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Jan. 6 hearings: Election officials testify about Trump lies on Day 4

Here are the highlights and biggest takeaways from Tuesday's House select committee hearing about its investigation into the Capitol riot.

The House Jan. 6 select committee's fourth day of public hearings about its investigation into the Capitol riot began today at 1 p.m. ET. The topic of focus was then-President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn 2020 election results in several states, including Arizona and Georgia.

Our contributors today were MSNBC Daily writer and editor Hayes Brown, MSNBC Daily columnists Jessica Levinson and Frank Figliuzzi, and "The Rachel Maddow Show" legal analyst Lisa Rubin.

348d ago / 8:49 PM UTC

The men and women who refused to allow evil to triumph

After today’s hearing I can’t help but think of the quote, sometimes misattributed to Sir Edmund Burke, that goes something like this: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” 

Today we saw good people — public servants like Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, Georgia Secretary of the State Brad Raffensperger, Fulton County election workers Shaye Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman, Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling, and others — who chose to do something despite withering pressure to acquiesce to evil. These people became not a “thin blue line” — a common police reference — but a thin red, white and blue line that separated right from wrong, morality from criminality. And they serve as a stark reminder of how perilously close we came to losing our way as a nation, but for the moral compass of a handful of Americans who kept us pointed true North.

The committee reconvenes on Thursday for a hearing that’s expected to focus on how DOJ officials helped stop Trump and his allies from overturning the election. Follow along with MSNBC’s live blog coverage at

348d ago / 8:32 PM UTC

Former DOJ official Rich Donoghue moves to center stage

Although former Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue has not appeared personally at any of the House’s four hearings so far, audio clips of his interview with the committee have been featured several times. We heard Donoghue today, for example, testify that he personally told Trump the so-called “suitcase full of ballots” story was false. At the hearing’s end, the committee also aired Donoghue’s statement that if Trump had fired then-Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and replaced him with environmental lawyer and acting-Associate Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark, Donoghue would immediately resign. There was “no way I’m serving one minute under this guy, Jeff Clark,” Donoghue claims he told Trump. 

Clark’s attempt to depose his then-boss (Rosen) and use the DOJ as a vehicle for overturning the election will be one focus of Thursday’s hearing. And based on the use of taped Donoghue quotes to date, we can expect him to take center stage as a live witness. 

Like other star witnesses, Donoghue is a committed Republican and former Trump loyalist. He served in Trump’s Justice Department throughout his presidency, first as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and later as Jeff Rosen’s chief deputy and then acting-Deputy Attorney General after Bill Barr left the department in December 2020. But, as with Barr and Rosen, he ultimately parted ways with the president. Alongside Rosen, Donoghue led the resistance to Clark’s installation as attorney general and a related plan for DOJ to encourage state legislatures to choose their own (read: Trump) electors. And it was only when Trump could not get the DOJ to play ball that he was forced to approach the problem sideways: through Pence.

348d ago / 8:05 PM UTC
348d ago / 7:51 PM UTC

Trump said the election was stolen. He stole their freedom.

The litany of crimes that Trump appears to have committed in the aftermath of the 2020 election are real and a threat to our democracy. But what Shaye Moss described in today’s hearing may be the vilest of them.

Trump and his supporters spread the conspiracy that Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, had worked to help steal the election from Trump in Georgia.

Moss described to the committee how the weight of what had come down on her and her family left her feeling guilty. Guilty for becoming an election worker. Guilty for choosing to help people. Guilty for making it so her mother had to leave her home because of threats to her life.

“I felt like it was all my fault,” she told the committee today. It was not her fault. It was Trump who brought this fear and strife to Moss and Freeman’s lives.

In his quest to remain in power, Trump robbed Moss and Freeman of the freedoms that he as president should have protected. He has stolen from them the dignity of their names and the ability to live in their neighborhood in peace.

Trump has taken so much from this country over the last five years. It can be easy to forget the seemingly smaller crimes that he has committed, the little but no less precious things that he has left ruined in his wake.

348d ago / 7:48 PM UTC

Pat, if you’re listening…

Cheney used a large part of her closing statement to call-out former White House counsel Pat Cipollone. We’ve heard plenty of times already about Cipollone’s doubts and objections during the lead-up to Jan. 6. But the committee has yet to speak with him directly — and Cheney is clearly getting impatient. 

