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January 6 Committee Hearings Continue; Now: 4th Jan 6 Hearing Focuses on Trump's Intimidation of State Officials. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired June 21, 2022 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Mr. Sterling was the statewide voting systems implementation manager for the 2020 election in Georgia responsible for leading the secretary of state's response to the COVID pandemic and rolling out modernized voting equipment.
I will swear in our witnesses.
The witnesses will please stand and raise their right hand.
Do you swear or affirm on the penalty of perjury that the testimony you're about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you god?
Thank you. Please be seated.
Let the record reflect that the witnesses answered in the affirmative.
Speaker Bowers, thank you for being with us today.
You're the speaker of the Arizona House and a self-described conservative Republican. You campaigned for President Trump and with him during the 2020 election.
Is it fair to say that you wanted Donald Trump to win a second term in office?
STATE REP. RUSTY BOWERS (R-AZ) & HOUSE SPEAKER: Yes, sir. Thank you.
THOMPSON: And is it your understanding that President Biden was a winner of the popular vote in Arizona in 2020?
BOWERS: Yes, sir.
THOMPSON: Thank you.
Pursuant to Section 5-C-8 of House resolution 503, the chair recognizes the gentleman from California, Mr. Schiff, for questions.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Speaker Bowers, thank you for being with us today. Before we begin with the questions that I have prepared for you, I
wanted to ask you about a statement that former President Trump issued, which I received just prior to the hearing. Have you had a chance to review that statement?
BOWERS: I -- my counsel called from Arizona and read it to me, yes, sir.
SCHIFF: In that statement -- I won't read it in its entirety -- former President Trump begins by calling you a RINO, Republican in name only. H
e then references a conversation in November of 2020 in which he claims that you told him that the election was rigged and that he had won Arizona.
"To quote the former president, during the conversation, he told me the election was rigged and that I won Arizona," unquote.
Did you have such a conversation with the president?
BOWERS: I did have a conversation with the president. That certainly isn't it. There were parts of it that are true. But there are parts that are not, sir.
SCHIFF: And the part that I read to you, is that false?
BOWERS: Anywhere, anyone, any time has said that I said the election was rigged, that would not be true.
SCHIFF: And when the former president in his statement today claimed that you told him that he won Arizona, is that also false?
BOWERS: That is also false.
SCHIFF: Mr. Bowers, I understand that after the election -- and I don't know whether this is the conversation the former president is referring to.
But after the election you received a phone call from President Trump and Rudy Giuliani in which they discussed the result of the presidential election in Arizona.
If you would, tell us about that call, and whether the former president or Mr. Giuliani raised allegations of election fraud.
BOWERS: Thank you. My wife and I had returned from attending our church meetings. It was on a Sunday. And we were still in the driveway. And I had received a call from a colleague, telling me that the White House was trying to get in touch with her and I.
And that she said please, if you get a call, let's try to take this together. Immediately, I saw that the White House on my blue tooth was calling and I took the call and was asked by, I would presume, the operator at the White House if I would hold for the president. Which I did.
And Mr. Giuliani came on first. And niceties. Then Mr. Trump, President Trump, then President Trump came on. And we initiated a conversation.
SCHIFF: During that conversation, did you ask Mr. Giuliani for proof of the allegations of fraud that he was making?
BOWERS: On multiple occasions, yes.
SCHIFF: And when you asked him for evidence, what did he say?
BOWERS: He said they did have proof. And asked him do you have names? For example, we have 200,000 illegal immigrants, some large number, 5,000 or 6,000 dead people, et cetera. I said do you have their names? Yes. Will you give them to me? Yes.
The president interrupted and said, "Give the man what he needs, Rudy." He said, "I will." And that happened on at least two occasions, that interchange in the conversation.
SCHIFF: Mr. Giuliani was claiming there were hundreds of thousands of undocumented people, and thousands of dead people who had purportedly voted in the election?
SCHIFF: And you asked him for evidence of that?
BOWERS: I did.
