Jan. 6 panel puts spotlight on Trump’s efforts to strong-arm state officials

WASHINGTON — The Jan. 6 committee returned Tuesday focused on then-President Donald Trump’s direct efforts to pressure state officials to overturn the 2020 election — an effort to build on the theme of their prior hearing that showcased the aggressive effort to strong-arm former Vice President Mike Pence.

Committee members plan to lay out how Trump’s pressure campaign not only undermined democracy, but also put the lives of local and state election figures and their families in serious danger.

“Like Mike Pence, these public servants wouldn’t go along with Donald Trump’s scheme. And when they wouldn’t embrace the big lie and substitute the will of the voters with Donald Trump’s will to remain in power, Donald Trump worked to ensure they’d face the consequences,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the committee, said in his opening statement.  

“Threats to people’s livelihoods and lives. Threats of violence that Donald Trump knew about and amplified.”

The committee investigating the Capitol attack will hear testimony from GOP witnesses from Georgia and Arizona, state officials who stood up to the former president in the weeks after the 2020 election and rebuffed his attempts to thwart the will of voters there.

Two top Georgia election officials — Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger and top aide Gabriel Sterling — will testify about a now-infamous phone call four days before the attack in which Trump explicitly told them to “find 11,780 votes” that would put him ahead of Democrat Joe Biden in the state.

Both men are cooperating with a Fulton County special grand jury investigation into whether Trump violated election law by pressuring the Georgia officials.

The Jan. 6 panel will also hear from Rusty Bowers, the Republican speaker of the Arizona House, who rejected efforts by Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani to have the state Legislature pick a new slate of electors that would favor Trump.

Trump released a statement ahead of Bowers’ testimony, insisting that the Bowers told Trump he had won Arizona.

“Bowers should hope there’s not a tape of the conversation,” Trump said in the statement. He did not provide a recording.

On Thursday, the Jan. 6 committee is set to hold its fifth public hearing, focused on how Trump pressured top Justice Department officials to investigate false claims of widespread voter fraud.

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