As Thompson emphasized early in the hearing, this investigation is still ongoing. People who have knowledge about what went on inside the White House and throughout this scheme are still encouraged to come forward. It’s unclear what would actually get Cipollone to testify, but the willingness to shout out the former president’s lawyer so directly shows how much the committee wants to hear from him.

348d ago / 7:31 PM UTC

What America owes election workers like Shaye Moss

The right to vote is a dearly held, foundational right. Too many members of our country had to fight for this right.  

But the right to vote is a hollow promise without the election workers who allow us to exercise that right. 

Trump and Giuliani falsely accused Moss and her mother of engaging in election fraud when they were counting ballots. Giuliani accused Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman of passing each other a USB drive. What was actually being passed? A ginger mint.  

As a result of these baseless accusations, Moss and her mother were the subject of vile, racist, hateful threats, including death threats. Moss and her mother were forced into hiding.  

And why did Moss serve as an election worker? Because she wants to help uphold the rule of law. Because she gets that without people like her, we no longer live in a functioning democracy. 

Just imagine what happens when we allow anyone, let alone the leader of the free world and his advisers, to force election workers into hiding based on lies and false accusations. We can’t hold elections that way. We can’t hold together a country that way.

348d ago / 7:30 PM UTC

Ruby Freeman appears at hearing, despite death threats

In advance of today’s hearing, the committee announced that Shaye Moss, a Georgia elections worker falsely accused of tampering with votes in 2020, would testify. That itself was stunning, considering the threats to her life.

Yet even more surprising was that Moss’ mother, Ruby Freeman, accompanied her at the hearing. Freeman, as Reuters documented extensively last December, not only was “demonized” by Trump and his allies, but also was pressured by a former aide to rapper Kanye West to confess to election crimes that neither she nor Moss committed. She testified that “people would come to her home in 48 hours, and she’d go to jail.” 


Freeman ultimately went into hiding after the FBI notified her that she needed to leave her home for her own safety. Today, as videotaped testimony revealed, Freeman remains fearful when anyone says her name in public. 

“I’ve lost my name, and I’ve lost my reputation; I’ve lost my sense of security,” Freeman stated plainly. And yet, in the name of democracy and history, she came to today’s hearing in person, a living reminder of the human costs of Trump’s “big lie.”

348d ago / 7:19 PM UTC

It’s still wild to hear the president of the United States beg for votes

It’s been over a year and a half since the audio of Trump’s call with Brad Raffensperger first leaked to the press. We knew about that call even before the attack on the Capitol. And yet even after all that time, it’s still bonkers to hear the then-president of the United States, almost two months after the election, cajole, threaten and implore an elected state official to find a way to declare him the winner. 

“All I need is 11,000 votes,” he told Raffensperger. “Fellas, I need 11,000 votes.” There’s no way to recognize Trump’s plea as anything but a directive. Find those votes, even if the physical ballots reflecting the desired outcome don’t exist. 

At the time of the call, as the committee has previously made clear, Trump had been told over and over again that the election was fair and that he had lost in Georgia. And yet he still was telling the same lie to his supporters on the morning of Jan. 6. 

348d ago / 7:17 PM UTC

Raffensperger: 'Numbers don't lie'

Raffensperger spent much of his testimony today explaining why Trump’s voter fraud accusations during their infamous Jan. 2 call were unfounded. But perhaps the secretary of state’s strongest moment was his insistence that he could not change the Georgia results because “the numbers are the numbers. The numbers don’t lie.”

And it’s not that Raffensperger, who favors a host of voting access restrictions opposed by Democrats, wasn’t willing to investigate. Raffensperger recounted how his staff had “nearly 300 investigations from the 2020 election,” including investigations of Trump’s allegations of thousands of underaged voters, nonregistered voters and voting felons.

In all cases, the numbers remained the numbers, and “President Trump came up short.” And Raffensperger said he was neither willing to fudge the numbers nor violate the Constitution.

