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State officials and election workers say they faced pressure to overturn 2020 results

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Here's one account of what Rudy Giuliani said as he worked to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RUSTY BOWERS: We've got lots of theories, we just don't have the evidence.

KELLY: Those were the words of former Trump lawyer Giuliani according to Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Republican. Bowers was one of several officials from key swing states testifying today before the House January 6 committee. They recounted pressure from Trump to overturn President Biden's victory, and they recounted the many ways their lives were upended as they tried to protect democracy.

NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales joins me from Capitol Hill. Hey, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: All right, let's start with Rusty Bowers. He testified for about an hour. He gave all kinds of detail about how Trump and Giuliani personally pressured him. What else did we learn?

GRISALES: Right. This was pretty powerful testimony from Bowers about the extent of the pressure and the threats he and his family faced from Trump and his allies. He said protesters were showing up to where he lived, threatening him and his family, blasting music in their neighborhood. And at one point, a man recently approached his neighbor.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BOWERS: And he had a pistol and was threatening my neighbor - not with the pistol, but just vocally. When I saw the gun, I knew I had to get close.

GRISALES: And this was troubling for his family - his wife, who he called valiant, and a daughter who was gravely ill. Bowers had said Trump asked him to hold a hearing to investigate allegations of fraud in Arizona, but he said the evidence didn't merit a hearing. He said he told Trump and Giuliani that he would not break his oath. And there were many others who pressured Bowers, including lawyer John Eastman and Arizona GOP Congressman Andy Biggs.

KELLY: You know, I'm listening to this account of all the pressure coming from so many directions. It seems like that was a central theme today. Am I right here - that the...

GRISALES: Right.

KELLY: ...How democracy is upheld by big institutions, but also by individuals like Bowers?

GRISALES: Exactly. For example, Chairman Bennie Thompson warned these kind of threats continue today. He was saying two weeks ago, a county commissioner in New Mexico refused to certify results in a primary election race using unsupported claims. And then returning to Bowers, Bowers called arguments by Trump and Giuliani and other allies trying to get Arizona to use fake electors as, quote, "a tragic parody." Bowers said that they choose to follow the will of the people. That's what he chose to do.

He also said Giuliani pressured him to call the Arizona legislature back into session, a unilateral move Bowers said he can't do, and to recall electors that were going to be for President Biden. So Bowers was emotional when he said, quote, "it is a tenant of my faith that the Constitution is divinely inspired." And he would not do it.

KELLY: We also heard today from high-profile Trump allies who were part of this pressure campaign and this whole fake electors scheme. Who were they?

GRISALES: Right. We heard about two members of Congress who were witnesses - or who witnesses said and evidence showed had ties to this pressure campaign. For example, Bowers said he got a call the morning of January 6 from Arizona GOP Congressman Andy Biggs, who was pressuring him to sign on to a letter to decertify these electors for Biden. Biggs is also facing a January 6 subpoena in refusing to cooperate.

And then we also saw text messages from an aide to Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson, who told one of Pence's aides that Johnson could give then-Vice President Mike Pence a slate of fake electors for his state and Michigan on January 6. But we should note a Johnson aide said today the senator was not personally involved in this effort.

KELLY: We also heard from several Georgia witnesses about the threats they faced. What did they say?

GRISALES: Right. This was really striking testimony here from Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his deputy, Gabe Sterling. They were expanding on the pressure and threats they faced from their state, from Trump and his allies. Another witness from the state - this is Shaye Moss; this is a Fulton County election worker at the time - recounted how she and her mother had to go into hiding because of the threats they faced from the former president and his allies. For example, on a call, Trump attacked Shaye Moss and her mother 18 times. And Giuliani also spread outrageous, false rumors connecting her to drug use.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHAYE MOSS: A lot of threats - wishing death upon me, telling me that, you know, I'll be in jail with my mother and saying things like, be glad it's 2020 and not 1920.

GRISALES: And so this leads into testimony we will hear from other witnesses in the coming days about this wide-ranging investigation into Trump's pressure campaign and January 6.

KELLY: NPR's Claudia Grisales there on Capitol Hill. Thanks, Claudia.

GRISALES: Thank you much.

(SOUNDBITE OF IMAN OMARI SONG, "MOVE TOO FAST") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.