Democracy & Elections

Point #4: Evidence That Trump Tried to Convince State Lawmakers and Election Officials to Alter Election Results

Matt Gluck, Tia Sewell, Benjamin Wittes
Sunday, August 21, 2022, 9:00 AM

A summary and evaluation of the committee’s evidence.

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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The Jan. 6 select committee sought to lay out evidence showing that President Trump worked to ensure state election officials faced consequences—including direct threats of violence—when they refused to support his claims of electoral victory. The committee’s evidence on this point is strong and unambiguous.

Committee members argued that (1) the pressure imposed on officials stemmed from Trump’s willful dishonesty; (2) people who continue to believe Trump’s declarations the election was stolen are now seeking positions of public trust; and (3) the integrity of American institutions relies on people in power adhering to their oaths of office. The committee advanced this argument exclusively in its fourth hearing.

At the June 21 hearing, Rep. Adam Schiff showed a video highlighting Trump’s disclosures of state and local officials’ personal information as part of his pressure campaign against them. For example, on Jan. 3, Trump retweeted a tweet that disclosed Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey’s phone number—followed by deposition footage of Shirkey stating that he received “just shy of 4,000 text messages over a short period of time” from people urging him to change Michigan’s electoral votes.

Another state official impacted by the president’s attempted power grab, Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, testifed at the June 21 hearing. A “self-described conservative Republican,” Bowers was first asked about a recent Trump statement claiming that Bowers had told him the election was rigged and that Trump had won Arizona. Bowers testified in response that this was false, saying that if “anywhere, anyone, anytime has said that I said the election was rigged, that would not be true.” 

In his testimony, Bowers described a call with attorney Rudy Giuliani and Trump after the election, during which Bowers asked Giuliani for proof of the campaign’s allegations concerning voter fraud in Arizona. Giuliani promised to provide details, including the names of thousands of allegedly dead voters and evidence that hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants had voted, but he never did. Bowers further stated that the president and Giuliani made a series of requests during the call, including for Bowers to “allow an official committee at the Arizona State Capitol” to hear evidence of electoral fraud and take responsive action. Bowers testified that he refused because he did not trust the evidence and “didn’t want to be used as a pawn.” Bowers stated that on the same call, Giuliani and Trump also proposed that Arizona’s legislature had a legal ability to remove the electors of Joe Biden and replace them with electors for Trump—a proposition that he claims he rejected, saying that such an act would be “counter to my oath … and I will not break my oath.” Bowers testified that Giuliani tried to appeal to their shared political affiliation multiple times, asking, “[A]ren’t we all Republicans here?”

Bowers stated that, on several occasions after this call, he was asked to approve holding an official hearing of the state legislature, which he declined to do each time. He described numerous incidents in which the Trump team failed to provide evidence for their allegations. And he testified that at one point, Giuliani appeared to acknowledge that he had no basis for his claims. “We’ve got lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence,” Giuliani reportedly said to Bowers.

Schiff then played a video depicting protesters illegally entering the Arizona Capitol, including Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon Shaman known for his prominent role in the Jan. 6 siege, and asked Bowers to verify that the protesters were calling for him by name. Bowers confirmed that they were. 

Bowers testified that Trump called him again in December, and that he told the president that he had supported him and voted for him but would not do anything illegal for him. Nonetheless, Bowers stated that Eastman called him several days later, asking the Arizona speaker to initiate a vote to decertify the electors, using the legislature’s supposed “plenary authority to do so.” When he protested that the legislature did not have this authority, Eastman told him to “just do it, and let the courts sort it out.” Incredulous at this demand, Bowers testified that he declined the request.

Prompted by Schiff, Bowers confirmed that in his view, what the president’s team was asking him to do was counter to his oath to the United States and to the state of Arizona.

Bowers additionally stated that on the morning of Jan. 6, Rep. Andy Biggs asked him to sign a letter sent from Arizona to support the decertification of the electors, which Bowers declined to do. Further, Bowers released a statement asserting that “[t]he rule of law forbids us” to take decertification action as requested by the president and his team.