348d ago / 7:12 PM UTC

What Trump didn't say is just as important

‘When the right answer comes out, you’ll be praised’

That’s what Trump told Frances Watson, the chief investigator for the Georgia secretary of state in a recorded call played by the Jan. 6 committee today. But what’s the flip side of that? What would you infer will happen if you don’t give the president of the United States the “right answer” he’s looking for? 

First Trump dictated to Georgia’s secretary of the state the exact number of votes he needed to be manufactured, then he personally called the chief investigator and made an implied threat. But what he didn’t say is just as important.

348d ago / 7:06 PM UTC

2 things to keep in mind about U.S. elections during this hearing

We are once again reminded of the importance of election administration officials and what they do. Two important points:

First, our election officials are largely partisan elected officials. It is strange and problematic for the umpire to openly be a member of one of the teams. Let’s all remember the role of Katherine Harris, who was both the Florida secretary of state and also co-chair of George W. Bush’s Florida campaign, in the 2000 election. We should change this and fall in line with the majority of other western democracies whose election officials are nonpartisan.

Second, we have a messy and decentralized system of elections in our country. This may have actually saved us in 2020. Trump had to exert a pressure campaign on many different election officials in his apparently illegal effort to overturn the election.

If elections were centralized, and administered by one group that was part of the federal government, we could have been in some danger. Trump would have had an easier target for his pressure campaign.

348d ago / 7:05 PM UTC

New details on Sen. Ron Johnson's role in the fake elector scheme

Although the fake elector scheme has been extensively documented, one big surprise today was the revelation that Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., attempted to aid that scheme.

According to a video prepared and aired by committee staff, the Trump campaign “took steps to ensure physical copies of fake electors’ votes were delivered to Washington.” This included asking Wisconsin GOP party officials to have someone fly the fake elector documents to D.C. for the joint session on Jan. 6. One of those officials, Wisconsin GOP executive director Mark Jefferson, was plainly skeptical, referring to the request coming from “freaking Trump idiots.”

And the committee showed texts between Sean Riley, Johnson’s chief of staff, and Chris Hodgson, Pence’s then-director of legislative affairs, “minutes before the beginning of the joint session,” in which Riley said Johnson wanted to “deliver” fake elector votes from both Wisconsin and Michigan to Pence “because the [National Archives] didn’t receive them.”

Hodgson, however, made it clear that Johnson should not give Pence those votes. Hodgson, who also was with Pence and his team the morning of Jan. 6, might be another important voice about just how close we came to constitutional crisis.

348d ago / 7:01 PM UTC

The curious case of those hidden ballot suitcases

One of the conspiracy theories Trump latched onto in 2020 was the idea that several “suitcases of ballots’’ had been pulled out from under a table on Election Day in Fulton County, Georgia. Trump helped spread the claim that a video of those “suitcases” proved he had only lost Georgia because of rampant fraud.

Gabe Sterling, who ran Georgia’s election integrity efforts, told the committee that what the video actually showed was far more mundane. The vote counters could be seen packing up ballots into sealed boxes because they’d been told that they could go home for the night. Sterling’s boss made the call to have the election workers keep counting — and so the ballots came back out from under the table, and a conspiracy was born.

Sterling debunked the suitcases claim as early as Dec. 7, 2020 in a press conference. But Trump continued to spread the conspiracy theory during rallies and in tweets. He continued to do so even after the Department of Justice told him otherwise, even during his infamous phone call with Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021.

“The problem you have is getting to people’s hearts,” Sterling said of his debunking efforts. “Once you get past the heart, the facts don’t matter as much.” And so the so-called “suitcases’ live on in the hearts of Trump’s supporters — and perhaps even Trump himself.

348d ago / 6:55 PM UTC

Keep in mind: Raffensperger is no stranger to election schemes

Raffensperger's testimony today is critical to understanding just how far Trump went to try and overturn the 2020 election. And one of the things that makes his rejection of Trump's plot so noteworthy is his own history with antidemocratic election measures.

As Ja'han Jones writes for The ReidOut Blog:

Ultimately, Raffensperger didn’t succumb to Trump’s pressure to “find” more than 11,000 votes and overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 election win in Georgia. But what makes his defiance of that request, and his testimony Tuesday, striking is that Raffensperger has been deeply committed to the cause of helping Republicans in Georgia — and Trump, by consequence — win elections through antidemocratic means.

Read Ja'han's full story below.

