Former President Donald Trump’s election lies led to death threats and harassment against elected officials, election workers, and volunteers, including Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler. “Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you?” said Ruby Freeman, a former volunteer in Fulton County, Georgia.
Donald Trump’s lies ruined Americans’ lives.
The devastating impacts of Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election were on full display Tuesday, when one witness after another detailed how Trump’s “Big Lie” affected them and their loved ones.
The story of Wandrea “Shaye” Moss took center stage, as the former Fulton County, Georgia elections worker told the US House Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol how Trump’s lies about her and her mother—election volunteer Ruby Freeman—forced them to go into hiding, endangered Moss’ grandmother, and affected Moss’ health.
Moss, who had served as an election official for years without issue, was first forced into the limelight after Trump—unable to accept his loss to then-candidate Joe Biden in Georgia in 2020—and Rudy Giuliani falsely accused them of packing false ballots into “suitcases” and having them counted to get Biden elected president.
In reality, the women were placing absentee ballots in storage containers because they believed the day’s counting had concluded. Giuliani also accused them of passing a USB drive between each other. When asked about the claim, Moss testified that Freeman was handing her a ginger mint.
Despite having his lies repeatedly disproven, Trump continued to spread false claims about Moss and Freeman. These lies and Trump’s attacks on Ruby Freeman as a “hustler” and “vote scammer” led to death threats and hate-filled comments.
“A lot of threats, wishing death upon me, telling me that I’ll be in jail with my mother and saying things like be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920,” Moss testified. “A lot of them were racist, a lot of them were just hateful.”
Freeman, who has gone by Lady Ruby and ran her own small business, spoke about how her reputation and her good name were destroyed because of Trump’s lies.
“I won’t even introduce myself by my name anymore. I get nervous when I bump into someone I know in the grocery store who says my name. I’m worried about who’s listening. I get nervous when I have to give my name for food orders. I’m always concerned of who’s around me,” Freeman said. “I’ve lost my name and I’ve lost my reputation. I’ve lost my sense of security all because a group of people starting with number 45 and his ally Rudy Giuliani decided to scapegoat me and my daughter Shaye, to push their own lies about how the presidential election was stolen.”
Freeman was also forced to leave her home of two decades in early January 2021, after the FBI informed her that it was not safe for her to stay there given the threats against her life.
“I stayed away from my home for approximately two months,” Freeman said. “It was horrible. I felt homeless.”
The trauma has lingered, affecting Freeman to this day.
“There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere. Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you?” she said. “The President of the United States is supposed to represent every American, not to target one. But he targeted me, Lady Ruby, a small-business owner, a mother, a proud American citizen who stood up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of the pandemic.”
The devastation rippled out even further, affecting Moss’ grandmother, whose home was overrun by a mob of Trump supporters searching for Moss and Freeman.
“She called me screaming at the top of her lungs, like ‘Shaye! Shaye! Oh my god, Shaye!’ just freaking me out, saying that there were people at her home and they knocked on the door and of course she opened it, seeing who was there and they just started pushing their way through, claiming they were coming in to make a citizen’s arrest, they needed to find me and my mom, they knew we were there,” Moss testified. “She was just screaming and didn’t know what to do. And I wasn’t there and I just felt so helpless and so horrible for her and she was just screaming. I told her, ‘Close the door, don’t open the door for anyone.’”
Moss, who earlier in her testimony discussed how much she loved helping older and disabled voters register and vote, said she felt responsible for her family being targeted.
“I felt like it was all my fault, like if I would have never decided to be an elections worker—I could’ve done anything else, but that’s what I decided to do and now people are lying and spreading rumors and lies and attacking my mom. I’m her only child. Going to my grandmother’s house, I’m her only grandchild,” Moss said. “I felt horrible for picking this job and being the one that always wants to help and always there and never missing not one election. I just felt like it was my fault putting my family in this situation.”
Moss has also suffered extensively as a result of Trump’s lies.
“It’s turned my life upside down. I no longer give out my business card. I don’t transfer calls. I don’t want anyone knowing my name. I don’t want to go anywhere with my mom because she might yell my name out over the grocery aisle or something. I don’t go to the grocery store at all,” Moss said. “ I haven’t been anywhere at all. I’ve gained about 60 pounds. I just don’t do nothing anymore. I don’t want to go anywhere. I second guess everything that I do. It’s affected my life in a major way, in every way. All because of lies and me doing my job—same thing I’ve been doing forever.”