SCHIFF: And did he ever receive -- did you ever receive from him that evidence either during the call, after the call, or to this day?
SCHIFF: What was the ask during this call? He was making these allegations of fraud, but he had something or a couple things that they wanted you to do. What were those?
BOWERS: The ones I remember were, first, that we would hold -- that I would allow an official committee at the capitol so that they could hear this evidence and that we could take action thereafter. And I refused.
I said, up to that time, that the circus -- I called it the circus -- had been brewing with lot of demonstrations both at the counting center at the capitol and other places, and I didn't want to have that in the House.
I did not feel that the evidence, granted in its absence, merited a hearing. And I didn't want to be used as a pawn. If there was some other need that the committee hearing would fulfill.
So that was the first ask that we hold an official committee hearing.
SCHIFF: And what was his second ask?
BOWERS: I said to what end? To what end, the hearing? He said, well, we have heard via an initial high up in the Republican legislature that there's a legal theory or a legal ability in Arizona that you can remove the electors of President Biden and replace them.
And we would like to have the legitimate opportunity through the committee to come to that end and remove that.
And I said that's -- that's totally new to me. I've never heard of any such thing. And he pressed that point.
And I said, look, you are asking me to do something that is counter to my oath when I swore to the Constitution to uphold it. And I also swore to the Constitution and the laws of the state of Arizona.
And this is totally foreign as an idea or a theory, to me, and I would never do anything of such magnitude without deep consultation with qualified attorneys.
And I said I've got some good attorneys, and I'm going to give you their names.
But you are asking me to do something against my oath, and I will not break my oath. And I think that was up to that point.
SCHIFF: During the conversation -- and you heard, I think, when we played a snippet of Mr. Giuliani calling other state legislators and saying that he was calling as essentially a fellow Republican.
Did he make a similar appeal to you or bring up the fact that you shared a similar party?
BOWERS: Whether it was in that call or a later meeting, he did bring that up more than once.
SCHIFF: And how did he bring that up?
BOWERS: He would say, aren't we all Republicans here? I would think we would get a better reception. I mean, I would think you would listen a little more open to my suggestions. That we're all Republicans.
SCHIFF: And this evidence that you asked him for that would justify this extraordinary step, I think you said they never produced.
Why did you feel, either in the absence of that evidence, or with it, what they were asking you to do would violate your oath to the Constitution?
BOWERS: First of all, when the people -- and in Arizona, I believe it's some 40-plus years earlier, the legislature had established the manner of electing our officials, or the electors for the presidential race.
Once it was given to the people, as in Bush v Gore, illustrated by the Supreme Court, it becomes a fundamental right of the people.
So as far as I was concerned, for someone to ask me in the -- I would call it -- there was no evidence being presented of any strength.
Evidence can be hearsay evidence. It's still evidence, but it's still hearsay. But strong, judicial, strong quality evidence. Anything that would say to me, you have a doubt, deny your oath. I will not do that.
And on more than -- on more than one occasion throughout all this, that has been brought up. And it is a tenet of my faith that the Constitution is divinely inspired of my most basic foundational beliefs.
And so for me to do that because somebody just asked me to, it's foreign to my very being. I will not do it.
SCHIFF: During that conversation, Speaker Bowers, did you ask him if what he was proposing had ever been done before?
BOWERS: I did.
SCHIFF: What did he say?
BOWERS: He said, well, I'm not familiar with Arizona law or any of the laws, but I -- I don't think so. And that also was brought up in other conversations both with him and with John Eastman and others.
SCHIFF: Speaker Bowers, I understand a week after that call, Mr. Giuliani appeared with others associated with President Trump's effort to overturn the result of the election at a purported legislative hearing in a hotel ballroom in Phoenix.
Was this an official hearing of the state legislature?
BOWERS: It was not.
SCHIFF: And why was it not a real or official hearing of the legislature?
BOWERS: A legislator can hold a group meeting. He can call it a hearing. But when they asked me to have an official hearing, we establish it by protocols, public notice, et cetera.
