea ArShaye Moss and her mother Ruby Sterling also testified.
- Trump's pressure on officials resulted in death threats and other harassment.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, his deputy Gabriel Sterling and Fulton County elections worker Wandrea ArShaye Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman were the star witnesses Tuesday, the fourth day of congressional hearings on the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The hearings, which lasted for nearly three hours, focused on the pressure former President Donald Trump put on top state officials and low-level election workers and the dangerous rhetoric that resulted in death threats, livelihoods disrupted and harassment.
Why it matters
Georgia was one of several battleground states that the former president lost to President Joe Biden in the 2020 election, and the Congressional select committee investigating the attack on the Capitol has found that while efforts of intimidation were mirrored in other states such as Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Nevada, Trump was laser-focused on the Peach State.
“President Trump’s pressure campaign against election officials existed in all the key battleground states he lost, but the former president had a particular obsession with Georgia,” said committee chairman U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi).
During Tuesday’s hearings, Georgians heard first-hand how that pressure affected not just top elections officials like Raffensperger and Sterling but the everyday citizens like Moss and her mother who worked as county-level elections workers.
Moss and Freeman, in gut-wrenching testimony, described how their lives were turned upside down after the 2020 election.
“There is nowhere I feel safe, nowhere,” Freeman said in tearful, pre-recorded testimony played by the committee.
“Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you? The president of the United States is supposed to represent every American, not target one. But he targeted me: Lady Ruby, a small business owner, a mother, a proud American citizen who stood up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of the pandemic.”
Freeman did not give live testimony Tuesday but sat behind her daughter, wearing a red lace-sleeved top.
Moss, her daughter, said she was subjected to death threats, and “horrible” and racist messaging. “You better be thankful it’s 2020 and not 1920,” she recalled one person saying on social media.
Wandrea ArShaye Moss gestures to her mother Ruby Freeman at the January 6 hearings Tuesday. Click the image for a link to part of her testimony. (CSPAN)
“No election worker should be subject to such heinous treatment for doing their jobs,” said committee member U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California).
The committee replayed Sterling’s notorious December 2020 press conference at the Georgia Capitol in which he bellowed, “It all gone too far. All of it!” Sterling implored the president to stop using provocative and dangerous language and advancing false claims of election fraud.
Sterling warned Trump at the press conference: “Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence; someone’s going to get hurt, someone’s going to get shot, someone’s going to get killed, and it’s not right.” A month later, the U.S. Capitol was attacked.
Sterling told the committee that because of the power of Trump’s position and the faith his supporters had in the president, he was forced to argue with his own friends and family, and sometimes the facts would not sway them.
Georgia Deputy Secretary of State Gabriel Sterling testified before January 6 House Select Committee. Click the image to view part of his testimony. (CSPAN)
Trump’s pressure campaign at the state level began with him insisting state legislatures go into a special session to declare him the winner instead of Biden. He asked state lawmakers to declare the election fraudulent, or create “alternate slates of electors” that would cast electoral votes for Trump rather than Biden.
The Trump effort to send fake electors with “phony certifications” to Congress, the committee said, was tantamount to an attempt to defraud the U.S. government.
Several Georgia legislators signed onto this plan, including state Sen. Burt Jones who is now the Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor in Georgia.
Trump pressured Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in an hour-long phone call on January 2, 2021, to “find” enough votes to overturn the election result in the state. “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state,” Trump said in the phone call. “I only need 11,000 votes, I mean, 11,000 votes give me a break.”
Raffensperger told the committee Tuesday that as a staunch conservative he wanted Trump to win the election, but even so, the fact is that Biden won Georgia, Raffensperger said, adding that the election went “remarkably smoothly.” Biden’s win in Georgia was confirmed by three recounts, including a hand-recount, said Raffensperger.
“The numbers were the numbers, and we could not recalculate because we checked every allegation,” he said, noting his office conducted over 300 investigations from the 2020 election.
Raffensperger said sexually violent texts were sent to his wife and people broke into his widowed daughter-in-law’s house, where she lives alone with two kids.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger testifies before January 6 House Select Committee. (CSPAN)
A Nation of Conspiracy Theories and Thug Violence
The hearings again focused on debunked allegations in Fulton County that “suitcases of ballots” were fraudulently counted at the State Farm Arena ballot-counting facility.
Sterling’s office reviewed 48 hours of surveillance footage, he said, and no wrongdoing was found. Those same allegations were found to have had no merit by former Attorney General Bill Barr, Acting Attorney General Richard Donoghue, and U.S. District Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, BJay Pak.
Trump and his allies also directed harassment against contractors and county elections workers like Moss and Freeman.
“We cannot let America become a nation of conspiracy theories and thug violence,” warned committee vice-chair U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming).
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s allegations included that Freeman had passed Moss a USB stick caught on video, implying some sort of wrongdoing. Moss told the committee that in fact, it was a “ginger mint.”
Trump and Giuliani’s vitriol against Moss and Freeman led to people showing up at Moss’s grandmother’s home to make a “citizen’s arrest” of Moss and Freeman. Moss said people would order pizzas, have them delivered to her grandmother’s home, and leave her grandmother to pay the bill.
