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.
ICYMI: And are we surprised? Georgia takes center stage at January 6 hearings
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.
Hearings will also be live-streamed in full on C-SPAN, the Select Committee's YouTube channel, and PBS’s YouTube channel.
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