The January 6 Hearings, Day 4
A clown show that's no laughing matter
The fourth day of hearings on the attempted coup of January 6 focused on Trump’s attempts to pressure state officials to go along with his scheme to replace certified state electors with bogus ones. It featured testimony from some of those elected state officials, including Arizona’s House Speaker Rusty Bowers, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and COO to the Georgia Secretary of State, Gabriel Sterling.
All are Republicans, continuing a pattern of this committee to focus almost all of its attention on members of Trump’s own party. California Congressman Adam Schiff, who did most of the questioning today, asked each of those testifying whether they wanted Trump to win the 2020 election. Each said they did. On one hand, it makes sense on its face to focus on GOP officeholders, since the Trump team focused its pressure campaign on states in which Republicans held some or all of the levers of the election machinery. But the committee also clearly believes it important to foreground Republicans whose loyalty to party requires them to oppose, not mindlessly enable Trump’s perfidy. Bowers, in particular, provided a moving account of his belief that the Constitution, in his words, is a divinely inspired document and that its provenance required his loyalty, not a president and his demented scheme. Bowers also spoke about the harassment that he and his family have been subject to, including the now standard accusation that he’s a pedophile, and the impact of this scurrilous campaign on his life because he refused to go along with the fake elector scheme.
But the hardest testimony to listen to today was that of Shaye Moss, the Georgia election worker, and her mom Ruby Moss who volunteered to help count votes after the polls closed on election day. As The Times reported yesterday:
“In early December 2020, a lawyer for President Donald J. Trump played a segment of surveillance footage from their vote-counting station for a Georgia Senate committee…and falsely claimed that the spliced clip showed Ms. Moss and Ms. Freeman pulling 18,000 fraudulent ballots from a suitcase and illegally feeding them through voting machines.”
Although Fulton County and Georgia election officials immediately debunked the accusations, they were nonetheless amplified by top Trump allies like Rudolph W. Giuliani. He compared Ms. Moss and Ms. Freeman to drug dealers and called for their homes to be searched during a hearing with Georgia state legislators.”
Moss’ life was essentially ruined by these odious accusations. Moss left her job, no longer goes out and also testified that none of the permanent Fulton County election workers from November 2020 are still employed there. Indeed, it was hard to watch these hearings and not wonder how any sane person would want to assume one of these positions after what Moss has been through. She herself regretted ever having accepted a job she said she once loved, because of what her mother, Miss Ruby as she calls herself, has had to endure since the fake video went viral. It was heartbreaking and frankly nauseating to listen to.
Another point: The hearings today again illustrate that a conspiracy can be both clownish and idiotic on the one hand, and deeply sinister on the other. Bowers testified that during his numerous phone calls and encounters with Rudy Giuliani in the weeks after the November 2020 elections, Bowers and others repeatedly asked Giuliani and his lieutenant, Jenna Ellis, for concrete evidence to substantiate their wild accusations of a stolen election. Bowers said he asked Giuliani over and over again to provide the names of the supposedly thousands of illegal or dead voters Giuliani and Ellis claimed had voted in Arizona. Giuliani and Ellis repeatedly said they would. They didn’t, of course, since they don’t have the names, because their claims are fake. As the committee showed, through video clips played during the hearing, when Trump badgered Raffensperger incessantly to accept his preposterous claims about fraud in Georgia, his accusations barely made sense. In one phone call, Trump told Raffensperger: “they found thousands and thousands of votes that were out of whack. All of them were against me.” And in another he insisted, “I won by hundreds of thousands of votes. Everyone knows it’s wrong.”
Between the two of them, Giuliani and Trump sound like a murderer’s row of morons when they try to convince people of a conspiracy that they themselves can provide zero evidence for. And yet, it’s all so sinister. For one thing, their wild lies have unleashed a torrent of life-altering venom at people like Moss. And there is every reason to worry that what have been vile threats and harassment could escalate beyond even the violence of January 6 to something much worse in future elections. For another, once people have unchecked power, it’s irrelevant whether their lies are as transparently ridiculous as those of “The Big Steal.” The next time around, conscienceless leaders like Trump might have both the power to convince others to follow their orders and to accept their absurd lies *and* to punish remorselessly those who refuse to accept their version of reality. In other words, don’t let the fact that these guys are clowns whose scheme was ultimately unsuccessful this time around obscure the Orwellian nature and potential of all this.
Finally, watching these hearings and the repeated references to how close the 2020 election was in the key battleground states, including Arizona (which Biden won by less 11,000 votes, Georgia (under 12,000 votes) and Wisconsin (about 20,000 votes), has been an unnerving reminder of how close Trump - Trump! -came to reelection. Biden’s cumulative 43,000 vote margin in those three states came from about ten million votes cast. And these three states were the difference between a Biden victory and a Trump victory. This after four years of Trump showing everybody exactly who he is. Yes, a lot of that is due to the nature of partisanship in the 21st century. But still, while the hearings are providing a vivid picture both of Trump’s lack of conscience and his unfitness for office, they make it easy to forget that he actually almost won the damn thing for a second time. Capital D depressing.
Oh and yes, David Brooks is still very wrong.
Thanks for reading Jonathan’s Newsletter! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.