Witnesses to Trump’s corruption, on the other hand, have a much simpler job: they just recite the facts. But as the fourth day of testimony overseen by the bipartisan congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol made clear, it can come with enormous personal sacrifice.
A series of mostly Republican witnesses on Tuesday explained why they chose to follow the law rather than disenfranchise voters. Asked to commit crimes to demonstrate their loyalty to Trump and the Republican Party, they responded by saying in various ways that their allegiance was to the rule of law, the US Constitution and their states. They showed in vivid and poignant detail that the fate of America’s democratic institutions hinged on the integrity of individuals — and it was a tenuous thread.
When one of Trump’s henchmen, Rudolph Giuliani, asked Arizona House Speaker Russell “Rusty” Bowers to find ways to replace Joe Biden voters with Trump voters after the 2020 election , Bowers declined. “You are asking me to do something that is against my oath, when I have sworn to the Constitution to uphold it,” he said. He repeatedly asked Giuliani for evidence of voter fraud. “We have a lot of theories,” Bowers said, Giuliani replied. “We just don’t have the evidence.”
Bowers, a Republican, wanted Trump to win the election, but as he noted in his diary at the time, “I don’t want to be a winner by cheating.” It’s not a sentiment the former president shares, based on his background and evidence from hearings that he was directly involved in some of the storylines. (“Hmm,” I can imagine Trump thinking. “I’ve always been okay with cheating.”)
Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who received a call from Trump himself, also offered testimony that demonstrated the rift between people like him and the former president. Trump phoned Raffensperger days before Congress was to certify the election results on Jan. 6, 2021, begging him to fabricate the 11,779 votes he needed to overcome Biden’s margin of victory in Georgia. Raffensperger, a conservative Republican, refused. And he did it in good conscience.
“I knew we had followed the law and we had followed the Constitution,” Raffensperger said Tuesday. “And I think sometimes the moments make you stand up and take the pictures. You do your job. And that’s all we did.
Trump, meanwhile, came across as a corrupt 19th-century neighborhood hooker during his recorded phone call to Raffensperger. “So what are we going to do here guys?” Trump asked on the hour-long call. “I only need 11,000 votes. Guys, I need 11,000 votes.
It’s not hard to imagine how the Republican Party would have reacted if former President Barack Obama had tried to bribe a secretary of state to sabotage the results of a presidential election he lost. Yet, faced with the reality of Trump’s scheming and thuggery, most GOP leaders have remained silent.
Civil servants such as Bowers and Raffensperger, on the other hand, did the right thing and paid huge costs. Bowers testified that his office was overwhelmed with tens of thousands of hostile phone calls, text messages and emails from Trump supporters. One person accused him of being a pedophile; another approached him armed with a rifle. Raffensperger said he is doxed, which makes it easier for Trump supporters to harass him. His wife received obscene “sexualized text messages” and his daughter-in-law’s house was broken into.
Such attacks were widespread. Encouraged by the former president, Trump supporters regularly threatened local officials and election workers in swing states with violence, videos and other evidence presented at the hearing showed. Trump loyalists have also attacked their targets’ reputations, with Trump himself indifferent to the fallout.
Some of the most shocking testimony came from Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, a former Georgia election worker who Trump supporters have falsely accused of engaging in voter fraud. She, her mother and her grandmother were all victims. Moss, who is black, said she received racist messages “wishing me dead, telling me you know I’ll be in jail with my mom and saying things like, ‘Be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920 . “”
For her part, Giuliani has publicly likened Moss and her mother to drug dealers and called on Georgia state lawmakers to raid Moss’ workplaces and homes. Moss said the various threats she received turned her whole life upside down and she continued to fear for her safety. “I don’t want anyone to know my name,” she testified. “I don’t want to go anywhere. I question everything I do…. All because of lies.
If the President of the United States sees fit to place the brunt of his office on vulnerable people such as Moss and his mother, Representative Adam Schiff asked, “Who among us is safe?”
The January 6 hearings must ensure that partisan animosity and violence never again compromise personal safety and democracy. It would be a travesty to waste the courage of anyone who puts their well-being and livelihood at stake by protecting the right to vote.
As Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican, noted during the hearing: “Our institutions don’t fight back. Individuals do that. »
More from Bloomberg Opinion:
• Plot darkens in January 6 hearings: Jonathan Bernstein
• The January 6 committee should complete its work — quickly: publishers
• Will January 6 be a factor for November 8? : Julianna Goldman
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Timothy L. O’Brien is a senior columnist for Bloomberg Opinion covering US business and politics. A former editor and reporter for the New York Times, he is the author of “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald”.
More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com/opinion
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