It's typically held at the capitol, but it doesn't need to be. We can authorize a hearing off campus.
And in this case, I had been asked on several occasions to allow a hearing. I denied it, but said you're free to hold a meeting, any meeting you want, to the person who asked.
And which he ultimately did. I think he was a little frustrated, but he ultimately did.
SCHIFF: This meeting was the same day, I believe, that the governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, certified Biden as the winner of the presidential election in Arizona.
Did you meet with Mr. Giuliani and his associates while they were in Phoenix sometime after that purported legislative hearing at the hotel?
BOWERS: Yes, I did, sir.
SCHIFF: And at that meeting, did Mr. Giuliani raise any specific allegations of election fraud again?
BOWERS: His initial comments were, again, the litany of groups of illegal individuals or people deceased, et cetera. And he brought that up.
And I wasn't alone in that meeting. There were others. And other members of the Senate aggressively questioned him. And then I proceeded to question him on the proof that he was going to bring me, et cetera.
But he did bring those up, yes.
SCHIFF: And these other legislators were also Republican members the Senate?
BOWERS: They were, yes, sir.
SCHIFF: And did they also press him for proof of the allegations?
BOWERS: They pressed him very strongly. Two of them especially, very strongly.
SCHIFF: And at some point, did Mr. Giuliani ask one of the other attorneys on his team to help him out with the evidence?
BOWERS: He did. He asked Jenna Ellis, who was sitting to his right.
One thing was it was more to the point of, was there sufficient evidence or action that we could justify the recalling of the electors.
But at that part of the conversation, I know he referred to someone else. But he did ask, do we have the proof to Jenna, Miss Ellis. And she said yes.
And I said, I want the names. Do you have the names? Yes. Do you have how they voted? We have all of the information. I said can you get to me that information? Did you bring it with you? She said no.
Both Mr. Giuliani asked her and I asked generally if they had brought it with them. She said, no, it's not with me, but we can get it to you.
I said, then you didn't bring me the evidence. Which was repeated in different iterations for some period of time.
SCHIFF: At some point, did one of them make a comment that they didn't have evidence, but they had a lot of theories?
BOWERS: That was Mr. Giuliani.
SCHIFF: And what exactly did he say and how did that come up?
BOWERS: My recollection, he said, we've got lots of theories, we just don't have the evidence. I don't know if that was a gaffe or maybe he didn't think through what he said.
But both myself and others in my group, the three in my group and my counsel both remembered that specifically and, after wards, we kind of laughed about it.
SCHIFF: And getting back to the ask in that phone call that preceded this meeting, he wanted you to have the legislature dismiss the Biden electors and replace them with Trump electors on the basis of these theories of fraud?
BOWERS: He didn't say it in those exact words. But he did say that he -- that Arizona law, according to what he understood, that that would be allowed and that we needed to come into session to take care of that.
Which initiated a discussion about, again, what I can legally and not legally do. And I can't go into session in Arizona unilaterally or on my sole prerogative.
SCHIFF: At this meeting or at any other later time, did anyone provide you with evidence of election fraud sufficient to affect the outcome of the presidential election in Arizona?
BOWERS: No one provided me ever such evidence.
SCHIFF: The Select Committee has uncovered evidence in the course of our investigation that at Stop the Steal protests at state capitols across the country, there were individuals with ties to the groups or parties involved in the January 6th attack on the U.S. capitol.
One of those incursions took place in the Arizona House of Representatives building, as you can see in this footage. This is previously disclosed video of protesters entering and refusing to leave the building.
One of the individuals prominently shown in this video is Jacob Chancely. Perhaps better known as the QAnon shaman.
This rioter entered the capitol on January 6th, was photographed leaving a threatening note on the dais in the U.S. Senate chamber. And ultimately sentenced to 41 months in prison after pleading guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding.
Other protesters who occupied the Arizona House of Representatives building included Proud Boys, while men armed with rifles stood outside the entrance. I understand these protesters were calling for you by name, Speaker
Bowers. Is that correct?
BOWERS: That's correct.