348d ago / 6:43 PM UTC

Trump lied to everyone — even his 'allies'

The Jan. 6 committee’s video on the “fake electors” plot highlighted that Trump’s team wasn’t just focused on the “big lie” during the election aftermath. There was also a cascade of smaller lies, including to their own people. 

Robert Sinners, a former Trump campaign staffer, told the committee’s investigators that he felt like a “useful idiot” for his role in helping to organize the fake electors scheme. He added that he was “angry” that he wasn’t told that the campaign’s top lawyers had refused to back the scheme and that he wouldn’t have helped the plot move forward if he’d known. 

Likewise, Andrew Hitt, the former chair of the Wisconsin GOP, told the committee that he was told that the fake electors’ votes “would only count if a court ruled in our favor.” Instead, Wisconsin’s fraudulent votes were submitted to the National Archive as coming from the “duly elected and qualified Electors.”

It just seems to me that if you have to lie to the people who are on your team about what you’re doing, you should be able to realize that what you’re doing is wrong.

348d ago / 6:28 PM UTC

Bowers’ emotional testimony offers a tragic reminder

Bowers, who voted for Trump in 2020, gave searing and openly emotional testimony this afternoon, as he discussed the cost of standing up to the former president and his MAGA allies.

Bowers described in detail how both his professional and personal life had been turned upside down by protesters who came to his home, threatened his neighbors and publicly called him a pedophile. 

The harassment continued even as Bowers was caring for his seriously ill daughter, who died on Jan. 28, 2021.

And still, Bowers refused to give in. “I don’t want to be a winner by cheating,” he wrote in his journal at the time. 

348d ago / 6:26 PM UTC

Bowers adds proof that Eastman knew his scheme violated federal law

At the last hearing, Greg Jacob, who served as counsel to former Vice President Mike Pence, testified that on Jan. 4, John Eastman admitted in front of Trump that delaying the count and sending it back to the states would violate “several provisions” of the federal Electoral Count Act, but that Eastman was willing to proceed anyway because of his view that the act was unconstitutional. Jacob further related that when he expressed concern that Eastman’s position would lose in court, Eastman assured him that courts would stay out of the dispute, giving him “comfort proceeding… with that path.”

Today, we learned through Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, that on the very same day, Eastman also called Bowers and pressed him to “decertify the electors.” Bowers further testified that when he pushed back, citing both the absence of legal authority and his unwillingness to “put my state through that without sufficient proof” of fraud, Eastman insisted that Bowers should “just do it and let the courts figure it all out.” That Eastman never disputed that his plan would violate existing federal law, but instead urged Bowers to let it work itself out through litigation, is further evidence that Eastman knew what he was proposing was unlawful.

348d ago / 6:24 PM UTC

Why the fake electors scheme is highly dangerous to democracy

Trump’s attempts to overthrow the election were varied and scattershot, but consistently baseless. Trump did more than just throw people’s confidence in the election system into chaos, he actively tried to tear apart that system by undermining the counting of electoral college votes. 

We vote on Election Day — but for electors, who then elect the president. When I go to the polls on Election Day in California, I am helping to choose who will win our 55 electoral votes. Those 55 electors then cast their ballots for the next president. 

Trump tried to get Republican lawmakers to certify electors for himself, not Biden, in states won by Biden. If he succeeded in this plan, voters would be right to question whether their votes count at all. And taken to its logical conclusion, there is little point in voting at all. Elections would be a ruse. 

 All of this merely shows that Trump, time and time again, attempted to work outside the bounds of the law, and subvert our election systems to retain power. This alleged crime is not victimless.

348d ago / 6:17 PM UTC

A willful misreading of the Constitution ahead of Jan. 6

The plot to have states appoint electors for Trump, despite Biden winning in those states, hinges on a willful misreading of the Constitution. Specifically, Article II, Section 1, Clause 2, which says:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

That bolded part is key here. In Giuliani and Eastman’s view, that phrasing means that whatever a state legislature decides to do when it comes to picking members of the Electoral College is inherently valid. That is absolutely not the case, as the legislators that were contacted told the campaign. In some states, the state constitution determines the time and place where those electoral votes must be cast. In others, the laws on the books require the electors to be in favor of the candidate who won the popular vote. 

