Jan. 6 hearing preview: Trump's efforts to overturn election results
ADRIAN FLORIDO, HOST:
The congressional panel investigating January 6 has been making its case that former President Trump and his allies knew he lost the 2020 election and then made plans to block the transfer of power. The next hearing on Tuesday will focus on how Trump pressured state officials to help him overturn the election results, most prominently in Georgia. Joining us now is Sam Gringlas, politics reporter with member station WABE in Atlanta. Hey, Sam.
SAM GRINGLAS, BYLINE: Hey, Adrian.
FLORIDO: Remind us why Georgia has a starring role in this investigation. And who are the witnesses on tap to help tell that story this week?
GRINGLAS: So on Tuesday, we're going to hear from Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and one of his deputies, Gabe Sterling. And their testimony is probably going to focus on this now infamous January 2021 phone call. That's when Trump pressured Raffensperger to declare him the winner in Georgia after Joe Biden narrowly flipped the state blue for the first time in years. Let me just play you a little bit of that call.
(SOUNDBITE OF PHONE CALL)
DONALD TRUMP: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.
GRINGLAS: Raffensperger refused to do what Trump wanted. And remember; runoff elections a few days later ended up giving Democrats control of the U.S. Senate. So Georgia has kind of taken on this symbolism, both for voters who saw Trump trying to wrestle away their hard-fought wins and for people who don't accept that he lost.
FLORIDO: Well, Georgia is going to be at the center of Tuesday's hearing. But this isn't the first time during these hearings that the focus has been on Georgia, is it?
GRINGLAS: Yeah. Last week, the committee also heard from B.J. Pak. He's a former U.S. Attorney in Georgia. And Pak told the committee how the Justice Department asked him to investigate a claim being spread by Trump's lawyer at the time, Rudy Giuliani, about a suitcase full of ballots. Well, an investigation found that Giuliani's claim was totally inaccurate, but Trump's allies kept spreading it anyway. And then Pak heard Trump was planning to fire him, so he resigned. Also last week, the committee released surveillance footage showing Georgia GOP Congressman Barry Loudermilk leading a tour of the Capitol complex the day before the insurrection. Attendees were snapping pictures of security desks and tunnels leading to the Capitol. And the committee says at least one of those people ended up marching on January 6. Loudermilk, though, points to the Capitol Police finding that the tour was not suspicious.
FLORIDO: Sam, there's also a special grand jury investigation going on at the same time where you are, in Fulton County, that's also looking into Trump. Where does that investigation stand?
GRINGLAS: So here in Atlanta, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has been investigating whether Trump or his allies committed crimes when they tried to overturn the election. And this spring, a special grand jury convened to start subpoenaing witnesses, including Secretary of State Raffensperger. This special grand jury can meet for up to a year and then at the end will make what's basically a recommendation on whether the prosecutor should pursue criminal charges. And so the district attorney's office is almost certainly keeping a close eye on the evidence that's being turned up during these hearings in Washington, too.
FLORIDO: And are people in Georgia paying close attention to these hearings?
GRINGLAS: Well, these hearings do hit a little closer to home here. I went to a Juneteenth celebration outside Atlanta on Saturday, and I asked voters whether they'd been watching. I met LeVenita Burnett, a Democrat, and she was sitting on a lawn chair in the shade.
LEVENITA BURNETT: I think the people already really know what happened from what we've already read and heard and seen. So whether it'll make some people change who just wanted to avoid the truth, hopefully. I'm not sure what good it's going to do, especially if they don't hold people accountable.
GRINGLAS: And, you know, I've also talked to a lot of GOP voters in the last few months. And almost two years on, there are still plenty of people in Georgia who believe the election was stolen. So LeVenita Burnett asks a good question - will these hearings change anyone's minds who believe the election falsehoods Trump has spread? And you know, Adrian, that matters, especially if Trump runs again and if Georgia elections keep being decided by these very slim margins.
FLORIDO: I've been speaking with politics reporter Sam Gringlas with member station WABE in Atlanta. Thanks, Sam.
GRINGLAS: Thanks, Adrian. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.