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Election Officials Describe Threats After the Election Fueled by Trump

WASHINGTON — Rusty Bowers, the Republican speaker of Arizona’s House, braced every weekend for hordes of Trump supporters, some with weapons, who swarmed his home and blared videos that called him a pedophile.

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

Gabriel Sterling, a top state election official in Georgia, recalled receiving an animated picture of a slowly twisting noose along with a note 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 house and threatened his wife with sexual violence.

And Wandrea Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, two Black women who served as election workers during the pandemic in Georgia, suffered an onslaught of racist abuse and were driven into hiding after Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Donald J. Trump’s lawyer, lied that they had rigged the election against Mr. Trump.

“I’ve lost my name and I’ve lost my reputation,” Ms. Freeman said, adding 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 detail how Mr. Trump and his aides unleashed violent threats and vengeance on them for refusing to cave to his pressure to overturn the election in his favor.

The testimony showed how Mr. Trump and his aides encouraged his followers to target election officials in key states — even going so far as to post their personal cellphone numbers on Mr. Trump’s social media channels, which the committee cited as a particularly brutal effort by the president to cling to power.

“Donald Trump did not care about the threats of violence,” said 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, were dire. “We cannot let America become a nation of conspiracy theories and thug violence,” she said.

Mr. Bowers of Arizona was the first to testify. For nearly an hour, he described the pressure campaign he faced over several weeks after the Nov. 3, 2020, election, after Mr. Trump lost the state. He spoke of the fear he felt when a man bearing the mark of the Three Percenters, an extremist offshoot of the gun rights movement, appeared in his neighborhood.

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

The threats, he said, have gone on for a 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 said, as well as 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 trying to put her young son to bed when she heard a growing din. Armed protesters with bullhorns were picketing outside her home. “My stomach sunk,” she said. “That was the scariest moment, just not knowing what was going to happen.”

Mike Shirkey, the majority leader of Michigan’s Republican-controlled State Senate, was subjected to nearly 4,000 text messages from Mr. Trump’s followers after the president and his campaign publicly posted Mr. Shirkey’s personal cellphone number.

“It was a loud noise, 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 mother became the targets of Trump supporters after Mr. Giuliani falsely accused them in a Georgia State Senate hearing of passing around USB drives like “vials of heroin or cocaine” to steal the election from Mr. Trump.

What her mother actually handed her, Ms. Moss testified on Tuesday, was a ginger mint candy.

But Mr. Giuliani’s claim — later elevated by Mr. Trump himself, who referred to Ms. Moss by name more than a dozen times in a call with Mr. Raffensperger — tore across far-right circles of the internet. Soon after, the F.B.I. informed Ms. Freeman that it was no longer safe for her to stay at her house.

The urgency of that warning became clear after Trump supporters showed up at the door of Ms. Moss’s grandmother. They forced their way into her home, claiming they were 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, including a comment that Ms. Moss and her mother should “be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920.”

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

Both women testified that nearly two years later, they were still haunted by the threat of violence. Ms. Moss recalled listening to the audio tape of Mr. Trump attacking her and her mother and immediately feeling “like it was all my fault.”

“I just felt bad for my mom, and I felt horrible for picking this job,” she testified, growing 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 no longer went to the grocery store, and felt nervous every time she gave her name — once proudly worn bedazzled on T-shirts — for food 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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