Washington (AFP) – Lawmakers investigating the January 2021 assault on the US Capitol are due to focus at a hearing Tuesday on the pressure that former president Donald Trump mounted on state officials to overturn the 2020 election.
The presentation launches a third week of summer hearings in which the panel has set out its initial findings that Trump led a multi-pronged conspiracy to overturn the 2020 presidential election, culminating in the insurrection in Washington.
Committee aides say they have evidence that Trump and his allies were personally involved in pushing Republican-controlled legislatures to flip the results in several swing states, away from Joe Biden and into Trump's column.
The panel will hear from several top Republican state officials who found themselves cajoled by the Trump campaign to thwart the will of millions of voters based on bogus claims of election fraud.
“Donald Trump knew that there was no widespread fraud — he knew that those claims were baseless, he knew that the numbers simply weren't there to potentially overturn the election — and he continued to drive these campaigns anyway,” a committee aide said.
“He knew they were false and it became increasingly clear that this pressure campaign could lead to violence, and he continued to do it anyway.”
US presidents are not elected directly by citizens, but chosen by “electors” named to a body called the electoral college.
Each state gets as many electors as it has members of Congress and there are 538 in total.
The parties in each state pick their own slate of potential electors and, in almost every part of America, the winning side in the statewide tally for president gets all the electoral votes for that state.
The committee says a key plank of the plot to subvert the 2020 election was getting pro-Trump Republicans in swing states won by Biden to submit official-looking but fake certificates claiming they were the legitimate electors.
The committee says it will demonstrate that the former president pressed his vice president Mike Pence to accept these “fake electors” when he was overseeing certification of Biden's victory on January 6, 2021.
Pence ultimately refused to recognize the pro-Trump slates and the president's supporters rioted for hours at the Capitol in unprecedented scenes of brutality that led to at least five deaths.
The committee will hear from Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, whom Trump infamously pushed to “find” enough votes to overcome Biden's lead in the battleground state in a phone call that is the subject of a state-level criminal probe.
Rusty Bowers, speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, is expected to testify about pressure to reverse his state's results from Trump, Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
The committee has asked to speak with Ginni Thomas, who indicated to a conservative news outlet that she was looking forward to the opportunity to “clear up misconceptions.”
Also appearing in person will be Shaye Moss, a former Georgia election official who processed ballots in 2020.
Trump and Giuliani falsely accused Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman of “rigging” the presidential election count in Georgia with “suitcases” full of ballots for Biden.
Moss and Freeman — who received death threats after Trump publicly named them — are suing Giuliani in federal court.
A committee aide said that Moss would detail how “being targeted by the former president has upended her life and that of her mother.”
“They were called professional vote scammers, they were subjected to death threats, intimidation, coercion, forced to go into hiding,” the aide said.
He added that the panel would show that threats to election workers continue and the danger to democracy posed by “lies about the 2020 election and lies about future elections” is ongoing.
Trump continued to rail against the committee “of political thugs who have criminalized justice to a level never seen before in our country” on his social media platform Tuesday, reprising debunked conspiracy theories about voter fraud and spying on his 2016 campaign.
The hearing begins at 1:00 pm (1700 GMT).