And yet despite those roadblocks, Trump’s crew plowed ahead with trying to get these states to break their own laws in order to completely pervert the Constitution’s intent.

348d ago / 6:03 PM UTC

How Team Trump viewed GOP loyalty in 2020

Bowers, Arizona’s Republican House speaker, testified that Giuliani asked him during one call: “Aren’t we all Republicans here? I would think we’d get a better reception, that you’d listen a little more open to my suggestion.”

Giuliani’s pitch speaks to Trump’s mindset in the aftermath of the 2020 election. The state legislatures that Trump and his team targeted — including Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Michigan — were all controlled by Republicans. In Trump’s mind, that would likely mean that these legislators were his to command. 

Trump is someone who takes the U.S. Constitution as a suggestion; it would be unlikely that he would place any more stock in state constitutions. When told that state law couldn’t do what he was demanding, as in Arizona where Bowers made clear that he couldn’t call the legislature into session to appoint electors for Trump, the president and his team simply pressed harder.

This wasn’t just an effort to break federal law in blocking the certification of Biden’s win — this was an effort to get legislators to break the laws that they had sworn to uphold in states around the country.

348d ago / 5:59 PM UTC

How to dismantle an alleged criminal enterprise

These hearings have already presented lots of evidence suggesting Trump and his team acted as a kind of criminal enterprise in their strategic attempts to overturn the 2020 election results. And if we view these players as similar to an organized crime family, and consider how investigators and prosecutors approach such enterprises, we might project what future accountability could look like. 

Specifically, it’s rare that a mob “capo” is charged simultaneously with his henchmen. Typically, mob captains, enforcers and consigliere are charged first, because they are the ones who have to actually get their hands dirty. It’s only later that someone “flips” on the boss, or that further evidence is developed that enables the boss to be charged. 

Like a mob boss, Trump is adept at keeping his hands clean. As former Trump attorney Michael Cohen explained when he previously testified on the Hill, Trump “doesn’t give you orders,” but he does speak “in code.” That’s why I’ll continue to carefully listen for evidence further incriminating Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and chief of staff Mark Meadows in their attempts to unlawfully pressure various state election officials. And it’s why I think it’s possible that those men, and others, could be charged with crimes long before we see their boss charged — if he ever is. 

348d ago / 5:55 PM UTC

Trump campaign staffer's sketchy call to Michigan legislator

The committee aired an audio recording of a voicemail from former Trump campaign staffer Angela McCallum, who was subpoenaed by the committee in Nov. 2021. The subpoena said McCallum had asked an unknown Michigan state representative in that voicemail whether Trump could “count” on them to appoint an alternate slate of pro-Trump electors.

That call — which was made on Dec. 1, 2020 and was aired on “The Rachel Maddow Show” in January — reflects the Trump campaign’s pursuit of the “fake elector” scheme. But, as testimony from Michigan state legislative leaders illustrated today, the Trump campaign could not get the support it needed from those leaders, with whom Trump met in late November, to no avail.

348d ago / 5:45 PM UTC

Bowers says Trump totally lied about about 'rigged' election

We love a spontaneous moment. Schiff, opening his questioning of Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, opted to reference a statement that Trump issued just prior to the hearing beginning. In that statement, Trump claimed that Bowers had told him in Nov. 20202 that “the election was rigged and I won Arizona.”

“I did have a conversation with the president, but that certainly isn’t it,” Bowers responded. “There are parts of it that are true and there are parts that are not, sir.”

When asked to clarify which parts were not true, Bowers said: “Anyone, anyone, anytime, who said that I said that the election was rigged, that would not be true.” 

The certainty here from Bowers is especially striking when compared to Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, who authorized the “audit” of Arizona’s election. It’s entirely likely that Bowers’ decision not to officially sanction Giuliani’s wild theories and keep the state House from decertifying the election, managed to keep the trains on the track in his state.

348d ago / 5:39 PM UTC

What will be demonstrated today beyond a reasonable doubt

Viewers may or may not agree whether today’s hearing succeeded in presenting clear evidence of a crime for the Department of Justice to consider. Yet, what will be demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt is the personal peril and level of threat experienced by officials at all levels simply because they were trying to do their job.

