The House panel investing the January 6 riots has continued their work, and another hearing televised today to continue laying out the facts to the public.
Like those that came before it, today's hearing was revelatory - and one of the key witnesses, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Raffensperger's testimony is considered key, because former President Donald Trump called him directly and asked him to break the law - a vital piece of the puzzle for those trying to determine who knew what and who conspired to do what as the country began aligning for the momentous disaster that unfolded on January 6.
January 6 Hearing: Tuesday 6/21 - What Brad and Others Had to Say
The hearing started with Chairman Bennie Thompson and Chairwoman Liz Cheney recapping the hearings so far; the fact that former President Trump knew and was reminded repeatedly that the election was not stolen and that the voting results were legitimate.
Cheney explained that hearings viewers would hear a number of threats that the then-President, his team and followers issued against voting monitoring officials as they attempted to complete their duties and certify the election. Before the testimony began, Cheney exhorted those watching to put politics aside and follow the facts.
An impactful video kicked off the testimony, wherein the COO of the Georgia Secretary of State's Office Gabriel Sterling blasted the former president and his supporters in a speech, citing their death threats against voting officials. "Someone's going to get killed," Sterling warned; a chilling foreshadowing of what went down on January 6.
Life-long Republican and Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers was the first witness questioned and was asked about a statement the former President issued shortly before the hearing started, alleging that Bowers told him the election was rigged - which Bowers staunchly denied. Bowers then explained that he fielded a call from Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, where they discussed hundreds of thousands of illegal or dead people who voted - for which Bowers asked to be given evidence, which he never received.
Bowers explains that Trump and his counsel asked Raffensperger to replace the electors who had been chosen to cast their votes in the electoral college in favor of Biden. To which Bowers told them that they were asking him to betray his oath, and he refused. Bowers recounts how he was entreated to give Trump's idea fair play because, "we're all Republicans."
When Raffensperger testified, he started by recounting how voting proceeded on the day of the election. Raffensperger verified that every vote in the state was hand-audited and electronically audited; three total counts which all verified that the former president lost to Joe Biden by around 12,000 votes.
Sterling also spoke in person, recalling his emotional speech - and how a tweet threatening a hanging "broke the camel's back" and inspired his plea for Trump to deescalate his supporters.
The committee played excerpts from the 67-minute call from Trump to Raffensperger wherein he pressured him to overturn the election results. During the call, Trump included conspiracy theories about dumps of suitcases full of votes (disproven) and Raffensperger's supposed right to choose "to find" a different result.
Committee member Adam Schiff asked Raffensperger why he persisted on his path despite the threats on his and his family's life from constituents and threats of jail from Trump himself, to which the Georgia official responded, "... Moments require you to stand up and take the shots, do your job, and that's all we did. ... I had to be faithful to the constitution, that's what I swore an oath to do."
The committee then replayed a video of the moment when Trump stood before crowds near the Capitol on January 6 and recalled since-disproven lies about falsified votes and so-called illegal "vote dumps" which never occurred.
How Raffensperger Became Trump Enemy #1
Of course, Brad Raffensperger didn't wake up in November of 2020 and decide he wanted to become the former President's enemy.
So how did an establishment Republican become one of the most hated anti-Trump faces of the 2020 election?
Raffensperger simply followed the law. The Hill reports, "The 2020 general election went smoothly in Georgia compared to the tricky primaries in June, which were disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. President Biden became the first Democrat to win the state since 1992.
The election was officially certified in early December with Biden winning by 12,670 votes.
As Trump cried foul and repeated his claims of voter fraud, Georgia audited the election results in December in Cobb County, a key county in the election. The state did a statewide hand and machine recount.
In a press release announcing the audit results, Raffensperger said he was 'always focused on calling balls and strikes in elections” but “in this case, three strikes against the voter fraud claims and they’re out.'
'This audit disproves the only credible allegations the Trump campaign had against the strength of Georgia’s signature match processes,' the secretary of state said at the time."
But it was in early January 2021 when Raffensperger truly stabbed Trump in the back, as the former president sees things.
Trump called Raffensperger and began pressuring him to overturn the results, citing disproven cases of mystery ballots and dead people voting, at one point saying, "I think it’s pretty clear that we won."
Raffensperger reminded him that the results had already been audited and certified, at which point the former President encouraged him to "find" votes. Trump told Raffensperger on that infamous phone call, "So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state."
In a pivotal moment, Raffensperger famously replied, "We don't agree that you won," adding, "we believe that we do have an accurate election."
With his clear stance in favor of the law and without caving to the pressure applied by the former President and his supporter's threats, Raffensperger's career seemed to be on its last legs - until he won the GA secretary of state Republican primary in mid-2022, alongside other persona non grata to Trump, Governor Brian Kemp who won his own primary.
It shows that even though some politicians who stood up to Trump - such as several Republicans who voted to impeach him - may lose primaries as a result of their choice, others are receiving support. In a deeply divided nation, Raffensperger and Kemp's victories go to show that there's no clear-cut path to take - but that following the law is the only guiding star that led many officials in the wake of the 2020 election, and for some it has paid off regardless of Trump's efforts to sink their ships.
Because re-elected or not, one thing Raffensperger and Kemp won't be is in jail alongside those who conspired to overturn the election - a possibility growing with time as the January 6 House committee hearings continue.
It wasn't just Raffensperger standing in the gap, as today's hearing proved. Rusty Bowers, Gabriel Sterling, Brian Kemp, and other Republican officials' own words have been among some of the most damning of the former President's attempts to overturn the election results.
Their efforts to uphold the law and the pressure they were put under by the former President and his counsel highlights the way things began to align as January 6 approached. The House panel is laying out a compelling explanation for how Trump and his cohorts not only expected but encouraged and planned for the violence that broke out on the Capitol's steps.
Another hearing will air Thursday, June 23.