Alone in Washington, Rusty Bowers tells world what happened in Arizona

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Hours before Arizona House Speaker Russell ‘Rusty’ Bowers (R) testified about how he refused to help Donald Trump overturn the 2020 election results, he sat alone in his Capitol Hill hotel room, reading quotes about courage from John F. Kennedy and watching a video of a church elder on being a peacemaker.

Bowers, 69, in a new white shirt and suit he bought years ago, one he keeps for special occasions, like visiting a Church of Jesus Christ temple of Latter Day Saints. Although formal, it puts him at ease.

The lifelong Republican had packed a red tie but it was too bold, so he put on a blue one instead. He then walked alone to the United States Capitol and slowly made his way to the courtroom that would become the setting for the most publicized moment of his decades-long political career.

Bowers was subpoenaed by the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, uprising to testify about the events following Trump’s loss of 10,457 votes in Arizona. Bowers had voted for Trump, campaigned for Trump, but wouldn’t break the law for him – and as a result his political future was in jeopardy, his personality was questioned and his family was harassed while his daughter was dying.

He woke up early on Tuesday to read some of the notes he kept during that time, written in cursive in personal notebooks.

“Am I too prepared? Bowers said in an interview. “I have no idea. We’ll find out when I walk into this room.

In entering, his goal was to bring a measure of reconciliation, not conflict, to this moment.

“I would like, whatever small part I had, to reduce conflicts and work towards a more continuous reconciliation of people,” he said. “I don’t need to win anything.”

WATCH: January 6 Committee Holds Fourth Serial Public Hearing (Full Live Stream)

Shortly before the hearing began, he responded to a call from an Arizona House attorney who relayed that Trump had released a statement claiming that Bowers “told me the election was rigged and that I had won Arizona”. Bowers chuckled at the absurdity.

In the courtroom, Bowers sat alongside Georgia election officials Brad Raffensperger and Gabe Sterling, who faced similar pressure from Trump and his allies to reverse his loss there. Later in the day, the committee heard testimony from former Georgia election worker Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss, whose life was threatened after Rudy Giuliani, a Trump lawyer, claimed she had participated in a bogus ballot. Both Bowers and Moss received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award this year for their efforts to protect democracy.

Bowers went first and began his testimony by refuting Trump’s statement.

“I had a conversation with the president,” he said carefully and deliberately, his glasses perched on the tip of his nose. “It’s definitely not that. Anywhere, anytime, said I said the election was rigged – that wouldn’t be true.

Trump pressure drew violence, threats against local officials, committee shows

Bowers – a professional artist known for his storytelling – then recounted his first conversation with Trump and Giuliani, which came after a church service in the weeks following the 2020 election. Bowers called them back, asking them to summon the legislature to investigate their unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud and put in place a strategy to replace the chosen voters with another group more favorable to Trump. Bowers repeatedly asked them for evidence beyond hearsay and insinuations that the election was stolen. Giuliani said he would provide such evidence, but it never came. Bowers said he told them their legal theory was foreign to him and he needed to consult with his attorneys.

“I said, ‘Listen, you’re asking me to do something that’s against my oath,'” Bowers said. He told the men that he would not break his oath and that he would respect the Constitution.

For several weeks, Giuliani and other Trump allies failed to produce promised documents, and Bowers refused to allow a formal legislative hearing to consider allegations of widespread fraud. A “circus was brewing” around the allegations, and Bowers said he didn’t want it brought into the Arizona house.

THE ATTACK: The siege of the United States Capitol on January 6 was neither a spontaneous act nor an isolated event.

Instead, another House GOP member and vocal denier held a meeting with claims of wrongdoing at a hotel in downtown Phoenix. On the same day, Governor Doug Ducey (right) certified the Arizona election results.

The next day, Dec. 1, 2020, Bowers attended an in-person meeting with Giuliani, attorney Jenna Ellis, Arizona GOP state lawmakers and others, where he was again pressed to help nullify the election results.

