This hearing ends deeply human. Unlike on the previous three days, the nine committee members will not take the exit on the right behind the podium, on which they always sit next to each other as if on a judge’s bench and present the evidence they have collected to the public.
On Tuesday, they rise from their seats and walk to the row of tables where the Witnesses are sitting. Democratic committee chair Bennie Thompson, his Republican deputy Liz Cheney, party colleague Adam Kinzinger, Adam Schiff, who conducted the hearing that day: One after the other, they offer heartfelt hugs to the two women who have just testified, Georgia poll worker Shaye Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman.
What the two African American women reported at the meeting of the investigative committee shows the delusional zeal with which Donald Trump tried to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election – and what consequences this still has for those who opposed it today.
In the case of the two women, this happened simply because Shaye Moss was doing her job. She tells how Trump suddenly claimed that she was a professional election fraudster and how his supporters then racially abused her and threatened her with imprisonment and death. So much so that like all the other poll workers she worked with in the Fulton district at the time, she no longer wants to do that job.
Her mother, a fashion store owner who calls herself “Lady Ruby,” was also implicated. “I’ve lost my good name, my sense of security.”
When she orders food, she is afraid to give her name, she describes her trauma. “There is no longer a place where I feel safe. Do you know how it feels when the President of the United States sets his sights on you?”
President Thompson said on Tuesday that Trump had a “particular obsession” with Georgia in particular. Here he went so far that the election commissioner, Gabriel Sterling, a Republican, threw a tantrum in front of the camera.
This must stop immediately, Sterling exclaimed excitedly at a press conference in Atlanta on January 1, 2021, after Trump had been pressuring people involved in the election for weeks. There will be injuries and possibly deaths if the President doesn’t stop this.
How right he was in his dire warnings was shown five days later when a mob stormed the Capitol in Washington to prevent Congress from officially certifying Joe Biden’s election victory. Today Sterling says: “Yes, I lost my composure. But it seemed necessary to me at the time because it was getting worse and worse.”
His Republican boss, Brad Raffensperger, Secretary of the Interior responsible for organizing elections in Georgia, has also come to Washington to testify publicly. In a phone call at the time, Trump openly asked him to collect enough votes for his election success in Georgia.
A recording of the conversation was passed on to the media at the time, parts of which are now being played. For example, you can hear Trump say, “I just want to find 11,780 votes” — exactly one more vote that it would have taken him to win instead of Biden in Georgia.
Raffensperger, who repeatedly contradicted Trump in the phone call, emphasized on Tuesday that there was no doubt that Biden won the Georgia election by a margin of around 12,000 votes. This would have been confirmed by several recounts. “The numbers are the numbers, and the numbers don’t lie,” he says. The call lasted 67 minutes, and parts of Trump sounded so confused that people in the room laughed again and again – despite the monstrosity of the events described. But it is also bizarre how the committee once again explains that everyone around Trump, including himself, knew that the “big lie” of electoral fraud was nonsense.
His ex-Attorney General William Barr can also be seen again on the screen above the committee members on Tuesday, in the video shown he says about Georgia: Trump’s allegations had no basis, “we have never seen any evidence of fraud”. As is well known, Trump did not stop this. Particularly impressive is the live testimony of the (Republican) speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, Rusty Bowers, who also had to endure enormous pressure because he countered the allegations that his state had cheated in the November 3rd election. “No one has ever shown me evidence of voter fraud.”
When he asked Trump and Giuliani for such, Trump assigned the Giuliani. But he didn’t deliver. Giuliani then later explained: “We have many theories, but we have no proof.” He didn’t have to be Trump’s pawn, says Bowers.
The Trump team also approached him with the theory that Biden’s electoral college could simply be replaced and that he had the power to do so. “I had never heard that before,” Bowers describes his reaction at the time. He was asked about something that was “completely against his oath”.
But the pressure didn’t stop, on the contrary: 20,000 emails, tens of thousands of text messages and phone calls would have rendered his office incapable of working, says Bowers. And: It got personal.
For weeks, protesters have marched in front of his apartment building, reports Bowers, who was once a Trump fan himself. They would have insulted him as a pedophile, perverted and corrupt, threatened him and tyrannized his neighborhood. Particularly bitter: His daughter was seriously ill at the time and died a few weeks later. The witnesses of the investigative committee probably didn’t think themselves that their resistance to Trump would turn them into some kind of modern hero. It’s a similar story for Liz Cheney, who has become quite isolated in her party because of her criticism of the former president.
Your closing words on this day are a warning, also because the danger to American democracy is anything but over. “Institutions don’t defend themselves. Individual people do.”