WASHINGTON — The chairman of the U.S. House committee investigating the breach of the Capitol on January 6th and the causes behind it said Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was a crucial witness.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, spoke for the first time publicly about the closed door hearing that was held two weeks ago. During the meeting, Raffensperger talked about the phone call he received from then-President Donald Trump who told him to “find” the votes to overturn Joe Biden’s general election victory in Georgia.
Thompson said that Raffensperger spoke about his efforts to defend the integrity of the state’s election system despite claims from Trump and his allies that the election had been stolen, which was based on falsehoods and misinformation that were all debunked when audits and recounts confirmed Biden’s win.
“In spite of the pressure from President Trump, Mark Meadows and others, he has steadfastly held to that position,” Thompson said.
Meadows, a former U.S. House member who was serving as Trump’s chief of staff at the time of the Capitol breach, was initially a cooperating witness, like Raffensperger. But he later ignored the committee’s subpoena and refused to testify.
House Democrats plus two Republicans voted late Tuesday to refer Meadows to the Justice Department for contempt of Congress. The department will now decide whether to bring criminal charges against Meadows, who argues executive privilege gives him the right to decline to appear for questioning.
Meadows made a surprise visit to Georgia in December during an audit of absentee ballots, asking about the signature validation process. By that time, Raffensperger and his family had begun to receive death threats because of his comments defending the integrity of the election outcome.
He now faces primary challenges to his 2022 re-election bid, including U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, who Trump endorsed. Hice is among the lawmakers who attempted to reject Biden’s electoral college votes from Georgia, and he continues to question to validity of the election.
Thompson said that unannounced visit from a top Trump official was just part of the intense pressure campaign Raffensperger faced.
“Well, obviously if the President called him, if Mark Meadows went to Georgia, if countless other people communicated with him, then clearly he stood his ground and he’s a principal person,” Thompson said. " And because of that, he’s being criticized by people because he didn’t cheat.”