"I took an oath": The affecting Rusty Bowers testimony

"I took an oath": The affecting Rusty Bowers testimony

I’ve followed news on the “stop the steal” effort reasonably closely yet am embarrassed to say I hadn’t heard of Bowers until today’s January 6 hearing. For whatever reason, among the major players at the state level in Team Trump’s effort to overturn the election, he’s flown under the media radar relative to, say, Brad Raffensperger.


As it turns out, he may have been the most effective witness to testify at the hearings so far.

Bowers is the speaker of the Arizona House, who was lobbied by lowlifes like Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, and Andy Biggs to decertify the election after the fact in hopes of undoing Biden’s narrow victory there. Their case was … not compelling:

Bowers turned out to be an interesting stylistic contrast to Raffensperger, who also testified today. Raffensperger is a numbers guy, unflappable, by the book. He told the committee there’s a simple reason why Trump lost and it had nothing to do with cheating. Some 28,000 Georgians who voted downballot, many for Republicans, evidently couldn’t bring themselves to cast a vote for Trump and left the presidential line blank. That was the difference in the state.

No conspirator capable of rigging a ballot to help Democrats win the presidency would have insisted on voting Republican in congressional races.

As I say, Raffensperger’s was a “just the facts” presentation. Bowers’s was emotional. His engagement with Trump’s cronies raised a fascinating question: How does a person of honor, whose integrity is grounded in religious conviction, handle a corrupt bargain offered to him by the political equivalent of mob goons?


It’s hard to think of an exchange more emblematic of the Trump era than one man insisting upon being true to his oath and the other scolding him to remember that he’s a Republican.

Here’s a window into the character of the person whom Giuliani was trying to turn:

Watching that, you can understand Rudy’s mystification. Given the circles he moves in nowadays, how long must have it been before meeting Bowers that he came face to face with someone who refused to do the wrong thing purely because it was wrong?

Trump enemies come in all shapes, sizes, races, and religious creeds but the one thing they have in common once they’ve attained a certain degree of notoriety is being physically threatened by the fascist core of 45’s most fanatic followers. Everyone — everyone — in that cohort has traumatic stories about lunatics menacing them, something Republicans have no difficulty denouncing when it comes to protests outside Supreme Court justices’ homes but which they tend to overlook in embarrassed silence with respect to the many targets of “rigged election” cranks. Based on Bowers’s testimony in this clip, it sounds like he’s had some close encounters with QAnoners:


Bowers’s daughter died of her illness less than a month after the insurrection. Based on what we know of Trump’s reaction to the “Hang Mike Pence” chants on January 6, you’ll never convince me that he doesn’t relish seeing his enemies forced to live in fear of physical harm for having crossed him.

Bowers’s reward for refusing to let the president’s henchmen muscle him into participating in a coup was this statement issued by Trump this morning, alleging that Bowers told him privately that the election had been rigged:

Bowers denies it. I leave it to you to judge, based on the clips above and what you know about Trump, to decide which of them is more likely to be lying.

The unspoken question swirling at each of the January 6 hearings is whether Trump will be charged with a crime for his role in the insurrection. A recent poll found that 58 percent of Americans believe he should be, but the only crime he could have plausibly committed on January 6 was incitement and incitement is very hard to prove. A better question is whether he might have committed a crime before then, by trying to undo the election on fraudulent pretenses. To prove that, prosecutors would have to show that he believed he had lost and dishonestly went about trying to overturn the election anyway. If instead he was sincerely convinced that he’d won, the George Costanza defense would be available to him.


But was he sincerely convinced? Alyssa Farah Griffin, his director of strategic communications in the White House, recently told CNN that Trump once exclaimed upon seeing Biden on television, “Can you believe I lost to this guy?” Some reporting also raises the possibility that he was more in touch with reality than he seemed:

With public pressure for criminal charges rising, MAGAworld has allegedly begun hunting around for a scapegoat. No honor among thieves:

With the Justice Department and Jan. 6 committee taking a close look at Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, he and his cronies could certainly use a fall guy, and it looks like they’ve found their patsy: right-wing lawyer John Eastman.

Eastman worked for Trump as the attorney devised legal strategies to overturn the election to keep the outgoing president in power. But, in recent weeks, Trump has confided to those close to him that he sees no reason to publicly defend Eastman, two people familiar with the matter tell Rolling Stone. The ex-president is also deeply annoyed with Eastman and all the negative “attention” and media coverage that the lawyer’s work has brought Trump and his inner sanctum, including during the ongoing Jan. 6 hearings on Capitol Hill.

Furthermore, to those who’ve spoken Trump about Eastman in recent months, the ex-president has repeated an excuse he often uses when backed into a corner, as investigators confront him with an associates’ misdeeds: He has privately insisted he “hardly” or “barely” knows Eastman, despite the fact that he counseled Trump on taking a string of extra-legal measures in a bid to stay in power and wrote the so-called “coup memo,” which laid out the facsimile of a legal argument for reversing Trump’s election defeat.


In a just world Eastman would be in prison. But he wouldn’t be there alone.

In lieu of an exit question, read about the revelation that a documentary filmmaker was working with Trump and his family before and after the “stop the steal” period and interviewed many of the major players at the time, including Trump himself. There’s even “raw footage” from January 6, which the committee just subpoenaed. Trump’s own advisors claim they had no idea any such documentary was happening. Said one, “What the f*** is this?”

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