Donald Trump and his lawyers bombarded Republican state officials with telephone calls as they put pressure on them to overturn the 2020 election, a congressional committee has heard.
Several senior Republicans in swing states told members of the bipartisan panel investigating last year’s attack on the US Capitol they had been called multiple times by the former president himself or by his senior lawyers in the aftermath of the vote.
Some described how lawyers including Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, called on them to decertify their states’ results or to send false slates of electors to Washington DC in an attempt to announce Trump the winner.
Rusty Bowers, the Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, said he told the former president: “You’re asking me to do something that is counter to my oath, which I swore to the constitution to uphold, and also to the constitution and the laws of the state of Arizona. This is totally foreign.”
Trump and his lawyers pushed officials to reject official election results as part of a scheme to have him falsely declared the winner of the 2020 election. The pressure campaign formed part of what committee members have previously said was an attempted coup by the former president.
“This pressure campaign brought angry phone calls and texts, armed protests, intimidation and all too often threats of violence and death,” said committee member congressman Adam Schiff, referring to state officials’ accounts of threatening behaviour from constituents who believed the election had been stolen.
“State legislators were singled out. So too were statewide elections officials, even local elections workers diligently doing their jobs were accused of being criminals and had their lives turned upside down,” he added.
Trump’s scheme relied on the arcane system of certifying US presidential elections, which requires states to choose slates of electors who will officially submit the state’s results to the Congress in Washington DC.
The former president pushed state officials to choose “alternative” slates of electors who would declare him the winner even in states where he had lost the vote. When they refused, his campaign put together teams of fake electors to submit their results anyway.
Members heard from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, who said that the White House legal counsel judged the scheme illegal.
In video testimony, several state-level Republicans described how their contact information had also been published by Trump or those close to him in an attempt to increase the public pressure on them.
Mike Shirkey, the Republican majority leader in the Michigan senate, told members that he was deluged with messages after Trump tweeted his personal telephone number. “All I remember is receiving just shy of 4,000 text messages over a short period of time calling to take action,” he said.
“[They were saying] ‘We hear that the Trump folks are calling and asking for changes in the electors and you guys can do this.’ Well, you know, they were believing things that were untrue,” he added.
Liz Cheney, the Republican vice-chair of the committee, said: “Donald Trump had a direct and personal role in this effort [to put pressure on state officials], as did Rudy Giuliani, as did John Eastman,” referring to the former president’s lawyer and constitutional adviser respectively.
“In other words, the same people who were attempting to pressure vice-president Mike Pence to reject electoral votes illegally were also simultaneously working to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election at the state level,” she added.
In future sessions, members will dissect how Trump spent a crucial 187 minutes during which rioters were roaming the halls of Congress without any discouragement from the former president.
His actions during that period could prove crucial if Merrick Garland, the Democratic attorney-general, decides to prosecute Trump over his role in the violence.