SCHIFF: Speaker Bowers, did the president call you again in late December?
BOWERS: He did, sir.
SCHIFF: Did you tell the president in that second call that you supported him, that you voted for him, but that you were not going to do anything illegal for him?
BOWERS: I did, sir.
SCHIFF: Nevertheless, his lawyer, John Eastman, called you some days later on June 4th, 2021,. He did have a very specific ask that would have required you to do what you had already told the president you wouldn't do, something that would violate your oath. Is that correct?
BOWERS: That's correct. It wasn't just me. I had my counsel and others on the call.
SCHIFF: And what did Dr. Eastman want you to do?
BOWERS: That we would, in fact, vote, take a vote, to overthrow -- I shouldn't say overthrow. That we would decertify the electors, and that -- because we had plenary authority to do so.
And he cited Article 2, Section 1, I think it's Clause 2. And said that, in his opinion, that gave us the authority if there was -- I don't recall him saying sufficient evidence, but there was some call or some strong reason to do so that we -- or justification to do so, that we could do that.
And that he was asking that we -- he -- his suggestion was that we would do it. And I said, again, I took an oath. For me to take that, to do what you do, would be counter to my oath.
I don't recall if it was in that conversation, clearly, that we talked more about the oath. But I said, what would you have me do? And he said, just do it and let the court sort it out.
And I said, you're asking me to do something that's never been done in history, the history of the United States. And I'm going to put my state through that without sufficient proof? And that's going to be good enough with me?
That I would put us through that? My state? That I swore to uphold both in Constitution and in law? No, sir.
He said, well, that's -- my suggestion would be just do it and let the courts figure it all out.
[13:49:57] And I -- he didn't use that exact phrase, but that was what he -- his meaning was. And I declined, and I believe that was close to the end of our phone call.
SCHIFF: And again, this took place after you had recently spoken with President Trump and told him that you wouldn't do anything illegal for him. Is that right?
BOWERS: It wasn't days after. Obviously, it was days after, but a few days had gone by.
SCHIFF: But you had told President Trump you would not do anything illegal for him?
BOWERS: I did, both times.
SCHIFF: And you told Dr. Eastman that you did not believe there was the support to justify what he was asking but he still wanted you to do it, and effectively let the courts work it out?
BOWERS: I'd been warned, don't say things you think maybe he said. But I do remember him saying that the authority of the legislature was plenary and that you can do it.
And I said, then you should know that I can't even call the legislature into session without a two-thirds majority vote. We're only 30-plus-one. There's no way that could happen.
SCHIFF: In your view, what he was asking you to do would have violated your oath to the Constitution, both the United States Constitution and the constitution of the state of Arizona?
BOWERS: Yes, sir.
SCHIFF: Did you also receive a call from U.S. Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona on the morning of January 6th?
SCHIFF: What did Mr. Biggs ask you to do?
BOWERS: I believe that was the day that the vote was occurring to each state have certification or to declare the certification of the electors.
And he asked if I would sign on both to a letter than had been sent to my state and/or that I would support decertification of the electors. And I said I would not.
SCHIFF: Mr. Speaker, on December 4, 2020, shortly after meeting with Rudy Giuliani and other allies of President Trump, you released a statement publicly addressing, quote, "calls for the legislature to overturn the 2020 certified election results."
The statement is very straightforward in explaining the, quote, "breathtaking request," unquote, made by representatives of President Trump.
Quote, "That the Arizona legislator overturn the certified results of last month's election and deliver the state's Electoral College votes to President Trump," unquote.
Why did you believe, as you wrote in this statement, that the rule of law forbid you from doing what President Trump and his allies told you to do?
BOWERS: Representative -- I am sorry, I should be saying Mr. Chairman, Representative Schiff.
The -- there's two sides to the answer. And one is, what am I allowed to do? What am I forbidden to do?
We have no legal pathway both in state law nor, to my knowledge, in federal law for us to execute such a request.
And I am not allowed to walk or act beyond my authority. If I am not specifically authorized as a legislator, as a legislature, then I cannot act to the point of calling us into session.
