Shortly before yesterday’s Jan. 6 committee hearing, Donald Trump issued a statement intended to undermine Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers ahead of his testimony. The former president described the GOP legislator as a “RINO” (“Republican In Name Only”) who owed his career to Trump. He also referenced the details of a private conversation in which Bowers allegedly admitted the 2020 election was “rigged” and that Trump secretly won Arizona, despite the actual results.
Trump added, “Bowers should hope there’s not a tape of the conversation.”
Soon after, offered a chance to respond during his sworn testimony, the Arizonan explained that Trump’s statement was based on lies. “I did have a conversation with the president,” Bowers said. “That’s certainly isn’t it.”
As the hearing progressed, the state House Speaker proceeded to provide gripping and powerful testimony about Trump and the former president’s team pressuring him to violate his oath of office and help overturn the results of a free and fair election. When Bowers asked for evidence of election irregularities, Team Trump failed to follow through.
In one especially memorable moment, Bowers reflected on a conversation with Rudy Giuliani in which the top lawyer for Trump’s political operation conceded, “We’ve got lots of theories. We just don’t have the evidence.”
As part of the same testimony, Bowers spoke with great eloquence about his disappointment with Trump’s illegal scheme and its consequences. In fact, the Republican lawmaker shared painful details of Trump’s rabid followers, fueled by the former president’s lies, going after Bowers, his family, and even his neighbors.
He spoke of video panel trucks with videos that accused him of being a pedophile. Trump followers blared loudspeakers in his neighborhood. An armed man, fueled by conspiracy theories, threatened a neighbor. His gravely ill daughter, who died early last year, was distraught by the drama unfolding outside their family home.
Bowers, however, stood firm. He wrote in his diary, “I do not want to be a winner by cheating. I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to.”
For those watching, it was testimony that will be difficult to forget. But it was something Bowers said after the hearing that also seemed relevant. The Associated Press reported:
[W]hile Bowers said the efforts by Giuliani and other Trump backers have been hurtful, he does not levy any criticism on Trump directly and would support him if he were on the ballot. “If he is the nominee, if he was up against Biden, I’d vote for him again,” Bowers said.
He wasn't kidding.
Just so we’re all clear, Bowers knows that Trump hatched an illegal scheme that threatened our democracy. Bowers knows that Trump pressed him directly to ignore the law and help him cheat. Bowers knows that Trump lied. Bowers knows that Trump’s lies led radicalized Republicans to harass him and his own family. Bowers knows that Trump’s lies have hurt the nation. Bowers knows that Trump lied yesterday morning about Bowers personally as part of a clumsy effort to undermine his credibility.
But Bowers would still vote for Trump anyway.
This comes three months after former Attorney General Bill Barr also said Trump lied and orchestrated an illegal scheme to claim illegitimate power — but he’d vote for him again, too.
What’s wrong with Republican politics in 2022? Let’s put this near the top of the list.
The House Jan. 6 committee is holding its fifth public hearing on Thursday, June 23 at 3 p.m. ET. Get expert analysis in real-time on our liveblog at msnbc.com/jan6hearings.