This includes former Department of Homeland Security cybersecurity director Chris Krebs being targeted as someone who should be “shot,” Raffensperger having angry mobs trespass on his yard, and county election workers receiving death threats

Nobody deserves to live under threat of death or serious bodily harm when they are trying to faithfully carry out the duties of their office. If we can’t agree on that, then we can’t agree on what it means to be a part of a civil society.

348d ago / 5:32 PM UTC

Raffensperger, Sterling have already testified before a Fulton County special grand jury

Public attention today is also focused on ongoing criminal investigations by two law enforcement agencies: the Fulton County, Ga. district attorney and the federal Department of Justice. Although the DOJ has already convened a grand jury to probe the “fake elector” scheme that will be explored at today’s hearing, we don’t know to what extent Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gabriel Sterling, his deputy, have been involved in the Justice Department’s investigation.

However, we do know that Raffensperger and Sterling each have testified before a Fulton County grand jury. Raffensperger and his wife Tricia were among the first witnesses called by Fulton County DA Fani Willis; Sterling, on the other hand, testified last week. Whether their testimony today, which is solely in service of the House’s legislative function, complicates either of these criminal investigations remains to be seen.

348d ago / 5:31 PM UTC

The ‘big lie’ still festers, Thompson warns. New Mexico is proof.

In his opening statement, Thompson warned that Trump’s “big lie” about a rigged 2020 election continues to corrupt American democracy. He pointed to the board of commissioners in Otero County, New Mexico, which initially refused to certify primary election results earlier this month. The group echoed a baseless conspiracy theory about voting machines previously peddled by Trump.

The three-member commission, which included a co-founder of the group Cowboys for Trump, eventually certified the results — but only after a court ordered it to do so.

Read more about the Otero County controversy below.

348d ago / 5:29 PM UTC

Trump enabled by a chorus of spineless officials

It is haunting to hear not one, not two, but numerous former Trump advisers explain under oath that they told Trump the election was not stolen and that there was no basis to pressure anyone, including Pence and state officials, to overturn the valid election results. 

Trump was told he lost the election. Trump was told he lost the election because he got fewer votes, not because of fraud. Trump was told this by people who wanted him to win. Trump went forward with illegal plans to overturn the election anyway. 

And the kicker is, numerous Trump advisers — again, people who wanted him to win the election — did nothing. We are only hearing from these people (ahem, Bill Barr) because they were placed under oath. Trump was enabled by a chorus of spineless officials. 

348d ago / 5:29 PM UTC

Schiff vs. Trump II

Well this certainly is giving me flashbacks. Schiff is leading today’s hearing, which puts him back in a familiar role: Acting as a prosecutor against Trump. The Democratic congressman, as chair of the House Intelligence Committee, also took the lead during the impeachment inquiry against Trump back in 2019. And when the House voted to impeach the president, Schiff was the lead House impeachment manager during Trump’s trial in the Senate. 

He was impressive then, in my opinion, speaking at length extemporaneously about the subversion of democracy that Trump’s Ukraine scheme represented. Today’s hearing will showcase an even more tightly managed case than the argument for impeachment and removal that Schiff, a former prosecutor, laid out then. But the role is one that Schiff has filled comfortably for years now. It’s no wonder Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted him as a member on this committee as well.

348d ago / 5:18 PM UTC

Why Rusty Bowers is a true 'profile in courage'

Today, we’ll hear from Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a reliably conservative voice and Trump 2020 supporter. And yet, in December 2020, when public pushback against Trump’s increasing resistance to accept the election results was in short supply among GOP elected leaders, Bowers did something that at the time seemed bold — and in retrospect, looks even braver.

On Dec. 4, 2020, following so-called legislative hearings with Trump advocates and a closed-door meeting with Trump lawyers, Bowers issued a public statement unambiguously rejecting what the Trump campaign had proposed he do: overturn the will of Arizona’s voters by substituting a slate of electors chosen by the state legislature in lieu of those reflecting the official popular vote total (and certified by the state).

Bowers has since won the Profiles in Courage Award. His December 2020 public statement — which is all the more powerful now that we understand the “fake elector” scheme, as well as what John Eastman and others were doing behind the scenes in preparation for Jan. 6 — illustrates why. Expect Rep. Adam Schiff, who is leading today’s questioning, to quote extensively from that statement, as Rachel did on last night’s installment of The Rachel Maddow Show.