“I felt horrible. I felt it was all my fault,” said Moss. “Like if I would have never decided to be an election worker, like I could have done anything else but that’s what I decided to do and now people are lying, spreading rumors and lies, and attacking my mom. I felt bad for my mom and I felt horrible for picking this job.”
Freeman in a recorded statement to committee investigators said she felt she had lost her name, security and her sense of self and that she’s afraid for her name to be said in public.
“I get nervous when I have to give my name for food orders,” said Freeman, who had to leave her home for two months, on the recommendation of the FBI, for her security.
Moss said she felt similarly “I don’t want anyone knowing my name.”
From left to right: Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his deputy Gabriel Sterling are sworn in at the January 6 House Select Committee hearings. Click the image to view the full hearing. (CSPAN)
The next hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET Thursday, June 23.
Hearings can be viewed on major television networks, except for Fox News.
Join the Conversation
A study committee of Georgia senators took a decisive step Tuesday toward ending a longstanding and contentious law that regulates how and where new medical facilities are located in the state.
The committee’s decision centers on the 44-year-old Certificate of Need law. It was created to control health care costs and cut down on duplication of services and unnecessary expansions. It determines when, where and if hospitals need to be built. Opponents have said the law prevents competition and enables big hospitals to have a monopoly, often shutting out small and private medical outlets.
On Tuesday, the Senate Study Committee on Certificate of Need Reform effectively said the law needs to be repealed. The committee approved, in a 6-2 vote, nine recommendations.
“Based upon the testimony, research presented, and information received, the Study Committee on Certificate of Need Reform has found that the problem Georgia’s CON law was intended to combat no longer exists,” the report said.
However, the head of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals said Tuesday that repealing the law would be a bad idea.
“It would have a devastating financial impact on hospitals and the quality and access to health care,” Monty Veazey, the alliance’s chief executive, told State Affairs.
Veazey said he has not seen the recommendations yet but his organization has sent its own set of recommendations to the senate and house study committees.
“We believe that the certificate of need really does need some modernization and we look forward to working with the committee to work through those recommendations and see if we can reach a compromise position during the upcoming legislative session,” Veazey said. “We still want to see what the House committee recommends before moving forward.”
Here’s what the senate study committee recommends, according to a draft:
- Repeal CON requirements for obstetrics services, neonatal intensive care, birth centers and all services related to maternal and neonatal care across Georgia.
- End requirements for hospital-based CON on Jan. 1, 2025.
- Reform CON laws to eliminate CON review for new and expanded inpatient psychiatric services and beds that serve Medicaid patients and the uninsured.
- Repeal all cost expenditure triggers for CON.
- All medical and surgery specialties should be considered a single specialty, including cardiology and general surgery.
- Multi-specialty centers should be allowed, particularly in rural areas.
- Remove CON for hospital bed expansion.
- Revise freestanding emergency department requirements such that they must be within 35 miles of an affiliated hospital.
- Remove CON for research centers.
The committee will present its recommendations to the Georgia General Assembly when it reconvenes in January.
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ATLANTA — The first step in the 2023 electoral redistricting process occurred Monday when Sen. Shelly Echols, R-Gainesville, chair of the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee, released a draft proposal of new Senate district maps.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ordered Georgia to redraw its state House, Senate and congressional district maps, adopted in 2021 by a majority-Republican-led Legislature, after finding they violated the Votings Rights Act by diluting the power of Black voters. The Georgia General Assembly is charged with submitting new maps to comply with Jones’ order by Dec. 8, and will be meeting in an eight-day special legislative session to do so, starting on Wednesday.
The proposed Senate maps would create two Black-majority voting districts while eliminating two white majority districts in metro Atlanta now represented by Democrats. The districts of state Sen. Elena Parent, chair of the Senate Democratic caucus, and Democratic Sen. Jason Esteves, a freshman, would become majority-Black if the redrawn maps make it through the redistricting process, a change that could invite considerably more primary challenges.
The proposed maps do not significantly alter the district lines for Sen. Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale, and Sen. Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, whose districts Jones ruled did not comply with the Voting Rights Act. It will be up to Jones to decide if the new maps pass muster.
As it stands, the proposed Senate map will leave Republicans with a 33-23 advantage in the Senate.
On Wednesday legislators will plunge into their redistricting work during a special session at the Capitol. In addition to the state Senate maps, lawmakers must also redraw electoral maps to create Black majorities in one additional congressional district in west-metro Atlanta, and in five additional state House districts in Atlanta and the Macon-Bibb County area.
The proposed Senate maps (and all proposed maps to be submitted by legislators) are available on the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office’s website. Written comments can be submitted (and viewed) by the public through the portal available on the Georgia General Assembly website. Most of the reapportionment and redistricting committee’s hearings are open to the public; the daily legislative schedule is available here.
“The committee encourages public participation and values the input of the community in this vital democratic process,” Echols said in a statement released on Monday.
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