By Corinne Murdock |
Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa) sat next to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his chief operating officer Gabriel Sterling, wearing stoic expressions as they awaited the hearing and eliciting the occasional smile as a tight gaggle of reporters filmed and photographed the trio. Though, later on, Bowers would grow upset, even holding back tears when his responses turned to include references to the Constitution and his daughter, who passed away a year ago.
Also smiling was Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA-28), when he entered the room behind the more somber-faced Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS-02) and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY), and throughout his line of questioning.
Thompson commenced the hearing by recapping the committee’s narrative that former President Donald Trump orchestrated the January 6 riot at the Capitol to overturn the 2020 general election, despite knowing completely that he lost the election. The committee characterized Bowers and Raffensperger as two of the handful of “brave” officials who stood between Trump and the 2020 election results.
Thompson said that lack of action would further undermine future actions and lead to “catastrophe.”
Cheney echoed Thompson’s statements, directing viewers to understand calls made by Trump to state officials within the context of the committee’s claim that the former president knew that the election wasn’t stolen. Cheney told viewers that they shouldn’t be distracted by “conspiracy theories and thug violence.”
“The point is this: Donald Trump did not care about the threats of violence. He did not condemn them. He did not care to stop them,” said Cheney. “Today we’re going to see an example of what truly makes America great.”
The committee characterized nationwide discontent with the 2020 general election’s validity as “increasingly violent” in the weeks preceding January 6.
Bowers was the first to testify. As he was about to begin Schiff said he received word from his staff about one of the latest statements issued by Trump claiming that Bowers affirmed that the election was “rigged” and that the former president won Arizona.
“Bowers should hope there’s not a tape of the conversation,” said Trump.
Trump’s statement disrupted the hearing proceedings; it prompted Schiff to vet Bowers about Trump’s claims and the content of the call in question. Bowers categorically denied Trump’s account of the phone call.
In the statement, Trump called Bowers a “RINO,” short for “Republican In Name Only” and referred to the January 6 Committee as the “Unselect Committee.”
Bowers asserted that on a phone call with Trump, lawyer Rudy Giuliani promised to give him evidence of mass voter fraud, but never did. Bowers said he told Trump he refused to overturn the election results because it was against his oath as an elected official.
“I said look, you’re asking me to do something that is counter to my oath, that is sworn to the Constitution, that I uphold it,” said Bowers. “This is totally foreign as an idea or a theory to me, and I would never do anything with such deep magnitude without consultation of my attorneys.”
Bowers held back tears as he described how Trump’s pressure caused internal turmoil for him, because his faith inspired a deep respect for the Constitution as a divinely inspired document.
Bowers confirmed that he met with Giuliani at a Phoenix hotel after the election. He recounted that Giuliani repeated claims of mass voter fraud, which Arizona State Senators pressed him on. Bowers said that he and Giuliani both pressed Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis to turn over the evidence to the Arizona legislators, but she kept claiming that she didn’t have it on her.
Bowers denied ever receiving evidence of mass voter fraud from Trump’s team. He noted that he and other members of his staff remembered Giuliani admitting that they had no evidence, just theories on voter fraud in the 2020 election.
“My recollection: he said ‘We’ve got lots of theories, we just don’t got evidence,’” recounted Bowers.
The committee revealed previously undisclosed video of “Stop the Steal” protestors, which prominently featured Jacob Angeli, commonly referred to as the “QAnon Shaman,” who is currently serving his 41-month sentence for breaking into the Capitol on January 6.
Bowers alleged that Trump’s lawyer John Eastman asked him to deny the 2020 election results and “just let the courts sort it out later.” He clarified that he recalled Eastman saying, in so many words, that the authority of the legislature was plenary and that he as house speaker had the authority to undertake the requested action.
Additionally, Bowers alleged that Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ-05) asked him to support overturning the election results.
Schiff referred back to a previous press release from Bowers in which the speaker declared he wouldn’t decertify the election results.
“We have no legal pathway nor to my knowledge in federal law, for us to execute such a request. I am not allowed to walk or act beyond my authority. If I’m not specifically authorized as a state legislator, then I cannot act,” said Bowers.
In closing, Bowers read from his diary, citing that his Christianity moved him to oppose Trump. He also described facing angry constituents in the aftermath, some of whom came to his home while his gravely ill daughter was inside.
“It is painful to have friends who have been such a help to me turn on me with such rancor,” read Bowers. “How else will I ever approach [God] in the wilderness of life, knowing that I ask this guidance only to show myself a coward in defending the course he led me to take?”