Jan. 6 investigation sheds light on events in Georgia

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

A U.S. House committee spent months investigating the events that led to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Its final report details then-President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.

One measure of the centrality of Georgia to Trump’s plan: The word “Georgia” appears 758 times in the House Jan. 6 committee’s 845-page report. Interviews and documents gathered by the committee have also shed new light on events in the state in the weeks leading up to the attack. Here are three revelations.

Public vs. private statements

In public, then-state Sen. William Ligon did as much as any legislator to promote Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election in Georgia was rife with fraud. In private, Ligon didn’t see any violations of federal or state law, according to testimony from former U.S. Attorney Byung “BJay” Pak.

Ligon did as much as any Georgia legislator to aid Trump’s campaign to overturn the election.

He convened a special committee that allowed Trump to air hours of dubious voting fraud claims. He produced a report that repeated those claims — many of which had already been investigated and determined to be false. He was in Washington on Jan. 6 to try to persuade Republicans in Congress to reject Georgia’s official presidential electors.

In late December 2020, Ligon spoke with Pak about voting fraud allegations. Pak and the FBI had investigated fraud claims and found nothing to them. Pak told investigators that he asked Ligon whether his hearings had uncovered evidence of violations of federal law.

“And he said, ‘No, I didn’t see anything like that,’ ” Pak told congressional investigators. “I asked him if there was any other kind of violation he could think (of). He wasn’t sure whether or not there was any state law violations, either.

“And so that gave me a little bit of assurance that even with someone who’s been front and center on these hearings that he didn’t see anything that would be — that could be corroborated or even worthy of looking at as a violation of federal law,” Pak said.

Ligon did not respond to a request for comment.

‘We can blow this wide open’

A letter from Georgia lawmakers urging then-Vice President Mike Pence to delay certifying the 2020 presidential election may have been delivered after all.

A few days before Congress was set to certify the results on Jan. 6, Georgia legislators wrote a letter to Pence, urging him to postpone congressional certification of Biden’s victory in the presidential election.

Then-state Sen. Burt Jones (now Georgia’s lieutenant governor) planned to deliver the letter to Pence in person on Jan. 5, but he later told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he changed his mind.

It turns out, Jones wasn’t the only one trying to deliver the letter. Sen. Brandon Beach sent it to Pence, according to transcripts of interviews with several White House officials.

The transcripts quote a Jan. 5 email from Trump donor and Buckhead cityhood advocate Bill White to White House officials. White was forwarding an email Beach sent to him.

“Attached is the letter that I sent to Vice President Pence,” Beach wrote in his email to White. “I believe if we can get a 10 to 12 day extension, we can blow this wide open.”

In forwarding Beach’s email to the White House, White explained that a “10 to 12 day extension (would) put that smack in the middle of Georgia legislature actually being back in session automatically (without Kemp calling it).”

It’s unclear from testimony whether Pence ever saw the letter. He ultimately determined he did not have the authority to reject official presidential electors.

Beach declined to comment. White did not respond to requests for comment.

Fulton election workers were on a ‘death list’

One of the most harrowing details contained in the Jan. 6 committee’s report: Two Fulton County election workers wound up on a “death list” kept by a member of the far-right Oath Keepers militia.

Trump and his advisers had accused Fulton election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss of voting fraud, citing an election night video from State Farm Arena, where votes were being tallied. Trump’s team said the video showed brazen fraud. Investigators said the video showed ordinary ballot counting and determined the election workers did nothing wrong.

But Trump’s team kept making the allegations long after they had been debunked. As a result, the election workers received hundreds of threats from people who believed Trump’s lies. Freeman fled her home for two months on the advice of the FBI.

Their worries were well-founded.

“According to Federal prosecutors, a member of the Oath Keepers militia convicted of multiple offenses for his role in the January 6th insurrection had a document in his residence with the words ‘DEATH LIST’ written across the top,” the Jan. 6 report said.

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