348d ago / 5:14 PM UTC

The puzzle pieces begin coming together

Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., began his opening statement by recapping the last hearing and its focus on the pressure campaign to have Pence overturn the election. He then noted that leaning on Pence was just one part of a broader effort to swing elected public officials across the country.

These hearings are each like a piece of a broader puzzle, one that shows a coordinated campaign from before Election Day in 2020 through to Jan. 6, 2021. Trying to flip Pence was dependent on the success or failure of the scheme to get key states to reject Biden’s win. 

I hope that by the time these hearings end the entire picture will be clear. My worry is that the American people will still find the various threads that made up this coup attempt too complex to follow, no matter how much effort the committee has made to keep things simple.

348d ago / 5:07 PM UTC

The most infamous Trump-Raffensperger call only tells part of the story

On Jan. 2, 2020, Trump, chief of staff Mark Meadows, and Trump lawyer Cleta Mitchell held a call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Raffensperger’s chief counsel Ryan Germany, during which Trump begged Raffensperger to “just find 11,780 votes” to the 2020 election. That “smoking-gun” of a phone call, which was recorded and published by multiple media outlets, is one of the most infamous aspects of Trump’s efforts, alongside Trump’s slightly more subtle call a week earlier to Raffensperger’s chief investigator, Francis Watson.

But those were far from the only attempts Trump and his allies made to pressure Raffensperger and his staff. Indeed, their efforts to persuade Raffensperger began no later than 10 days after the election when Trump’s congressional bestie, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, called Raffensperger and “asked whether Raffensperger had the power to toss all mail ballots in counties found to have higher rates of nonmatching signatures,” as Raffensperger told the Washington Post. Raffensperger interpreted Graham’s questions “to suggest that [Raffensperger] find a way to toss legally cast ballots.” 

Meadows also attempted to pressure Raffensperger both directly and indirectly. On Dec. 22, 2020, Meadows made a “surprise” visit to the ballot signature audit in Georgia’s Cobb County, where according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he “wasn’t permitted inside the room where investigators were examining ballot envelopes,” but apparently cornered Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs in a hallway “to inquire about the signature audit and what it would find.” Through a public records request, Politico also obtained an email Fuchs sent to Meadows the following day, providing additional information about rejected absentee ballots. “Let me extend a sincere thank you for visiting Cobb County yesterday,” Fuchs wrote. “Our team is looking forward to releasing our findings from the signature match audits.”

Thanks to non-profit watchdog American Oversight, we’ve also learned that Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who has testified before the committee several times for over 20 hours total, sent an email to Fuchs on Dec. 30. That email — sent the day after Raffensperger announced his investigation turned up no evidence of fraud — reflects that Hutchinson had just spoken to Meadows about his visit to Cobb County the previous week and asked Fuchs to give her a call. In light of Hutchinson’s perceived cooperation with the committee, we could learn more about that call today or at future hearings.

348d ago / 4:34 PM UTC

Meadows to face scrutiny over newly revealed MAGA hat scheme

Trump had several allies helping to pressure state officials to flip 2020 election results. The Jan. 6 committee is expected to zero in on one of them — Trump’s then-chief of staff Mark Meadows — in its presentation today.

Meadows’ anti-democratic actions have been widely reported. But the committee plans to reveal previously undisclosed text messages Meadows sent laying out a scheme to send Make America Great Again hats to election audit officials in Georgia.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told The Los Angeles Times that Meadows had “an intimate role” in Trump’s plot to pressure Georgia election officials.

The message Schiff hopes the hearings send to Americans: “The system held, but barely.” 

“Our democracy is more vulnerable today than it has ever been,” he told the Times.

348d ago / 4:11 PM UTC

What makes an elector ‘fake’?

The Jan. 6 committee is expected to examine Trump's infamous "fake electors" scheme today. Let's unpack what that effort tried to do.

In their infinite wisdom, the framers of the Constitution decided that it would be the Electoral College whose votes would decide who wins a presidential election. These days, most states simply sign off on a slate of electors the party whose candidate won the popular vote has provided. Those certified votes are the ones that Congress counted on Jan. 6, 2021.

