“I Will Not Break My Oath”: How GOP State Officials Became Targets For Choosing Democracy Over Trump

In damning and sometimes emotional testimony before the January 6 committee Tuesday, election officials told investigators that Donald Trump and his allies subjected them to an intense pressure campaign to undermine the will of the people in the swing states they lead following the 2020 vote — a desperate effort they resisted, despite explicit threats from the former president and his supporters.

“I will not break my oath,” Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers said before the bipartisan panel, describing his refusal to cave to the demands of Trump and allies like attorney John Eastman and Congressman Andy Biggs that he decertify the 2020 election results. “It is a tenet of my faith that the constitution is divinely inspired…for me to do that because somebody just asked me to is foreign to my very being.” (Trump, unsurprisingly, attacked Bowers at a “RINO” on Tuesday.)

Bowers’ powerful testimony came during the fourth day of hearings, which focused Tuesday on the relentless — and potentially illegal — efforts by Trump and his team to get state and local elections officials to help undermine Joe Biden’s 2020 victory. “What happened to Mike Pence wasn’t an isolated part of Donald Trump’s scheme to overturn the election,” Chairman Bennie Thompson said, referring to efforts to pressure the former vice president to hand the election to Trump. “In fact, pressuring public servants into betraying their oaths was a fundamental part of the playbook.”

Some of the material presented at the hearing Tuesday — which also included testimony from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling, who warned following the 2020 election that Trump’s lies could escalate to violence — was already known. But the select committee also presented new details about the multipronged effort to throw the 2020 election to Trump, including a text message from an aide to Senator Ron Johnson indicating that the Wisconsin Republican had wanted to pass a slate of fake electors to Pence. (A Johnson spokesperson later said 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.”)

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That plot had previously gotten less attention than, say, Trump’s crude efforts to get Raffensperger to “find” him enough votes to edge out his Democratic challenger in the state. (“There were no votes to find,” Raffensperger testified Tuesday.) But on Tuesday, the fraudulent electors scheme — in which Republican legislatures would send their own, pro-Trump electors to be certified instead of the official ones — took center stage, with witnesses and the committee detailing how the former president and his team pushed the anti-democratic strategy in the weeks leading up to the January 6 attack on Capitol Hill.

“This is a tragic parody,” Bowers said of the scheme, with which Trump apparently had direct involvement.

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