The committee presented a video of a press conference on Dec. 1, which took place while the review of the election in Georgia was still ongoing, in which Georgia Deputy Secretary of State Gabriel Sterling stated that Trump “likely lost the state of Georgia.” Sterling implored the president to “stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence.” In response to Sterling’s statement, Trump tweeted, “Rigged election. Show signatures and envelops [sic]. Expose the massive voter fraud in Georgia. What is Secretary of State and @briankempGA afraid of. They know what we’ll find!!!”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Sterling emphasized several times during the hearing that the election in Georgia had been executed effectively, and the outcome reflected the will of Georgia voters. Raffensperger described the election administration as proceeding “remarkably smooth[ly].” And Sterling said the outcome of the election had been confirmed with “a thorough review and audit process.” Raffensperger also offered an explanation as to why the former president had received fewer votes than Republican down ballot candidates: “Twenty-eight thousand Georgians skipped the presidential race, and yet they voted down ballot in other races. And the Republican congressman ended up getting 33,000 more votes than President Trump, and that’s why President Trump came up short.”

The testimony given by Raffensperger and Sterling described Trump’s persistent efforts to compel Georgia election officials to change the outcome of the election in that state despite these officials repeatedly informing the president that his claims lacked any support.

The committee showed that Trump and his allies repeated several false allegations about the administration of the election in Georgia. On Dec. 2, Trump said, “They found thousands and thousands of votes that were out of whack. All against me.” 

Schiff said those close to Trump appeared in Georgia the next day and started peddling an election conspiracy theory, according to which Fulton County election workers at State Farm Arena kicked out poll observers during election night and subsequently brought out suitcases of ballots from under a table and ran these ballots through voting machines multiple times. Trump and his allies said there were 18,000 ballots in these suitcases—purportedly all for Biden. Trump cited this suitcase conspiracy theory during a speech in Georgia on Dec. 5, claiming that “[e]vidence of fraud is overwhelming.” 

Giuliani went before the Georgia State Senate and presented a video, which, he said, confirmed this conspiracy theory. According to Giuliani, the video was “powerful smoking gun” evidence that the workers had processed illegitimate votes. He said the workers threw out the opposition and counted the votes in the middle of the night, and the Trump campaign shared Giuliani’s false claims on social media. 

According to Sterling, who reviewed 48 hours of surveillance footage from election night and the period surrounding it at State Farm Arena, the tape showed “Fulton County election workers engaging in normal ballot processing,” and no evidence of fraud. Sterling explained that election workers were putting on their coats and beginning to store ballots under the table for the evening—as is typical. However, after an elections director instructed the workers to continue counting the ballots, the workers removed them from under the table to continue their work. He also said that running ballots through the scanner multiple times is normal procedure and that a hand tally confirmed that the election administration in Fulton County was “essentially dead-on accurate.” 

BJay Pak, the former U.S. attorney in Georgia, said that after watching the video and interviewing witnesses, he found “that there’s nothing there. Giuliani was wrong in representing that this was a suitcase full of ballots.” Barr expressed a similar sentiment: “[B]ased on our review of [the State Farm Arena video], including the interviews of the key witnesses, the Fulton county allegations had no merit.” Donoghue agreed that the suitcase theory was completely baseless. During a press conference on Dec. 7, Sterling explained that the president’s attorneys had the same State Farm Arena video and “chose to mislead state senators and the public about what was on that video.” 

According to Schiff, Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows reached out to Raffensperger’s office about 18 times to arrange a call between Raffensperger and Trump. By the time Trump reached Raffensperger by phone on Jan. 2, Georgia had certified its electoral votes. Trump said during that call, “[The votes] weren’t in an official voter box [at the State Farm Arena location]; they were in what looked to be suitcases or trunks, suitcases. But they weren’t in voter boxes. The minimum number it could be … was 18,000 ballots, all for Biden.” 

