After watching this and Rusty Bowers’s testimony earlier, George Conway declared this the “Have you no decency?” hearing by the January 6 committee. There was some nuts-and-bolts material about how Trump and Rudy Giuliani tried to pressure Brad Raffensperger and Bowers into overturning the election but the core of it was the emotional toll taken on those who ended up as collateral damage in a corrupt scheme. Bowers was one example — although if you’re inclined towards callousness, you might dismiss the harassment he faced as an unfortunate cost of doing business as an elected official in America 2022.
But what about random people who volunteered to work at election precincts and ended up being marked for death because Crazy Rudy needed conspiracy material to keep MAGA fans engaged?
I’ve written before about Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. Reuters profiled them in December after interviewing them about how they’d spent the last year of their lives. Freeman and Moss, who are mother and daughter, were the unwitting stars of Giuliani’s allegation that surveillance video had captured Georgia polling workers unloading illegal ballots after hours. That was a lie, as practically everything that comes out of Giuliani’s mouth is, but millions of people desperate to believe that their hero hadn’t truly lost the election seized on it as “proof” that he hadn’t lost the election.
Trump himself mentioned Freeman by name in his phone call with Brad Raffensperger in January 2021. Here’s my summary from December of what Reuters says happened next:
Freeman had to move multiple times due to threats. Moss sounds like she’s suffering an ongoing nervous breakdown, unable to cook, clean, or even walk her dog reliably anymore. Both women changed their appearance and spoke to Reuters on the condition that the outlet wouldn’t take photos, describe what they look like, or say where they met with the reporters. Moss’s son was so unsettled by the threats from crazed Trumpers high on election-fraud propaganda (“Be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920. You would be hanging along with your mother.”) that he began failing in school. Their lives have been destroyed because the then-president and too many of his fans didn’t care who got hurt by his conspiracy theories. In fact, Freeman and her daughter both ended up on a list of names of people to be executed that was confiscated by the FBI from a January 6 insurrectionist.
They were both present at today’s hearing, although only Moss testified in person. (Freeman had been deposed previously.) I suppose each felt tired of living in fear, or at least morally obliged to seek what justice they could get by letting the world know what Trump, Giuliani, and their cronies had done to them. Moss sounded like she’s still having a nervous breakdown.
In emotional testimony, former GA election worker Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss recalls the moment she found out about the threats to both her and her mother following attacks from Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani. pic.twitter.com/1ldHHXQE4L
— The Katie Phang Show (@katiephangshow) June 21, 2022
“I don’t go to the grocery store at all.”
Former Georgia elections worker Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, who was aggressively targeted in the weeks after the 2020 election, explained how the harassment she faced by pro-Trump supporters irreversibly changed her life. pic.twitter.com/5bGXMzNIz6
— NBC News (@NBCNews) June 21, 2022
At one point she was shown a video of Giuliani alleging that she and her mother were passing around USB drives like “vials of heroin and cocaine.” What were you actually passing, Moss was asked? “A ginger mint,” she said.
Parts of Freeman’s deposition were also played, including when she described how she fears using her name in public anymore just in case there’s some crazed Trumper within earshot who might be inclined to attack her:
Ruby Freeman, Moss’s mom, details how Trump’s lies about her damaged her reputation and made her fear for her safety pic.twitter.com/ltjhfuO7re
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 21, 2022
I wonder if she was in disguise during the deposition. Her hair wasn’t purple in the audience today and she wasn’t wearing glasses. Maybe she decided that if she was going to be brave and attend to support her daughter, she had to go the whole nine yards.
Either way, she and Moss are among hundreds of people who were reduced to de facto cannon fodder in Trump’s war on the truth about 2020. Some are the insurrectionists who were hoodwinked into believe the election was stolen; some are the cops who had to defend the Capitol from them; some are election workers like Freeman and Moss; and some are elected officials like Rusty Bowers. Steve Cutler, the speaker of the Pennsylvania House, testified today (via deposition) that he was doxxed after Team Trump started pressuring PA Republicans to undo the results there and began receiving threatening voicemail messages. (“We are outside.”) Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s secretary of state, said protesters showed up to her home. As I said in the Bowers post, the one thing all prominent Trump enemies have in common is intimate experience with fascist threats and physical intimidation.
But most elected officials can count on dedicated police protection when they’re threatened. Randos like Moss and Freeman can’t.
You know who I thought about while watching Moss’s testimony? Mike Pence. What was Shaye Moss doing, risking her life by appearing before the cameras today, while Mike Pence was hundreds or thousands of miles away, enjoying his day? When does Pence tell us firsthand what happened behind the scenes of “stop the steal”?
Judging from what he told Fox News this week, it’ll be sometime between tomorrow and never:
“Jan. 6 was a tragic day, and I know we did our duty, but I will always be proud of our record,” Pence told Fox News. “And I am not going to allow the Democrats to use that tragic day to distract attention from their failed agenda or to demean the intentions of 74 million Americans who rallied behind our cause.”
Last week the committee spent hours explaining how Trump’s callousness and narcissism almost led to Pence being murdered inside the Capitol, and Pence’s reaction is “I don’t want this to distract from inflation.”
He’s a tragic figure.
Imagine personal integrity among politicians as a spectrum, with Liz Cheney on one end and, let’s say, Ted Cruz and Elise Stefanik on the other. On the far Cheney end of the spectrum, you’re willing to blow up your career to do the right thing. On the Cruz/Stefanik end, you’ll eagerly do the wrong thing to advance your career. Mike Pence is about a quarter way from the Cruz/Stefanik end towards the Cheney end: He’s willing to condone a lot of bad behavior in the name of maintaining power, but asking him to singlehandedly cause the worst constitutional crisis since 1861 by blocking certification of the electoral college? He just can’t do that. You need a Cruz or Stefanik in order to go that far. Pence has a bit too much Cheney in him.
The tragic part, in other words, is that Pence knows right from wrong — but his own ambition forbids him from acting on it *except* in the most extreme circumstances. He could testify before the January 6 committee at any time; in fact, he reportedly encouraged his former counsel, Greg Jacob, to testify in person. But because he can’t relinquish his lifelong dream of becoming president someday — which won’t ever happen now — he’s forced to babble in interviews about how the committee is supposedly a “distraction,” never mind that no voters are actually being distracted from six-dollar gas as the hearings play out. He could do the right thing and tell what he knows but Republican voters would treat that as his final “betrayal,” ending whatever small chance remains of him leading a national ticket. So he’ll do the wrong thing instead. You can imagine him thinking, “I already did the right thing once before! How many times do you want me to do it?”
I’ll leave you with this tidbit. Not all attempts to pressure election workers came in the form of threats, it must be noted. Evidently there were some bribes offered too. Really cheap ones.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) says the 1/6 committee obtained text messages indicating Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted to send Georgia election investigators “a shitload of POTUS stuff, including coins, actual autographed MAGA hats, etc.” pic.twitter.com/7seEWwepnY
— The Recount (@therecount) June 21, 2022