Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers tells Jan. 6 panel he was pressured to overturn election results
WASHINGTON (3TV/CBS 5/Gray News/AP) — The House 1/6 committee outlined on Tuesday Donald Trump’s relentless pressure to overturn the 2020 presidential election, aiming to show it led to widespread personal threats on the stewards of American democracy — election workers and local officials who fended off the defeated president’s efforts.
The hearing opened with chilling accounts of the barrage of verbal attacks facing state and local elected officials, including Arizona’s Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers who said he was subject to a “disturbing” smear campaign online, bull-horn protests at his home, and a pistol-wielding man taunting his family and neighbors.
The panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the U.S. Capitol resumed with a focus on Trump’s efforts to undo Joe Biden’s victory in the most local way — by leaning on officials in key battleground states to reject ballots outright or to submit alternative electors for the final tally in Congress. The pressure was fueled by the defeated president’s false claims of voter fraud which, the panel says, led directly to the riot at the Capitol.
Chairman Bennie Thompson declared, “A handful of election officials in several key states stood between Donald Trump and the upending of American democracy.”
Moments before Speaker Bower’s testimony Monday, Trump issued a statement calling Bowers a “RINO” or a Republican in name only, a term often used by members of the party to those who are not seen as conservative enough. Trump also wrote that Bowers had previously told him that the election was rigged and that he, indeed, “won Arizona.”
Speaker Bowers fired back at the claim by the former President telling the panel “anywhere, anyone, anytime has said that I said the election was rigged, that would not be true.”
Bowers walked through an account of being called by Trump on a Sunday after returning from church when the defeated president laid out his proposal to have the state replace its electors for Joe Biden with those favoring Trump. “I said, Look, you’re asking me to do something that is counter to my oath,” Bowers testified before the committee. Bowers insisted on seeing Trump’s evidence of voter fraud, which he said Trump’s team never produced beyond vague allegations. He recalled Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani at one point told him, “‘We’ve got lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence.’”
Trump wanted Bowers to hold a hearing at the state Capitol, but the Republican leader said there was already a “circus” atmosphere over the election. The panel showed video footage of protesters at the Arizona state house including a key figure, the horned-hat wearing Jacob Chansley, who was later arrested at the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot.
Trump nevertheless pressed the Arizona official, including in a follow-up call, suggesting he expected a better response from a fellow Republican. But Bowers testified under oath that because of his faith, including a belief the U.S. Constitution is divinely inspired, what the president was asking him to do was “foreign to my very being.”
Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, the panel’s vice chair, embraced Bowers during a break in the hearing. She implored Americans to pay attention to the evidence being presented, declaring, “Donald Trump didn’t care about the threats of violence. He did not condemn them, he made no effort to stop them.” “We cannot let America become a nation of conspiracy theories and thug violence.”
The public hearing, the fourth by the panel this month, stemmed from its yearlong investigation into Trump’s unprecedented attempt to remain in power, a sprawling scheme that the chairman of the Jan. 6 committee has likened to an “attempted coup.”
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