Final Jan. 6 report details Trump’s ‘reckless’ attempt to overturn Georgia vote

Then-President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia play a key part in the 800-plus-page report released late Thursday by the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol. (Al Drago/Pool/Getty Images/TNS)

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Then-President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia play a key part in the 800-plus-page report released late Thursday by the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol. (Al Drago/Pool/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Then-President Donald Trump “recklessly” promoted lies about voter fraud at a ballot counting center in Atlanta despite being told at least four times his claims were false, according to the final report of the House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The document recounted that Trump’s top aide, Mark Meadows, lobbied state Sen. Marty Harbin to back a special legislative session to install pro-Trump electors after Joe Biden carried the state in the 2020 presidential election, writing in a text that “the state legislature can take over the electoral process.”

And the report highlights how Bill White, a GOP donor who heads the effort to forge a new city of Buckhead, messaged the then-president’s advisers to press Trump to criticize Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan after he refused to support calls to overturn the election.

The 800-plus-page report released late Thursday expanded on televised hearings this summer that explored Trump’s “multipart plan to overturn the 2020 election,” underscoring how his pressure to reverse his defeat in Georgia was at the center of his approach.

It included recommendations designed to prevent the scenario that led to the pro-Trump attack at the U.S. Capitol from happening again, including calling on Congress to consider barring Trump from holding office again. Trump announced a comeback bid in November.

Meanwhile, a group of Republican congressmen released their own Jan. 6 report earlier this week. It downplays Trump’s role in the events of Jan. 6 and focuses on Capitol security failures that it blames on Democratic leaders in Congress and on the leadership of the Capitol Police.

“The Democrat-led investigation in the House of Representatives, however, has disregarded those institutional failings that exposed the Capitol to violence that day,” the Republican report concluded.

Much of the official House report’s findings were revealed in previous reporting and outlined in a series of public hearings held over the summer.

Among the report’s Georgia-related findings:

Not a ‘smoking gun’

Credit: Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta J

Credit: Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta J

Trump continued to falsely assert he would have won Georgia if not for a conspiracy even though he was “repeatedly informed” by his deputies that the allegations were lies.

The lies were amplified at legislative hearings by adviser Rudy Giuliani, who misrepresented edited footage of vote-counting at State Farm Arena as “a smoking gun.” He was wrong: There were no “suitcases” of ballots being smuggled in, as Trump claimed, just normal ballot containers.

Trump was notified at least four different times the allegations were false, the report found. Then-Deputy U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen told him on Dec. 15: “It wasn’t a suitcase. It was a bin. That’s what they use when they’re counting ballots. It’s benign.”

But he and his allies continued to amplify the lies and use them to pressure Gov. Brian Kemp and other state officials who refused his demands to invalidate Biden’s win.

He also scapegoated two Fulton County elections workers — Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss — with a “malicious smear” about the ballot-counting process. Their lives were forever changed, and they faced death threats in the days and weeks that followed the lies.

The report says a member of the Oath Keepers militia convicted of multiple offenses for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection “had a document in his residence with the words “DEATH LIST” written across the top.

“His death list contained just two names: Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss,” the report said.

Bill White’s pressure

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

White emailed Trump advisers Giuliani and Dan Scavino to tell them he just spoke to state Sen. Burt Jones who asked whether Trump could amplify a tweet that urged voters to “call your state Senate & House Reps & ask them to sign the petition for a special session.”

Trump and Giuliani each retweeted Jones’ tweet within an hour. Jones, who served as a “fake” elector for Trump, won the race for lieutenant governor in November and will soon take office.

White also emailed several Trump advisers on Dec. 8, 2020, to urge the president to criticize Duncan and pressure state Senate leaders Mike Dugan and Butch Miller to call the special session.

He said Trump would call the two to “strategize with them why they are keeping this from happening.”

Dugan later confirmed that he had received a call from Trump’s office but they weren’t able to connect. Trump also spoke to then-Georgia Speaker David Ralston, who told the president that state law made a special session “very much an uphill battle.”

Meadows’ ‘central role’

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

A full chapter of the report, titled “I Just Want to Find 11,780 Votes,” explores Trump’s attempt to coerce Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger into reversing his defeat. It said Meadows played a “central role” in the lead-up to the call by texting the Georgia Republican several times.

When Meadows made a surprise visit to examine the audit of absentee ballots in Cobb County, he spoke to Raffensperger aide Jordan Fuchs and Frances Watson, the office’s top investigator. Trump and Watson later connected, and he pressed her to say that he had won “by a lot.”

Four days later, Meadows texted Fuchs and asked whether she could “speed up Fulton county verification in order to have results before Jan 6 if trump campaign assist(s) financially.” Fuchs was noncommittal, saying she would answer “ASAP.”

Meadows also texted with Harbin, who has declined to comment, and a number apparently belonging to U.S. Rep. Jody Hice. At the time, Hice informed him he had recently put out a statement “regarding a recall on Raffensperger. If this is something Potus wants to know and help push.”

Hice ran against Raffensperger in the Republican primary in May but lost. Raffensperger won reelection in November.

Anthony Michael Kreis, a constitutional law professor at Georgia State University, said the report underscores Trump’s legal jeopardy. He cited the repeated warnings that the allegations against the Fulton election workers were false.

Trump kept repeating the claims anyway. Kreis said it’s illegal under state law to harass, intimidate or impede election workers.

Kreis said the report also indicates Meadows and White could face charges for their role in Trump’s effort to overturn the election. But he said the committee may be holding back damning new evidence to share with investigators in Fulton County and the U.S. Department of Justice.

“A lot of the information that was in there was already public knowledge,” Kreis said. “The most important things the committee unearthed in terms of evidence aren’t necessarily going to be in the report.”