Today we learned January 6 wasn’t a directionless coup attempt. It was a targeted attack

“A handful of election officials in several key states stood between Donald Trump and the upending of American democracy.” That quote from Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) wasn’t hyperbolic. It was the straightforward truth that served as the defining theme of today’s hearing.

The witnesses this afternoon were among that handful of election officials who stood against Trump’s attempted coup. Their testimony focused on the former president’s multi-state campaign to pressure state legislatures and election officials to overturn the 2020 election. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Georgia Secretary of State COO Gabriel Sterling, and Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers all testified about Trump’s pressure campaign and debunked his voter fraud lies. They are all Republicans. As if that weren’t damning enough, to close the hearing we heard from Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, a Georgia election worker who was attacked and threatened over the “suitcase of ballots” conspiracy theory.

This hearing put into perspective exactly how expansive Trump’s effort to overturn the election really was. It was led by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and separated into four parts: A push to get state legislatures to decertify their elections; a scheme to organize a slate of fake Trump voters in key battleground states; a direct pressure campaign on Georgia election officials to “find” votes; and the depraved intimidation of election workers. And today, we even learned new information about the involvement of some Republican lawmakers.

“Just Do It”: The Push To Decertify State Electors

On November 5, 2020, just two days after the election and before it was even officially called, Trump lawyer Cleta Mitchell asked John Eastman to draft a memo calling for state legislatures to overturn their elections. Yes, that John Eastman. Eastman obliged. This memo sparked the Trump team’s relentless campaign to pressure state legislatures to overturn the will of their voters. It included phone calls to countless state lawmakers from Rudy Giuliani and Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis to Trump himself.

One of those pressured lawmakers was Rusty Bowers. Bowers was an incredibly compelling witness, both in substance and in the fact he’s an active Republican Speaker of the Arizona House.

On a phone call, Speaker Bowers claimed that Rudy Giuliani asked him to hold a hearing and replace Biden voters with Trump voters. Bewildered, Bowers responded: “You are asking me to do something that is counter to my oath” to the Constitution and the laws of Arizona. Bowers sued voter fraud evidence from Giuliani and Trump lawyer Ellis. Ellis responded with the classic “dog ate my homework” excuse, claiming she totally had the evidence, but just didn’t bring it with her.

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Giuliani then jumped in, saying: “We’ve got lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence.” Bowers said he laughed at this with his lawyers after the call, thinking it had to have been a gaffe. No evidence of widespread voter fraud was ever provided to Bowers.

In a subsequent call with Trump, Speaker Bowers said that he told Trump he voted for him, but he wouldn’t do anything illegal for him. This is yet another example of Trump being explicitly told that his efforts were illegal. A few days after his call with Trump, Speaker Bowers had a phone call with Eastman, who asked him to decertify Arizona’s electors. When Bowers protested, Eastman told him to “just do it” and let the courts sort it out. Bowers declined.

It wasn’t just Trump officials who pressured Bowers. Bowers testified that Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) asked Bowers to support decertifying the state’s electors. Bowers, once again, said no. This is the same Rep. Biggs who reportedly asked for a pardon.

The Fake Voter Scheme

On November 18, 2020, Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro proposed a plot to have Trump electors organize and submit their own votes. The Trump Campaign then began to organize this effort. The January 6 Committee showed video of RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel claiming the Trump Campaign asked her to help assemble fake Trump electors.

Instructions were given for Trump voters to meet in secret. The electors met on December 14 in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to draft their fraudulent electoral votes. In a bombshell revelation, the committee revealed text messages from Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) to Pence’s legislative director asking to hand-deliver fake voters to Pence on January 6. Pence declined.

The Justice Department is currently investigating the fake voter scheme.

The Raffensperger Call

The testimony from Raffensperger and Sterling began with a debunking of Trump’s election lies. Sterling explained the process of hand-counting ballots in Georgia and how they found no widespread fraud. Raffensperger noted that all three counts of the votes in Georgia showed that Trump lost: “The numbers are the numbers. The numbers don’t lie.”

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To build the context for the now-infamous Trump-Raffensperger phone call, Schiff played a few clips. Former Attorney General William Barr said he told Trump his fraud claims in Georgia were baseless: “We took a hard look at this ourselves and based on our review of it… the Fulton County allegations had no merit. The ballots under the table were legitimate ballots, they weren’t in a suitcase.” Barr then described Trump’s voter fraud claims with what is apparently his favorite adjective of him: “I told him that the stuff that his people were shoveling out to the public was bulls ** t … That the claims of fraud were bulls ** t.”

Once again, Trump was told his claims were false, but that didn’t stop him. Schiff said former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows called or texted Raffensperger’s office 18 times to try and set up a call. On January 2, 2021, that call finally happened. It was 67 minutes of delusional disinformation.

The participants included Trump, Meadows, Trump’s lawyers, Secretary Raffensperger, and Raffensperger’s lawyers. In spite of being told his claims were false, Trump repeated the “suitcase full of ballots” conspiracy theory on the phone call.

You could almost hear Trump sweating as he said in a panic on the recorded call: “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.” The “one more than we have” part is revealing. Trump wasn’t asking Raffensperger to find legit ballots. He was asking him to make up votes for the exact margin he needed to win.

This was not Raffensperger’s only testimony in recent weeks. He testified under oath for five hours before the special grand jury in Fulton County’s criminal probe into Trump’s effort to overturn the election. Fulton County DA Fani Willis has been taking an “unusually aggressive, hands-on approach” to the investigation and said a decision on whether they will indict Trump could arrive by the fall, according to yahoonews.

The Intimidation of Election Workers

In the final segment of their hearing today, the January 6 Committee covered an important and under-discussed component of Trump’s attempted coup. Treats of violence weren’t an unintended consequence but a core part of the strategy. Trump and his allies knew that the election workers were receiving death threats, but they continued anyway.

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It was no mistake that Trump’s allies made Wandrea “Shaye” Moss and her mom, Black women, the faces of their election lies in Georgia. In spite of the fact the “suitcase full of ballots” claims were proven false, Shaye, who was on camera in that footage, had her life turned upside down.

After Trump attacked Shaye and her mother 18 times on the call with Raffensperger, they faced violent threats. Shaye cried while testifying and said that the threats she’s faced “all because of lies” have caused her to fear going out in public. She has since left her role as an election worker.

Gabriel Sterling also spoke about threats in his testimony. And Speaker Bowers delivered emotional testimony, too, claiming his seriously ill daughter was upset by the threatening demonstrations outside of his house, including one person who had a gun. It’s clear that many regular, well-meaning Americans had their lives ruined by the far-reaching consequences of Trump’s lies.

There were so many moving parts to Trump’s attempted coup that it can be hard to keep track. These hearings are assembling a thousand-piece puzzle with systematic efficiency. Everything was connected. Trump’s Big Lie laid the foundation for the entire plot. He litigated this lie in court and lost 61 times. When that didn’t work, he pressured state legislatures. When that didn’t work, he pressured state election officials across the country to submit fake voters. When that didn’t work, he and John Eastman sought to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election on January 6. When that didn’t work, he resorted to inciting a mob on the Capitol led by extremist groups.

As belligerent and incompetent as Trump’s attempted coup may seem, it wasn’t. This wasn’t just a directionless coup attempt. It was an incisive, targeted attack on America’s democratic guardrails. As Adam Schiff said today, “The system held, but barely.” The scariest part is that in its aftermath, Trump’s allies are still laser-targeting those same guardrails. We can only presume that they are doing so with the hope that next time, they have a better shot of getting away with it.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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