WASHINGTON (AP) — Wandrea “Shaye” Moss testified before lawmakers Tuesday about how her life was turned upside down when former President Donald Trump and his allies falsely accused her and her mother of shooting fraudulent ballots from a suitcase in Georgia.
The former Georgia election worker recounted during a heartbreaking appearance before the House committee on January 6 how the defeated president clung to surveillance footage from November 2020 to accuse her and her mother, Ruby Freeman, of committing voter fraud – allegations that were quickly debunked, but widely publicized in the media conservatives.
Moss, who is black, said she received messages “wishing me dead. Telling me that I will be in prison with my mother. And say things like, “Be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920.”
“A lot of them were racist,” Moss said. “A lot of them were just hateful.”
The committee also aired testimony from Freeman, who sat behind Moss in the courtroom, showing her support for her daughter and at one point passing over a box of tissues as lawmakers heard about their heartbreaking ordeal.
“There’s nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere,” Freeman told the committee in the pre-recorded video. “Do you know what it’s like to be targeted by the President of the United States? The President of the United States is supposed to represent all Americans, not target one.
“But he targeted me,” she added.
The mother and daughter’s moving testimony was just the January 6 panel’s latest attempt to show how the lies perpetrated by Trump and his allies about a stolen election turned into real violence and intimidation against the guardians of American democracy: election officials and state and local government workers.
Several of the people who bought the election lies even showed up at Moss’ grandmother’s home to make a citizen’s arrest.
“I never heard or saw her cry, never in my life,” Moss said. “She called me screaming at the top of her voice… saying people were at her house.”
“I felt so helpless,” she added.
The barrage of threats against the two county employees mounted after Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani released surveillance footage of them counting ballots during a Georgia Senate committee hearing on 10 December 2021. Giuliani said the footage showed the women “sneaking around USB ports as if they were heroin or cocaine vials. What they were actually passing, Moss told the committee, was a mint at the ginger.
Giuliani and Trump allies kept repeating the bogus conspiracy theory that Moss and Freeman, along with other election workers in key battleground states, were packing ballots in suitcases. The claim was refuted by several Georgia election officials, who investigated and found the footage showed regular ballot boxes being used in Fulton County.
But it was too late. Conservative networks like One America News Network picked up on the false claim and it began to spread with the help of Trump himself. Moss and Freeman eventually filed a libel suit against the network and Giuliani last December. The case against OAN has since been dismissed with a settlement.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who led Thursday’s hearing, noted that Trump mentioned Freeman’s name 18 times during a call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. At one point, Trump called Freeman a “professional voting hustler and hustler.”
“It affected my life in a major way. In every way. All because of lies. Everything for me to do my job. The same thing I’ve been doing forever,” said Moss, who had been an election official for 10 years.
With so many threats swirling, the FBI urged Freeman to leave his home by Jan. 6 for security reasons. She testified that she had not been able to return for two months and that she felt homeless.
“The point is this: Donald Trump didn’t care about threats of violence,” said Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the committee’s vice chair, in her opening remarks Tuesday. “He didn’t condemn them, he made no effort to stop them; he went ahead with his false allegations anyway.
Raffensperger, Georgia’s top election official, and his deputy, Gabe Sterling, also testified to the relentless attacks they and their colleagues have faced as Trump falsely claimed widespread voter fraud in Georgia..
Raffensperger and his wife were victims of organized harassment – commonly known as doxxing. His wife, he said, received “disgusting” text messages of a sexual nature, and supporters of the president’s campaign demands broke into the house of Raffensperger’s daughter-in-law, where she was staying with her children.
Sterling recalled the moment in December 2020 that made him speak out. It was a tweet about a Dominion voting machine staffer – the focal point of other conspiracies Trump promoted on voter fraud – who said “you have committed treason. God have mercy on your soul.” It included a slowly writhing GIF of a noose.
“And for lack of a better word, I lost it,” Sterling told the committee. “I just got mad.”
That day, Sterling launched an impassioned plea at a press conference imploring Trump to condemn threats against election workers. “It has to stop,” he said.