The J6 committee set out Tuesday to illustrate for the public just how the former president and his advisers tried getting state lawmakers and election officials to overturn the result of the 2020 election, thus potentially breaking myriad state and federal laws in the bargain.
I think the committee succeeded.
But it did more than that.
It underscored a theory of mine, which is this: Donald Trump had and still has at his disposal two groups ready to commit acts of political violence, or threaten acts of political violence, when he gives the word. These people are not going away. They live and work among us.
One is paramilitaries of the kind who sacked and looted the US Capitol with the clear intention of murdering members of the Congress in order to terrify Vice President Mike Pence into completing the coup.
Armed men showed up at the homes of witnesses as well as their family member’s homes. Armed men were outside the Arizona House of Representatives while inside Jacob Chansley (“the QAnon Shaman”) led an illegal protest. Rusty Bowers, who testified, is the speaker of the Arizona House. He said the Proud Boys called him out by name. Some people broke into a witness’s widowed daughter-in-law’s house.
The other group is bigger. It’s a vast informal network of Trump supporters prepared to pressure, harass, intimidate and threaten lawmakers and election officials who said no to the former president.
Trump supporters posted online personal information on lawmakers and election officials, including home addresses and phone numbers. Some victims were so inundated with emails, texts and calls they couldn’t function. Georgia Secretary of State Ben Raffensperger’s wife was sexually harassed. The worst story came from a normal person.
Shaye Moss used to work in the Georgia elections office. She and her mom, Ruby Freeman, became the center of a conspiracy theory cooked up by Trump and his campaign goons, especially Rudy Giuliani.
The theory focused on a video he claimed showed Moss and Freeman adding ballots to Biden’s total in Georgia. Giuliani told the state senators that they were passing “USB ports” between them “as if they were vials of cocaine.” Trump told Raffensperger in a long phone call that Freeman was “a professional vote scammer and hustler.”
Per testimony from Raffensperger and lieutenant Gabriel Sterling, the video showed, when seen in its entirety, normal vote processing as well as an error. Poll workers had thought they could go home late in the evening. Then they were told they had to finish the count. As for the “vials of cocaine,” Moss said her mom passed her a “ginger mint.”
Did I mention Moss and Freeman are Black?
Due to the threats, harassment and intimidation she received (Trump said her name 18 times during his call to Raffensperger), Ruby Freeman no longer uses her name in public. She’s too “worried about who is listening.” She had to move out of her house for two months before and after the J6 insurrection. “Do you know how it feels like to have the president of the United States target you?” Freeman asked.
The J6 committee, led Tuesday by California Congressman Adam Schiff, demonstrated how the former president and advisers used the Big Lie to straw-boss state lawmakers and state election officials into doing one of two things: “decertify” state electors or send fake slates of state electors to Washington. For either, “there was no legal pathway,” Bowers said, which is a careful way of suggesting each was illegal.
Indeed, this fourth committee hearing came closest, I think, to suggesting Trump and allies committed state and federal crimes. “We have a lot of theories; we just don’t have the evidence,” Bowers said Giuliani said. And yet they pressed on knowing everything was a lie.
They duped people into thinking it was legal to serve on a fake slate of electors. They told fake electors that they were assembling just in case the court’s broke Trump’s wake. They did not break his way, but that didn’t stop Trump and his advisers from sending fake certificates validating fake electors to the National Archives. The last time I checked, submitting fake documents to the government is bad.
“I would not have participated,” said a fake elector, if he had known the former president's own legal counsel – Justin Clark, Matt Morgan and Josh Finley – washed their hands of any plan involving fake electors.
The biggest criminal red light, it seemed to me, was Trump threatening Raffensperger with either criminal investigation by federal authorities or intimidation and worse from his vast networked mob.
“When you talk about no criminality [no voter fraud], I think it’s dangerous stuff for you to say that,” Trump told Raffensperger.
Republican Vice Chair Liz Cheney leaned in: “Each of these efforts to overturn the election is independently serious,” she said. “Each deserves attention both by Congress and by our Department of Justice.”
I don’t think anything said so far has jumped out so far.