‘I don’t feel safe anywhere’: Election officials tell threats

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wandrea “Shaye” Moss testified to lawmakers on Tuesday about how her life was turned upside down when former President Donald Trump and his allies falsely accused her and her mother of pulling fraudulent ballots from a suitcase in Georgia.

The former Georgia election official told in a heartbreaking appearance before the House Committee on Jan. 6 how the defeated president clung to November 2020 surveillance footage to accuse her and her mother, Ruby Freeman, of committing voter fraud — accusations that were quickly debunked but widely circulated across conservative media.

Moss, who is Black, said she received messages “wishing me death. They tell me I’m in jail with my mom. And saying things like, ‘Be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920.'”

“A lot of them were racist,” Moss said. “A lot of them were just hateful.”

The committee also played testimony from Freeman, who sat behind Moss in the hearing, showing support for her daughter and at one point handing over a box of tissues when lawmakers learned of their crushing ordeal.

“I don’t feel safe anywhere. Nowhere,” Freeman told the committee in the pre-recorded video. “Do you know what it feels like when the President of the United States targets you? The President of the United States is supposed to represent every American, not target one.”

“But he was targeting me,” she added.

The emotional testimony of mother and daughter was just the panel’s latest attempt on January 6 to show how lies perpetrated by Trump and his allies about a stolen election turned into real violence and intimidation against the caretakers of American democracy: state and local election officials and workers.

A number of people who bought the election lies even came to Moss’ grandmother’s house to carry out a citizen’s arrest.

“I’ve never heard or seen her cry in my life,” Moss testified. “She called me screaming and said there were people at her house.”

“I just felt so helpless,” she added.

The barrage of threats against the two district workers increased after Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani played surveillance footage of them counting the ballots at a Georgia Senate Committee hearing on Dec. 10, 2021. Giuliani said the footage showed that the women “secretly walked past USB ports as if they were vials of heroin or cocaine.” What they actually passed, Moss told the committee, was a ginger mint.

Allies of Giuliani and Trump continued to echo the false conspiracy theory that Moss and Freeman, along with other election workers in key battlefield states, put ballots in suitcases. The claim was refuted by several Georgia election officials, who investigated and found that the images showed normal ballot boxes used in Fulton County.

But it was too late. Conservative networks such as One America News Network seized on the false claim and it began to spread with the help of Trump himself. Moss and Freeman finally filed a defamation lawsuit against the network and Giuliani last December. The case against OAN has since been dropped with a settlement.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who led Thursday’s hearing, noted that Trump mentioned Freeman’s name 18 times in a conversation with Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. At one point, Trump called Freeman a “professional voter and con artist”.

“This has had a huge impact on my life. In every way. All because of lies. All for me to do my job. Same thing I’ve always done,” said Moss, who was an election official for 10 years.

With so many threats, the FBI urged Freeman to vacate her home before January 6 for security reasons. She testified that she could not return for two months and felt homeless.

“The point is this: Donald Trump didn’t care about the threats of violence,” said Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the commission’s vice chair, in her opening remarks Tuesday. “He didn’t condemn them, he made no effort to stop them; he continued with his false accusations.”

Georgia’s top election official, Raffensperger, and his deputy, Gabe Sterling, also testified about the relentless attacks they and their colleagues faced as Trump falsely claimed widespread voter fraud in Georgia

Raffensperger and his wife were the victims of organized harassment — commonly known as doxxing. His wife, he said, received “disgusting” text messages that were sexual in nature, and supporters of the president’s election claims broke into Raffensperger’s daughter-in-law’s home, where she was staying with her children.

Sterling recalled the moment in December 2020 that prompted him to speak out. It was a tweet about an employee of the Dominion voting machines — the focal point of other Trump-propagated voter fraud conspiracies — who said, “You committed treason. May god have mercy on your soul.” It featured a slow spinning poison of a noose.

“And for lack of a better word, I’ve lost it,” Sterling told the committee. “I just got furious.”

That day Sterling gave a passionate plea during a press conference in which he pleaded with Trump to condemn the threats against election workers. “This has got to stop,” he said.

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