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"Just hateful": Public servants had lives upended by threats after Trump's claims of a stolen election

Arizona House speaker on threats he received
Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers describes personal threats made after 2020 election 05:06

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol used its fourth public hearing to examine Donald Trump's pressure campaign on state officials and everyday American election workers in an effort to overturn the 2020 election results.

Several witnesses testified about how their lives were affected by death threats for doing their jobs.

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his top deputy, Gabriel Sterling, all testified about being pressured by former President Trump or his allies to try to get them to toss their state's election results. When they wouldn't, they said things got ugly.

"After the election, my email, my cell phone was doxxed," Raffensperger said, adding that "disgusting" threats to his wife followed. Bowers described disturbing protests outside his home as his daughter lay gravely ill. 

Fulton County election worker Wandrea Arshaye ("Shaye") Moss, the fourth witness, was targeted in a video that Rudy Giuliani falsely claimed contained a "smoking gun" of voter fraud being carried out with "suitcases" full of ballots — none of which was true. Sterling, chief operating officer for the Georgia Secretary of State, told the committee that investigators reviewed 48 hours of footage from the vote counting center (which was also made available to the Trump campaign) and said it simply showed "Fulton County election workers engaging in normal ballot processing." 

Nevertheless, Moss became the target of death threats. 

"A lot of threats. Wishing death upon me," she testified. "A lot of them were racist. A lot of them were just hateful." 

Moss' mother and fellow election worker Ruby Freeman also appeared in Giuliani's video.

"Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States to target you? The president of the United States is supposed to represent every American. Not to target one," Freeman said in videotaped testimony played at Tuesday's hearing.

"I lost my name and I lost my reputation," Freeman said. 

Moss, who said she no longer works for Fulton County, said she is afraid to do everyday things like go to the grocery store due to the threats against her.

"I haven't been anywhere at all — I gained about 60 pounds, I don't do nothing anymore, I second-guess everything I do," Moss said. "It's affected my life in a major way, in every way. All because of lies for me doing my job, same thing I've been doing forever."

Her mother, a local business owner, said she had always been known as "Lady Ruby" in the community. But since the election, "there is nowhere I feel safe," she said. 

"I've lost my name and I've lost my reputation. I've lost my sense of security, all because a group of people, starting with number 45" — a reference to Trump — "and his ally Rudy Giuliani decided to scapegoat me and my daughter, Shaye, to push their own lies about how the presidential election was stolen," Freeman said. 

Capitol Riot Investigation
U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Harry Dunn greets Wandrea "Shaye" Moss, a former Georgia election worker, after she testified for the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Moss, who testified that people had tried to push their way into her grandmother's house, said she felt like it was "all my fault" for deciding to become an election worker. 

"If I would have never decided to be an elections worker — I could have done anything else. That's what I decided to do, and now people are lying and spreading rumors and lies and attacking my mom," she said, adding that "I felt bad for my mom, and I felt horrible for picking this job and being the one that always wants to help and always there. Never miss not one election. I just felt like it was my fault for putting my family in this situation."

In some cases, public servants were publicly called out by Trump or his allies, leading to the threats. Sterling held a press conference on Dec. 1, 2020, imploring Trump to "stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence." Sterling said Tuesday that he spoke up about it at the previously scheduled press conference because he "lost it" after seeing a threat against one of the contractors working for him. 

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers testified that he and his family had started to dread Saturdays, as groups appeared outside his house playing video claiming he is a pedophile and corrupt politician. 

Protesters have also left literature on his property and argued with and threatened not only Bowers but also his neighbors. Bowers recalled seeing one man who wore three bars on his chest and was carrying a pistol.

"At the same time ... we had a daughter who was gravely ill who was upset by what was happening outside and my wife, that is a valiant person, very strong, quiet, very strong woman," he said, growing emotional. "So it was disturbing."

Bowers' daughter died in January 2021.

Jan. 6 hearing focuses on Trump's campaign to reverse the 2020 election at the state level 05:15

Raffensperger, who released audio of a 2020 phone call in which Trump told him to "find" 11,780 votes — exactly enough to swing the election — said, "after the election, my email, my cell phone was doxxed, and so I was getting texts all over the country."

"And then eventually my wife started getting texts, and hers typically came in as sexualized texts, which were disgusting," Raffensperger testified. "You have to understand that Trish and I, we met in high school, we've been married over 40 years now. And so they started going after her I think just to probably put pressure on me, 'why don't you just quit, walk away.' And so that happened. And then some people broke into my daughter-in-law's home. And my son has passed and she's a widow, and has two kids. And so we're very concerned about her safety also."

Committee member Rep. Adam Schiff asked Raffensperger why he didn't just quit when the safety of his family felt at risk. 

"Because I knew that we had followed the law, we had followed the Constitution," Raffensperger replied. "And I think sometimes moments require you to stand up and just take the shots doing your job. That's all we did. We just followed the law and we followed the Constitution. And at the end of the day, President Trump came up short." 

Committee vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney said in her opening statement that Trump knew about these threats and "didn't care."

"He did not condemn them, he made no effort to stop them. He went forward with his fake allegations anyway," Cheney said. "One more point. I would urge all of those watching today to focus on the evidence the committee will present. Don't be distracted by politics. This is serious. We cannot let America become a nation of conspiracy theories and thug violence."

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