Some say that, just a few legislators have plenary power authority. And that is part of all of this discussion going on.
So to not have authority and be forbidden to act beyond my authority on both counts, I am not authorized to take such action and that would deny my oath.
SCHIFF: In your statement, you included experts from President Ronald Reagan's inaugural address in 1981.
The newly inaugurated president told the country, quote:
"The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place as it has for almost two centuries and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every four-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle."
Tell us, if you would, Mr. Speaker, why did you include President Reagan's words in your statement?
BOWERS: Mr. Chairman, Representative Schiff, because I have a lot of admiration for Ronald Reagan. I had an opportunity of going through his home with one other person and walking through. And I have a lot of admiration for him.
When he pointed out, which is, I have lived in other countries for a period of time and have visited a few countries.
And during election times, the fact that we allow an election, support an election, and stand behind an election, even in the past when there has been serious questions about the election, and then move on without disturbance and with acceptance that we choose to follow the outcome of the will of the people.
That will -- means a lot to me and I know it meant a lot to him. So I included that.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Speaker Bowers.
And now I want to look even more deeply at the fake electors scheme.
Every four years, citizens from all over the U.S. go to the polls to elect their present. Under our Constitution, when we cast our votes for president, we are going to send electors pledged to our preferred candidate to the Electoral College.
In December, the electors in each state meet, cast their votes and send those votes to Washington. There's only one legitimate state electors from each state.
On the sixth day of January, Congress meets in a joint session to count those votes. And the winner of the Electoral College votes becomes the president.
In this next segment, you will hear how President Trump and his campaign were directly involved in advancing and coordinating the plot to replace legitimate Biden electors with fake electors not chosen by the voters.
You will hear how this campaign convinced these fake electors to cast and submit their votes with fake certificates, telling them that their votes would only be used in the event that President Trump won his legal challenges.
Yet, when the president lost those legal challenges and when courts rejected them as frivolous and without merit, the fake electors scheme continued.
At this point, President Trump's own lawyers, so-called "Team Normal," walked away rather than participate in the plan. And his own White House counsel's office said the plan was not legally sound.
Let's play the following video produced by this Select Committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CASEY LUCIER, INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL: My name is Casey Lucier. I am investigative counsel for the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6th attack on the United States capitol.
On November 18th, a lawyer working with the Trump campaign, named Kenneth Chesebro (ph), wrote a member arguing that the Trump campaign should organize its own electors in the swing states that President Trump had lost.
The Select Committee received testimony that those close to President Trump began planning to organize fake electors for Trump in states that Biden won in the weeks after the election. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do you remember being involved in these early
discussions around Thanksgiving time regarding having alternate electors meet?
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO REP. MARK MEADOWS: Rudy Giuliani, several Giuliani associates, Mr. Meadows, members of Congress.
Although it's difficult to distinguish if the members I'm thinking of were involved during Thanksgiving or if they were involved as it progressed through December.
LUCIER: At the president's direct request, the RNC assisted the campaign in coordinating this effort.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did the president say when he called you?
RONNA ROMNEY MCDANIEL, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRWOMAN: Essentially, he turned the call over to Mr. Eastman, who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors in case any of the legal challenges that were ongoing changed the result of any states.
I think just more helping them reach out and assemble them. But my understanding is the campaign did take the lead and we just were helping them in that role.
LUCIER: As President Trump and his supporters continued to lose losses, some campaign lawyers became convinced that convening electors in states that Trump lost was no longer appropriate.
JUSTIN CLARK, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN LAWYER: I just remember I either replied or called somebody saying, unless we have litigation pending in these states, I don't think this is appropriate. This isn't the right thing to do. I don't remember how I phrased it.
But I got into a little bit of a back and forth. And I think it was with Ken Chesebro (ph). And I said, all right, please get after it. Like, I'm out.
MATT MORGAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN LAWYER: At that point, I had Josh Finley email Mr. Cheeseborough (ph) politely to say, this is your task.