Sterling noted that only 8,900 ballots had been scanned at the State Farm location, not 18,000. Raffensperger testified during the June 21 hearing that these allegations had all been repeatedly debunked by several components of the Georgia election administration apparatus. Trump also asserted on the call with Raffensperger, “I heard it was close, so I said there’s no way. But they dropped a lot of votes in there late at night. You know that, Brad.” Raffensperger maintained this was false as well. 

Trump also claimed during the call that “close to 5,000” ballots had been cast on behalf of dead people. As with the previous claims, Raffensperger said this was false too. Georgia election officials found that there had only been four votes cast under the identity of dead individuals. Trump said to Raffensperger, “[T]here’s nothing wrong with saying that … you’ve recalculated because it’s 2,236 in absentee ballots.” Trump went on to say that this recalculation would produce many more votes than he would need to win the state. Raffensperger noted, however, that there was no way to recalculate the votes because the Georgia election officials had “checked every single allegation.”

After Raffensperger told Trump that he would send a link to the unedited State Farm Arena video, Trump said, “I don’t care about a link. I don’t need it. … [W]e’re gonna have a much better link.” Raffensperger then told Trump about the investigations debunking this claim, among others, after which Trump called the officials who conducted the investigations “incompetent” or “dishonest.”

On the same call, Trump warned Raffensperger that it was “very dangerous” for the secretary to be rejecting the claims of election fraud. The former president then asked Raffensperger, “Why wouldn’t you want to find the right answer … instead of keep saying that the numbers are right?” Trump also alleged that he won by at least 400,000 votes, repeating, “I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.” After making false allegations about the shredding of ballots, Trump insinuated that Raffensperger could be criminally liable for his actions. After this, Trump said to Raffensperger, “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.” 

The committee also presented evidence that showed that Trump directly pressured another Georgia election official to change the results of the state’s election. After Meadows visited an election audit site in Georgia to meet with Raffensperger’s chief investigator, Frances Watson, Meadows arranged a call on Dec. 23 between Watson and Trump. On that call, Trump said, “You have the most important job in the country right now … the people of Georgia are so angry at what happened to me. They know I won. Won by hundreds of thousands of votes; it wasn’t close.” Trump went on to say, “Hopefully, when the right answer comes out, you’ll be praised.” Trump then told Watson to do “whatever you can do, Frances … You have no idea, it’s so important … And I very much appreciate it.” Finally, Trump asked Watson if she would continue working after Christmas to “keep it going fast” before reminding Watson, “we have that date of the sixth, which is a very important date.”

The committee also explored the harmful effects of Trump’s Georgia election allegations on the lives of election workers. Fulton County election worker Shaye Moss described the threats she faced from supporters of President Trump after Giuliani and the Trump campaign circulated the State Farm Arena video, in which Moss is shown working. And the committee showed deposition testimony of another election worker, Ruby Freeman, relating similar experiences. Giuliani said on Dec. 10 in front of Georgia state legislators that Moss and her mother had been “surreptitiously passing around USB ports” on the night of the election, and that they should have been questioned about their behavior and had their houses searched. Moss testified that what Giuliani described as a USB port was, in fact, a ginger mint. Moss said that threats against her have “turned her life upside down.”

Trump asserted that there were “at least 18,000 … voters having to do with Ruby Freeman,” and called Freeman “a professional vote scammer and hustler.” Freeman said that as a result of the attacks leveled against her, she does not feel that she can introduce herself by name anymore, and she was instructed by the FBI to leave her home for several weeks due to threats related to her work during the 2020 election. 

Again, the committee’s evidence on this point is not ambiguous or subtle. It involves the sworn testimony of a large number of state officials, actions taken in public, and public statements by the president and others. 

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Matt Gluck is a research fellow at Lawfare. He holds a BA in government from Dartmouth College.
Tia Sewell is a former associate editor of Lawfare. She studied international relations and economics at Stanford University and is now a master’s student in international security at Sciences Po in Paris.
Benjamin Wittes is editor in chief of Lawfare and a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of several books.

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