Moss and Freeman’s stories may have provided the most emotionally wrenching moments, but they were far from the only news.
Here are 5 Other Takeaways from Tuesday’s Hearing:
1. Trump’s Lies and Harassment Left A Trail of Devastation
Rusty Bowers is the Speaker of the Arizona state House. A conservative Republican who spoke glowingly of Ronald Reagan, Bowers supported Trump in 2020, but refused to help Trump overturn the election results—a moral stand that has drawn Trump’s anger.
The impact of Bowers’ stand was devastating for him and his family. He recounted on Tuesday how he’s been called a pedophile and a pervert by angry Trump supporters, has received tens of thousands of angry emails and voicemails, and how his family still worries about whether protesters are going to show up on Saturdays outside their home.
Perhaps most devastating, Bowers discussed how some Trump supporters harassed his seriously ill daughter while she was on her deathbed in late 2020 and early 2021. Bowers’ daughter, Kacey Rae, passed away on Jan. 28, 2021, leaving behind a 20-year-old son.
She spent her final months dealing with harassment caused by the former president.
“It was disturbing,” Rusty Bowers said on Tuesday.
Fellow Republican and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger similarly testified to the personal impact that refusing to go along with Trump’s lies had. He and his family’s phone numbers and emails were spread online and they faced an enormous wave of harassment after Raffensperger refused to “find 11,780 votes,” as Trump asked him to do.
“My wife started getting the texts and hers typically came in as sexualized texts, which were disgusting,” Raffensperger testified.
Trump supporters even broke into his daughter-in-law’s home, who is a widow with two children.
“We are very concerned about her safety as well,” Raffensperger said.
Other state officials told similar stories in videotaped testimony. Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler said he got repeated calls from Giuliani and other Trump aides, but he refused to answer them. The calls continued even after Cutler asked them to stop.
Cutler said his information was also revealed online, prompting protesters to show up at his house when his 15-year-old son was home alone.
The eight-term state Rep. from Lancaster County issued a statement following Tuesday’s hearing, confirming he had been interviewed twice by the select committee but was not made aware how his testimony would be used.
“I was not contacted ahead of today’s proceedings or made aware of what portions of my interview would be included in the public proceedings,” Cutler said. “As the committee’s investigation is still ongoing, it would be inappropriate for me to provide any additional comments about my testimony at this time.”
Cutler is one of many Republican state legislators who attempted to discredit or overturn the 2020 election results. Shortly after the election, he joined dozens of other Pennsylvania lawmakers in signing off on a series of letters to Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and the state inspector general, questioning the integrity of the election results and disputing the slate of electors certified by Gov. Tom Wolf.
2. Rusty Bowers May Have Single Handedly Prevented Trump’s Unconstitutional Fake Elector Scheme in Arizona
Bowers testified Tuesday about how Trump, Giuliani, and others in Trump’s orbit tried to compel Bowers to support their effort to submit an alternate slate of “fake” electors to Congress, in order to overturn the will of the voters who elected Joe Biden as president.
This strategy, detailed at length on Tuesday, involved Trump’s team organizing slates of alternate, “fake electors” in key swing states, having them submit false certifications of Trump’s victories to the National Archives, and then pressuring then-Vice President Mike Pence substitute them for the actual electoral votes that made Joe Biden president.
While many lawmakers across the nation happily embraced the illegal and anti-democratic effort, Bowers refused to do so. He repeatedly asked Giuliani for evidence of fraud that might justify such a course of action and got none.
“You’re asking me to do something that’s never been done in the history of the United States without sufficient proof,” Bowers recounted saying.
In one phone call, Bowers testified that Giuliani said, “We’ve got lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence.”
Bowers could not abide these efforts, which he said were also supported by Arizona Congressman Andy Biggs.
“You are asking me to do something that is counter to my oath when I swore to the Constitution to uphold it and I also swore to the Constitution and the laws of Arizona,” Bowers said. “You’re asking me to do something against my oath and I will not break my oath.”
