Washington - U.S. state officials detailed Tuesday how former President Donald Trump and his political allies tried to get bogus electors appointed in states he lost to Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 election to keep Trump in power and change vote totals - even though there was no evidence of vote-counting fraud.
Republican Rusty Bowers, the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, told the congressional committee investigating the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 last year that Trump implored him in two phone calls to overturn Biden's victory in the western state, but that he refused.
Bowers said he voted for Trump but told him during the phone calls that 'I would not do something illegal for him' by appointing electors for him when Biden had won the state by more than 10,000 votes.
Bowers said a Trump lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, claimed that 200,000 migrants illegally voted in Arizona in 2020, along with 5,000 to 6,000 dead people. When Bowers demanded proof, Trump said in one call, 'Give the man what he needs, Rudy.'
But Bowers said Giuliani never offered proof of the illegal votes, eventually acknowledging to the Arizona lawmaker, 'We've got lots of theories, but we don't have the evidence.'
Trump issued a statement before Tuesday's hearing started, claiming that Bowers at one point told him the Arizona vote was 'rigged' against Trump as he sought re-election. Bowers denied he ever made such a comment to Trump.
Biden, Bowers said, legitimately won the state.
From left, Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., listen as Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers testifies on June 21, 2022.
The House of Representatives investigative committee also heard extensive testimony from two election officials from the southern state of Georgia, where Trump was the first Republican presidential candidate to lose the state since 1992.
Trump, in a taped January 2, 2021, call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the state's top election official, asked him to 'find' enough votes to overtake Biden's 11,779-vote victory margin.
Raffensperger testified Trump pleaded with him to overturn the state's vote. The ballots had been counted three times, he said, and each time Biden won, with what the election official said were 'remarkably close' totals.
But Trump persisted, telling Raffensperger, 'The people of Georgia are angry. The people of the country are angry, and there's nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you've recalculated. All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. ... Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.'
'There's no way I lost Georgia,' Trump argued to Raffensperger. 'There's no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes. And you would be respected, really respected, if this thing could be straightened out.'
Trump continues to contend he was cheated out of another term in the White House and has hinted he might run again for the presidency in 2024.
Over the weekend, he complained on social media about the House investigation and defended his call to Raffensperger.
'My phone call to the Georgia Secretary of State, with many other people, including numerous lawyers, knowingly on the line, was absolutely PERFECT, and appropriate,' Trump wrote. 'YES, it was a PERFECT CALL ...'
'The highly partisan Unselects (on the investigative committee) are trying to create a FAKE narrative, for whatever reason but only with evil intention, that 'He (me) knew he lost the election,'' Trump said. 'This is completely false. I felt the Election was RIGGED & STOLLEN (sic), have from the very beginning, & have only gotten stronger in that belief with time & large amounts of additional evidence and proof.'
Bowers, Raffensperger, Gabriel Sterling, the chief operating officer of the Georgia elections office, and Georgia election worker Wandrea ('Shaye') Moss all testified that they and their colleagues received threats of violence from Trump supporters who refused to accept his election loss.
At the center of Trump's post-election efforts was an audacious scheme to have fake electors supporting Trump named in states where Biden had narrowly defeated him. These fake electors would certify to Congress that Trump rather than Biden had won those states.
In the U.S., presidents are effectively chosen in separate elections in each of the 50 states, not through the national popular vote. Each state's number of electoral votes is dependent on its population, with the biggest states holding the most sway. Those votes are formally counted in the U.S. Capitol some two months after the election, with the vice president presiding.
About 2,000 Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6 for hours, blocking lawmakers from certifying Biden's eventual 306-232 victory in the Electoral College.
But in the days and weeks ahead of the certification, Trump worked to overturn vote counts in states he narrowly lost, hoping to change the national result.
While the House committee cannot bring criminal charges, the Justice Department is closely monitoring the hearings to determine whether anyone, Trump included, should be charged with illegally trying to reverse the election outcome to keep him in power. A prosecutor in Atlanta, the capital of Georgia, has convened a grand jury investigation to probe Trump's actions to overturn the vote in that state.
Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California, who led most of the questioning Tuesday, said at the end that whether Trump engaged 'in criminality is for others to decide.'
But Schiff said Trump's efforts to upend the election result to stay in power despite Biden's victory at the ballot box was 'unpatriotic and fundamentally un-American.'
The investigative panel already has heard testimony that key Trump aides told him he had lost the 2020 election and that there were a minimal number of voting irregularities, not enough to overturn the national Electoral College victory for Biden.
In addition, Trump was told it would be illegal for then-Vice President Mike Pence to unilaterally block Biden's victory, as Trump privately and publicly implored Pence to do.