The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol and claims of electoral fraud is set to hear Tuesday from elected officials and volunteer workers from battleground states about the effects of a pressure campaign from Donald Trump and his allies to change the results of the 2020 election.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, his deputy Gabe Sterling and Arizona's Republican state House Speaker Rusty Bowers are scheduled to be key witnesses, along with Wandrea (Shay) Moss, a former Georgia election worker who, with her mother, has said they faced such severe public harassment from Trump allies they felt unable to live normal lives.
California Democrat Adam Schiff, who will lead much of Tuesday's session, told the Los Angeles Times that the hearing will also dig into the "intimate role" the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, had in the plot to pressure Georgia state legislators and elections officials.
During a recorded call with Raffensperger just a few days before the Jan. 6 attack, Trump repeatedly cited disproven claims of fraud and raised the prospect of a "criminal offence" if Georgia officials did not help him "find" the votes to overcome a deficit. The state did a hand count to match its machine tally and also performed an audit in a key county before certifying Biden's win in Georgia by 11,779 votes.
The public testimony from Raffensperger comes after he appeared earlier this month before a special grand jury in Georgia investigating whether Trump and others illegally tried to intervene in the state's 2020 election.
In his 2021 book Integrity Counts, Raffensperger described how Georgia had to "waste taxpayer resources" chasing down allegations and rumours of voting irregularities from Trump acolytes. He also said he took at least one of Trump's statements during their phone call as "a threat."
Sterling, Raffensperger's chief operating officer, became a notable figure in Georgia's long post-election counting, imploring Americans to tone down the heated rhetoric.
WATCH | Georgia electoral official Gabe Sterling angered by 'suitcase' claim (Jan. 4, 2021):
Moss, who had worked for the Fulton County elections department since 2012, and her mother, Ruby Freeman, a temporary election worker, filed a defamation lawsuit in December 2021. Moss claimed conservative outlet One America News Network (OAN) and lawyer Rudy Giuliani falsely spread allegations that she and her mother engaged in ballot fraud during the election. The case against OAN resulted in a settlement.
Replacement elector scheme under scrutiny
Bowers, in an interview with the AP after arriving in Washington ahead of the hearing, said he expected to be asked about a call with Trump during which Giuliani floated an idea to replace Arizona's electors with those who would vote for Trump.
The select committee of seven Democrats and two Republicans plans to further elaborate on the "fake electors" scheme mentioned at earlier hearings that was aimed at halting Biden's election win. The plan sought to have representatives in as many as seven battleground states sign certificates falsely stating that Trump, not Biden, had won there.
WATCH | Pence pressure campaign comes into view at previous hearing:
The fake electors idea was designed to set up a challenge on Jan. 6, 2021, when Congress met in joint session, with Vice-President Mike Pence presiding over what is typically a ceremonial role to accept the states' vote tallies. Pence, the committee has heard, resisted Trump's repeated demands that he simply halt the certification of Biden's win.
At least 20 people in connection with the fake electors scheme have been subpoenaed by the House panel.
No credible claims of widespread 2020 election fraud were brought forth in dozens of cases that went before the courts and were subsequently rejected. The Trump administration's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency characterized the election in a statement as "the most secure in American history."
Attorney General Bill Barr told the Associated Press in December 2020 that nothing was unearthed "on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election." Barr, in more recent interviews with the House committee, ridiculed some of the claims of fraud put forth by Trump and those close to the then-president.
The Jan. 6 committee is expected to produce a report by year's end into its year-plus probe. It does not have the power to indict, but it is expected that the U.S. Justice Department is following the proceedings closely.
Trump allies Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro have been indicted by the Justice Department for refusing to co-operate with the congressional committee.