It’s been a lonely, and occasionally harrowing, 18 months as a journalist in Georgia, as my colleagues and I have written time and again that the 2020 election in Georgia was not stolen, but loyal Donald Trump voters insisted we were wrong.
“How do you know it wasn’t stolen you stupid —?” one especially foul-mouthed reader emailed in December.
Another emailed a long screed and closed: “STOP LYING TO US!!!!”
One suggested, “What if you had gotten your (expletive) beat, see what woulda happened? LOL.”
Georgia officials reported over and over again that the 2020 election had not been stolen and we reported it.
Now, thanks to testimony presented to the Jan. 6 committee in Washington last week, we know that Trump’s own Justice Department, Trump campaign lawyers, and lawyers in Trump’s White House Counsel’s Office all knew it wasn’t stolen, either — and told him so over and over again.
Bill Barr testified that when Trump and Rudy Giuliani floated their theories of a “rigged” election to him immediately after Election Day, he told the then-president the allegations were “(expletive).”
Barr also described the relentless new conspiracies he fielded from Trump as “absolute rubbish,” “bogus,” “stupid” and “crazy stuff.” Responding to them was “like a game of Whack-a-Mole.”
Barr eventually resigned, he said, because, “You can’t live in a world where the incumbent administration stays in power based on its view, unsupported by specific evidence, that there was fraud in the election.”
Trump replaced Barr at the top of the Justice Department with Jeffrey Rosen, who also testified that Trump’s fraud claims were all wrong.
“Some argued to the former president and public that the election was corrupt and stolen,” Rosen told the committee. “That view was wrong then and it is wrong today, and I hope our presence here today helps reaffirm that fact.”
In video testimony and in person, lawyers from up and down Trump’s legal team testified that Trump’s allegations of election fraud were not just wrong, but could potentially put his team in legal jeopardy had they gone along with it.
Justin Clark, a Trump campaign lawyer, said in video testimony that he remembered telling a colleague he couldn’t justify what Trump was trying to do, including overturning elections, without any proof at all.
“This isn’t the right thing to do … I’m out,” he said.
It wasn’t just Washington lawyers telling him the election had not been rigged or stolen.
Georgians have long known about Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s rejection of Trump’s efforts.
But the committee also heard from Russell Bowers, the Republican Speaker of the House of Arizona, who had been a Trump supporter before the 2020 election and has said he’d vote for Trump again, although after hearing his testimony I can’t think why.
He told the committee that the Arizona election, which President Joe Biden won, was categorically not stolen.
Although Rudy Giuliani and Trump’s new legal team claimed over and over that they had evidence of fraud, they never produced it for Bowers.
Eventually, Giuliani admitted he didn’t have evidence but asked Bowers to convene the state House to decertify the state’s Biden electors anyway. Bowers refused.
“You’re asking me to do something that’s against my oath and I will not break my oath,” he recalled telling Giuliani.
Trump made a similar demand of Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, who also refused.
“I think the words I would have used are, ‘We are going to follow the law,’ ” he testified on video.
Standing up to the president came at a terrible personal cost to nearly all of the officials who went up against him, including Raffensperger.
Many are still suffering for the choices they made.
After Shirkey refused Trump’s demands in Michigan, Trump tweeted out Shirkey’s personal contact information.
When Pennsylvania House Speaker Brian Cutler refused to return the daily voicemails he got from Giuliani and his staff urging him to intervene in that state’s certification, Steve Bannon led a protest at Cutler’s home and offices, including when his 15-year-old son was home alone.
Russell Bowers in Arizona was inundated with 20,000 emails and tens of thousands of texts.
He told the committee that until even recently, “It is a pattern in our lives to worry what will happen on Saturdays, because various groups come by.”
He said trucks, mounted with video screens, drive through his neighborhood calling him a pedophile and a criminal.
As horrible as those stories were, none compared to the testimony of Fulton County election workers Shaye Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman.
“Do you know what it feels like to have the president of the United States target you?” Freeman asked in videotaped testimony.
Near tears as she testified in person, Moss said she rarely leaves her home, even to go to the grocery store, afraid someone will say her name and expose her identity.
“I felt horrible for picking this job, for being the one who wants to help,” she said, “I felt it was my fault for putting my family in this situation.”
In reality, the hearings have made clear that it was one man’s fault — Trump’s, for putting all of the election officials, and American democracy, in this situation.
I’ve heard people say countless times they’re reassured because “Democracy held.”
In reality, it was the resolve of people that held. Ruby Freeman and Shae Moss, Russell Bowers and Brad Raffensperger, Bill Barr and Mike Shirkey and the countless Americans along the way whose names we’ve barely or never known until now.
Time and again, at great peril to themselves, they stood up for the Constitution and for the truth. Despite Donald Trump’s best efforts, the election wasn’t stolen.