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‘There Is Nowhere I Feel Safe’: Election Officials Describe Threats Fueled by Trump


WASHINGTON — Rusty Bowers, the Republican speaker of Arizona’s House, braced each weekend for hordes of Trump supporters, some with weapons, who swarmed his house and blared movies that referred to as him a pedophile.

“We had a daughter who was gravely ill, who was upset by what was happening outside,” he stated. She died not lengthy after, in late January 2021.

Gabriel Sterling, a high state election official in Georgia, recalled receiving an animated image of a slowly twisting noose together with a notice accusing him of treason. His boss, Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, recounted that Trump supporters broke into his widowed daughter-in-law’s home and threatened his spouse with sexual violence.

And Wandrea Moss and her mom, Ruby Freeman, two Black ladies who served as election staff through the pandemic in Georgia, suffered an onslaught of racist abuse and have been pushed into hiding after Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Donald J. Trump’s lawyer, lied that that they had rigged the election towards Mr. Trump.

“I’ve lost my name and I’ve lost my reputation,” Ms. Freeman stated, including as her voice rose with emotion, “Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you?”

Election official after election official testified to the House Jan. 6 committee on Tuesday in searing, emotional element how Mr. Trump and his aides unleashed violent threats and vengeance on them for refusing to cave to his stress to overturn the election in his favor.

The testimony confirmed how Mr. Trump and his aides inspired his followers to focus on election officers in key states — even going as far as to publish their private cellphone numbers on Mr. Trump’s social media channels, which the committee cited as a very brutal effort by the president to cling to energy.

“Donald Trump did not care about the threats of violence,” stated Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming and the vice chairwoman of the committee. “He did not condemn them. He made no effort to stop them. He went forward with his fake allegations anyway.”

The stakes for the nation, Ms. Cheney warned, have been dire. “We cannot let America become a nation of conspiracy theories and thug violence,” she stated.

Mr. Bowers of Arizona was the primary to testify. For almost an hour, he described the stress marketing campaign he confronted over a number of weeks after the Nov. 3, 2020, election, after Mr. Trump misplaced the state. He spoke of the concern he felt when a person bearing the mark of the Three Percenters, an extremist offshoot of the gun rights motion, appeared in his neighborhood.

“He had a pistol and was threatening my neighbor,” Mr. Bowers stated. “Not with the pistol, but just vocally. When I saw the gun, I knew I had to get close.”

The threats, he stated, have gone on for a very long time: “Up till even recently, it is the new pattern, or a pattern in our lives, to worry what will happen on Saturdays. Because we have various groups come by and they have had video panel trucks with videos of me proclaiming me to be a pedophile and a pervert and a corrupt politician and blaring loudspeakers in my neighborhood and leaving literature,” he stated, in addition to arguing with and threatening him and his neighbors.

Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s secretary of state, who rejected efforts to overturn the state’s electors, described attempting to place her younger son to mattress when she heard a rising din. Armed protesters with bullhorns have been picketing exterior her house. “My stomach sunk,” she stated. “That was the scariest moment, just not knowing what was going to happen.”

Mike Shirkey, the bulk chief of Michigan’s Republican-controlled State Senate, was subjected to just about 4,000 textual content messages from Mr. Trump’s followers after the president and his marketing campaign publicly posted Mr. Shirkey’s private cellphone quantity.

“It was a loud, consistent cadence,” Mr. Shirkey testified. “We heard that the Trump folks are calling and asking for changes in the electors, and ‘You guys can do this.’ Well, they were believing things that were untrue.”

Ms. Moss, who goes by Shaye, and her mom turned the targets of Trump supporters after Mr. Giuliani falsely accused them in a Georgia State Senate listening to of passing round USB drives like “vials of heroin or cocaine” to steal the election from Mr. Trump.

What her mom truly handed her, Ms. Moss testified on Tuesday, was a ginger mint sweet.

But Mr. Giuliani’s declare — later elevated by Mr. Trump himself, who referred to Ms. Moss by title greater than a dozen occasions in a name with Mr. Raffensperger — tore throughout far-right circles of the web. Soon after, the F.B.I. knowledgeable Ms. Freeman that it was not protected for her to remain at her home.

The urgency of that warning turned clear after Trump supporters confirmed up on the door of Ms. Moss’s grandmother. They pressured their manner into her house, claiming they have been there to make a citizen’s arrest of her granddaughter.

“This woman is my everything,” Ms. Moss testified about her grandmother. “I’ve never even heard her or seen her cry ever in my life, and she called me screaming at the top of her lungs.”

While in hiding, Ms. Moss and Ms. Freeman continued to face threats explicitly invoking their race, together with a remark that Ms. Moss and her mom ought to “be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920.”

“A lot of them were racist,” Ms. Moss stated. “A lot of them were just hateful.”

Both ladies testified that just about two years later, they have been nonetheless haunted by the specter of violence. Ms. Moss recalled listening to the audio tape of Mr. Trump attacking her and her mom and instantly feeling “like it was all my fault.”

“I just felt bad for my mom, and I felt horrible for picking this job,” she testified, rising emotional. “And being the one that always wants to help and always there, never missing not one election. I just felt like it was — it was my fault for putting my family in this situation.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, quietly responded from the dais.

Ms. Freeman testified that she not went to the grocery retailer, and felt nervous each time she gave her title — as soon as proudly worn bedazzled on T-shirts — for meals orders.

“There is nowhere I feel safe,” Ms. Freeman testified. “The president of the United States is supposed to represent every American. Not to target one.”

Aishvarya Kavi and Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.



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