There’s usually not very much drama surrounding this process — but in 2020, the Trump campaign pressured GOP-led state legislatures to refuse to certify electors who would vote for Joe Biden. When that effort failed, Rudy Giuliani began gathering “fake” Electoral College votes in states that Trump lost, like Michigan and Arizona.

That’s problematic for two reasons. First, these electors sent certificates of their “votes” to the National Archives to be tallied instead of the Biden electors. Given that none of the state legislatures signed off on them, there was no legal weight behind the pieces of paper sent in, no matter how official they looked

Second, the plan to have Pence overturn the election on Jan. 6 depended on the idea that there was some sort of dispute over which electoral votes to count in the fake electors’ states. Pence would either then set aside enough votes to declare Trump the winner or tell those state legislatures to make up their minds about which to support — with the clear indication that Trump’s should prevail.

Even if submitting the fake votes wasn’t a crime in and of itself, which it likely was in some cases, the plot to assemble these fake electors was in the service of a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election.

348d ago / 3:02 PM UTC

Trump claims the hearings are 'one-sided.' He's not wrong.

Trump and other Republicans trying to undermine the legitimacy of the Jan. 6 committee argue its hearings are too partisan and one-sided. They may be right — but not for the reason they believe.

As Steve Benen explained for MaddowBlog this morning: "The House select committee is hearing testimony from a great many people, but those looking for Democrats will have a surprisingly difficult time."

Raffensperger, Sterling and Bowers are all Republicans. And last week's hearings featured live testimony from at least five other Republicans, including retired conservative Judge J. Michael Luttig and Greg Jacob, a Republican lawyer who served on then-Vice President Mike Pence's team.

Read Steve's full story below.

348d ago / 3:02 PM UTC

Reminder: Trump’s 2020 pressure campaign went way beyond Georgia

It's Day 4 of the Jan. 6 hearings — for those keeping track at home. And the committee has said it will keep the focus on Trump’s election scheming. Specifically, today’s hearing is going to look to Georgia, a state Trump very narrowly lost in 2020. Trump appealed directly to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in an effort to reverse Joe Biden’s win, an event that's been widely reported. But what might Raffensperger tell us today that we don’t already know?

“What the committee needs to emphasize on Tuesday is not the victory over Trump’s lies that Raffensperger’s winning streak represents,” writes MSNBC Daily reporter (and one of today’s live bloggers) Hayes Brown. “It needs to emphasize how narrowly that danger was averted in 2020.”

Follow along as Hayes provides real-time analysis here on the blog, and read his full story below.

348d ago / 3:00 PM UTC

The audio recording that could come back to haunt Trump

Just one more vote than Joe Biden. That’s what Trump directed Georgia’s top election official to find during a recorded call. We’re likely to hear that recording today, and perhaps more, as additional evidence of Trump’s attempt to overturn the valid 2020 election results in that state. 

There are two types of evidence: direct and circumstantial. For example, a security camera that records someone robbing a bank would be direct evidence. Someone testifying that a person talked about robbing the bank would be circumstantial. Until now, the committee has presented mostly circumstantial evidence of Trump’s knowledge and intent to commit a crime by seeking to invalidate the election results. But this audio recording can be viewed as direct evidence of intent. That’s because Trump didn’t seem interested in hearing the facts, or in suggesting a different process — he wanted only a different outcome. That’s why he specified the exact number of votes — 11,780 — that he needed to overturn the legitimate tally. 

When Georgia officials pushed back, Trump vaguely threatened them with a “criminal offense.” The recording may not show a bank robbery in progress, but it does reveal Trump trying to rob Americans of a free and fair election.

348d ago / 3:00 PM UTC

Election officials pressured by Trump are today's star witnesses

Today's hearing is expected to feature live testimony from four witnesses: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger; his chief operating officer, Gabe Sterling; Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers; and Fulton County election worker Wandrea “Shaye” Moss.

Trump's infamous call to Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021 will almost certainly be centerpiece of the committee's questions about the then-president's anti-democratic efforts in Arizona.

Moss is expected to testify about the threats she received after Trump's campaign falsely accused her of counting phony ballots to help Biden win in Georgia.