Bowers, who is a Mormon, said he believes the Constitution is “divinely inspired” and that there was no world in which he would abandon his faith or the constitution for a lie.
Bowers also read from a contemporary diary entry he wrote in December 2020, which contained his thoughts on the pressure campaign he had been facing.
“It is painful to have friends who have been such a help to me turn on me with such rancor,” he wrote. “I may in the eyes of men not hold correct opinions or act according to their visions or convictions. But I do not take this current situation in a light manner, a fearful manner, or a vengeful manner.”
“I do not want to win by cheating,” Bowers continued. “I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to, with any contrived desire towards deflection of my deep foundational desire to follow God’s will as I believe he led my conscience to embrace. How else will I ever approach him 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?”
3. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson—Or At Least His Staff—Tried to Persuade Pence of Trump’s Fake Elector Scheme
One of the juicer revelations on Tuesday was that an aide to Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin attempted to deliver former Vice President Mike Pence’s staff a list of false, pro-Trump electors just moments before Pence was set to count electoral votes on Jan. 6.
According to text messages, the Johnson staffer, Sean Riley, told Pence’s legislative director Chris Hodgson that Johnson wanted to give Pence lists of the fake electors from Michigan and Wisconsin for Pence to introduce during the counting of electoral votes that certified Joe Biden’s win. Hodgson quickly shot the idea down, telling Riley: “Do not give that to him.”
Alexa Henning, a spokeswoman for Johnson, denied that Johnson was aware of the texts.
“The senator had no involvement in the creation of an alternate slate of electors and had no foreknowledge that it was going to be delivered to our office. This was a staff-to-staff exchange. His new chief of staff contacted the Vice President’s office,” she tweeted. “The Vice President’s office said not to give it to him and we did not. There was no further action taken. End of story.”
Despite Henning’s effort to tamp down the backlash, news of Johnson’s possible involvement prompted several of his potential November opponents to call for his resignation.
4. Trump Got The Republican National Committee Involved In His Phony Elector Scheme
According to testimony shared Tuesday, Trump even involved the Republican National Committee (RNC) in his effort.
The head of the RNC, Ronna McDaniel, said in a video testimony that Trump called her so that his attorney, John Eastman, could discuss how the RNC could participate in his fake elector scheme.
“He turned the call over to Mr. Eastman, who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors in case any of the legal challenges that were ongoing changed the result of any of the states,” McDaniel said, revealing Trump’s direct knowledge of the effort to undermine the election. “My understanding is the campaign did take the lead, and we just were helping them in that role.”
As Tuesday made clear, Trump’s conspiracy to hold onto power was vast and layered.
5. ‘The System Held, But Barely’: The Big Lie Marches On
These words were spoken by committee member and US Rep. Adam Schiff of California. Schiff, who was heavily featured in Tuesday’s hearing, recounted how America’s democratic institutions managed to hold strong in 2020, despite Trump’s best efforts to destroy them.
But as Schiff and other committee members noted, the country might not be so lucky next time. Committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson opened the hearing by pointing to recent efforts from Republican commissioners in New Mexico to block the certification of election results.
Commissioners in Otero County, New Mexico tried to reject the results of the state’s June 7 primary, citing unfounded claims that Dominion voting machines were insecure. Their refusal to do their jobs prompted the New Mexico Supreme Court to demand they certify the 7,300 votes in the county, where races such as county sheriff were up for grabs.
Ultimately, two of the three commissioners voted to comply with the state Supreme Court order and certified the results, but a third commissioner, Couy Griffin, did not.
Griffin, who was recently sentenced to two weeks in jail for entering a restricted area during the Jan. 6 insurrection, refused to certify the election results. In explaining his decision, Griffin provided perhaps the best explanation of the challenges facing America.
“My vote to remain a no isn’t based on any evidence, it’s not based on any facts, it’s only based on my gut feeling and my own intuition, and that’s all I need,” Griffin told reporters.
While the other Otero County commissioners ultimately did their jobs, what will happen if other Republican election officials don’t in November? Or in 2024?
“If you can convince Americans that they cannot trust their own elections, that every time they lose it was somehow illegitimate, then what is left but violence to determine who should govern?” Schiff asked on Tuesday.
It’s a good question—and one that has dark implications for the future of American democracy.