The fourth public hearing of the House Jan. 6 select committee focused more on former president Donald Trump and his actions leading up to the Capitol attack than any previous hearing.
In particular, the hearing looked at Trump’s series of phone calls to state officials in several key battleground states after he lost the election. Trump sought to persuade them to either overturn results or take legally dubious steps that many of Trump’s own lawyers had decided to distance themselves from.
One official who got a call was Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers. He gave compelling, sometimes emotional testimony about his decision to uphold his oath of office against immense pressure to do otherwise.
Here are three takeaways from Tuesday’s hearing:
Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers became a national star
Bowers has received kudos, including winning the Profiles in Courage award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, for refusing likely illegal requests by Trump and his allies to help overturn election results in his state, which Democrat Joe Biden won.
In front of his biggest audience yet, Bowers did not disappoint.
Bowers, a man who leads one of the most conservative legislative chambers in the country, a man of faith and deep admiration for Ronald Reagan, and a Trump supporter, said there was a line he wasn’t going to cross.
President Trump called him personally to cajole him to, among other things, have his chamber de-certify election results showing Biden won. But Bowers said he told Trump he would not do anything illegal.
Bowers also delivered the biggest quote of the day. He testified that after he repeatedly asked Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, for evidence to back up claims of voter fraud, Giuliani quipped: “We have lots of theories. We just don’t have the evidence.”
Bowers also talked about the personal toll on his family and neighbors as Trump supporters harassed him in the weeks after.
New light on Ron Johnson
A committee investigator said in a videotape played during the hearing that “a staffer for Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson texted a staffer for Vice President Pence just minutes before the beginning of the joint session [on Jan. 6]. This staffer stated that Senator Johnson wished to hand-deliver to the vice president the fake electors’ votes from Michigan and Wisconsin. The vice president’s aide unambiguously instructed them not to deliver the fake votes to the vice president.”
The committee released the text message exchange between Johnson’s chief of staff and the Pence staffer.
After learning what Johnson wanted to deliver, the Pence staffer wrote, “Do not give that to him.”
After the hearing, Johnson’s spokesman released a statement that Johnson had “no involvement in the creation of an alternate slate of electors.” The statement also described the text discussion as a “staff-to-staff exchange.”
The violence and threats were brewing long before Jan. 6
The hearing also showed how the temperature was rising toward a boiling point after Trump lost the election but continued to falsely claim it had been stolen.
The committee, in videos and witness testimony, showed how Trump supporters refused to leave the Arizona State House. They began amassing outside election officials’ houses in Michigan, Georgia, and Arizona. They even broke in the house of the daughter-in-law of Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state.
The witnesses also spoke of receiving a flood of threatening phone messages and texts.
Former Georgia election worker Shaye Moss, who, along with her mother, was falsely accused of election fraud by Trump and his allies, said threats included “wishing death upon me.”