He recalled something Giuliani said: “He said, ‘We have a lot of theories – we just don’t have the evidence. ”

At the time, Bowers wrote in a diary page that he told Giuliani and the band, “The US Constit. doesn’t say I can overturn the laws I work to uphold that color this very issue.

In the absence of evidence from Giuliani and others, the Arizona speaker felt he was being asked to violate his oath to the Constitution.

“I won’t do that, and,” Bowers testified, stopping to control his emotions. “On more than one occasion – on more than one occasion throughout all of this, it has come up. And it is a tenet of my faith that the Constitution is divinely inspired – of my most fundamental core beliefs. And so for me to do this because someone just asked me to do this is foreign to my very being.

On January 3, 2021, an attorney from the Arizona House spoke with pro-Trump attorney John Eastman, who previewed a legal theory for Arizona voter decertification. The next day, Eastman laid out his theory on a call with Bowers, who asked if his strategy had ever been tested. Eastman encouraged him to try and let the courts sort it out. Bowers refused.

A final attempt to persuade Bowers took place on the morning of January 6, shortly before the Capitol riot.

It came from his own congressman, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Arizona), a staunch ally of Trump, a former speaker of the Arizona Senate and former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus who cast doubt on the results of the 2020 elections. He asked Bowers to support voter decertification.

“I said I wouldn’t,” Bowers recalled.

This tough stance has made him the target of protests and nasty accusations. In early December, “Stop the Steal” supporters gathered in the lobby of the State House. Bowers was out of town at the time, but some in the crowd shouted his name. On Tuesday, the committee unveiled a video featuring these protesters, including Jake Angeli, the “QAnon shaman” who wore a fur hat, horns and face paint when he entered the Capitol on January 6. It was an ominous sign of the violence that would come.

In the weeks that followed, the Bowers neighborhood in Mesa, a suburb east of Phoenix, was virtually occupied at times by caravans of Trump supporters.

They shouted at Bowers through megaphones, filmed his house and held parades to ridicule him that featured a military-style civilian truck. At one point, a man showed up with a gun and was threatening Bowers’ neighbor.

“When I saw the gun, I knew I had to come closer,” he testified.

Enraged pro-Trump voters sought unsuccessfully to recall Bowers, and Bowers said he distributed flyers accusing him of corruption and pedophilia.

As the drama unfolded outside her home, her daughter, Kacey, was dying inside.

She was “shattered by what was going on outside, and my wife is a brave person. Very very strong. Calm. A very strong woman,” Bowers said, her chin quivering. “So it was disturbing. It was disturbing.

Kacey Bowers died on January 28, 2021, as efforts by some Republicans to deepen doubts over Trump’s loss gathered pace and dragged her father deeper into the 2020 election debate. He tried to convince his fellow Republicans that he was doing the right thing, but with little luck. He faces challengers in the Aug. 2 Republican primary in Arizona.

It’s a position he’s willing to live with. He thinks that the judgment of the voters is insignificant compared to the eventual judgment of his creator. At the end of her testimony, Bowers read a diary entry from December 2020.

“I may, in the eyes of men, not hold correct opinions or act according to their views or beliefs, but I do not take this current situation in a light-hearted way, in a fearful way or in a vengeful way. “, did he declare. “I don’t want to win by cheating. I will not play with the laws to which I have sworn allegiance. With any contrived desire to deviate from my deep and fundamental desire to follow God’s will as I believe it has led my conscience to embrace it. Otherwise, how could I ever approach him in the wilderness of life knowing that I only ask for this advice to be a coward in defending the course… he led me to take.

After testifying, Bowers made his way to the airport, heading home to complete the essential tasks of the state legislature: passing a budget before the end of the fiscal year. A heavier task awaits him this weekend: picking up his daughter’s tombstone.

While eating a salad alone, he realized he had forgotten to tell the panel that he would not be forced out of public office.

“They can beat me,” he said of the upcoming election, “but they’re not going to harass me.”

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