Some Good Republicans Stopped Trump — But His Threat To Democracy Isn’t Over

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Rusty Bowers, the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Arizona, wanted Donald Trump to win the 2020 election. He worked hard to elect him and when the time came, he cast his vote for president.

What he didn’t want to do was cheat on him.

In searing and at times emotional testimony, Bowers, a seasoned battlefield Arizona conservative, told the select House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack how he resisted a relentless campaign by the then president of the United States and his allies. to just That.

“You ask me to do something against my oath and I will not break my oath,” Bowers said, as he was repeatedly pressured by Trump and his allies to undo Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

Bowers’ comments helped reveal how much of a threat to American democracy Trump’s attempt to block Joe Biden’s victory — and how it was defeated by the actions of officials like Bowers. But amid an ongoing effort by Trump and his Republican allies to spread lies and control election races in the battlefield states of 2024, it also revealed that the threat to the US is not over.

“The president’s lie was and is a dangerous cancer on the body politic,” said California Congressman Adam Schiff, who led the hearing. “If you can convince Americans that they can’t trust their own elections, that when they lose it is somehow illegal, then all that’s left is violence to determine who should rule.”

Trump lost the state of Arizona by less than 11,000 votes — votes cast legally and counted fairly, Bowers said. But Trump refused to accept his loss and in his denial concocted a plot to try to stop the state from certifying the election results on baseless conspiracies that Bowers likened to a “tragic parody”.

In perhaps his most damning revelation, Bowers recalled a conversation in which Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told him, “We have many theories. We just don’t have the proof.”

Bowers said the comment was so absurd that he and his staff wondered if it was a “blunder” and laughed at it. But he found little reason for frivolity at Tuesday’s hearing.

Bowers was joined in the cavernous Cannon Caucus Room by Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, and his deputy, Gabe Sterling, also a Republican, who testified about the pressure Trump and his legal team put on election officials in their state.

In a phone call after the November election, Trump asked Raffensperger to find “11,780” votes — just enough to turn Biden’s election victory in the state.

Their refusal to obey Trump’s demands was met with a barrage of online harassment and intimidation. Raffensperger said all of his personal information had been made public. His wife began to receive sexually explicit threats and someone broke into his daughter-in-law, a widow with two children. Bowers was caring for his dying daughter at the time, who he says was troubled by the menacing mob that gathered outside his home, picking out taunts and threats. During the hearing, Bowers read a passage from his diary.

“It is painful to have friends who have been such a help to me, who turn against me with such resentment,” he wrote in December. “I don’t want to be a winner by cheating. I will not play with laws to which I have sworn allegiance.”

Sterling became a notable figure when he called on Trump to stop inciting his supporters during a televised press conference held in the tumultuous post-election period as Georgia carried out a series of recounts. “Death threats, physical threats, intimidation – it’s too much, it’s not right,” Sterling said in his comments, parts of which the committee showed at the hearing. He told his committee that he “lost it” that day after being told a young election contractor at Dominion Systems was receiving death threats from suppliers of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

“I tend to go red from here when that happens. And that happened at the time,” he said.

Lives and livelihoods were disrupted and destroyed as a result of Trump’s lies, the commission heard. Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, a former Georgia election official, testified on Tuesday that she no longer felt safe, secure or confident since she became the subject of one of Trump’s most pernicious fraud claims — one involving briefcases that was unfounded, according to both federal and state officials.

Tuesday’s witnesses were everything that committee chairperson, Mississippi Congresswoman Bennie Thompson, described at the fourth public hearing as a “close call” and a “catastrophe” for American democracy. It also revealed new details in the brazen, if ill-conceived, plan to put forward “false” voter lists in seven states as part of a last-ditch effort to keep Trump in power.

Time and again, the commission has tried to show that the violent January 6 uprising, as appalling as it may be, is not the whole story. It’s not the end of the story either. It is part of a coordinated and ongoing plan by the former president and his allies to remain in power by any means necessary.

“Focus on the evidence the committee will present. Don’t get distracted by politics,” the committee’s vice chair, Wyoming Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, urged viewers. “This is serious. We cannot allow America to become a nation of conspiracy theories and criminal violence.”

Trump’s “big lie” was a “dangerous precursor” to the deadly January 6 uprising, the committee said. But it remains a pressing threat to democracy.

Trump continues to claim he won the 2020 election and polls suggest millions of Republicans believe him. Before the hearing, he claimed Bowers had said the Arizona election had been rigged and that he had even won the state. Under oath, Bowers said Trump’s recollection of their conversation was categorically inaccurate.

Nevertheless, embracing the lie has become a requirement for his approval, which has produced mixed results in the Republican primaries. In Georgia, Raffensperger defeated a Trump-backed challenger to win reelection as state attorney general.

Elsewhere, though, election deniers are winning primaries in a bid to seize control of election administration in key states across the country. In Pennsylvania, where the governor appoints the secretary of state, Republicans chose a candidate who helped organize the rally that preceded the Jan. 6 attack and who has publicly mulled over fraud in future elections.

And across the country, election workers like Moss are driven out by threats of violence and intimidation. In some cases, election watchdogs have warned that they will be replaced by partisans and conspiracy theorists.

Look no further than New Mexico, Thompson said Tuesday, where a Republican committee refused to certify the results of the state’s primaries, citing unfounded claims about the security of voting machines. The committee finally bow to an order by the state Supreme Court and approved the election, but the commission said it was a flashing red warning sign ahead of the 2022 and 2024 elections.

“The system held up, but barely,” said Schiff. “And the question remains, will it hold up again.”

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