Donald Trump’s supporters, including armed demonstrators, descended on the Maricopa County vote-counting facility the day after Arizona’s 2020 presidential election. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-AZ, a local congressman, had emphasized Trump’s claims of a stolen election that morning. He claimed that many voters had used Sharpie pens, which bled through the paper and ruined their ballots, preventing the counting of Trump voters in the county with the highest population in his state.
Gosar headed straight for the demonstration despite the fact that the “Sharpie-gate” allegation was untrue. He confirmed their anxieties rather than advising those in attendance to accept unsatisfactory results. Gosar wasn’t by himself. Mark Brnovich, the attorney general of Arizona, a similarly ambitious Republican who is currently running for the U.S. Senate under the banner of “real conservatism,” initiated an investigation. These responses, which abused the standing and power of their position, were not unusual.
Trump contacted the top elected Republican in Maricopa County to put pressure on him to stop counting votes. Like the GOP in numerous competitive states, the Arizona Republican Party brought frivolous legal claims. Later that month, Trump’s Washington-based attorneys flew into Phoenix knowing that Joe Biden had won. They met with GOP lawmakers, who allowed them to utilize the statehouse in Arizona as a platform for more fabrications. A falsified and signed false Electoral College certificate stating that Trump had won was circulated in December by supporters, including state party executives and legislators. The vice president was then persuaded to count their illegitimate and fraudulent ballots on January 6.
The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol will examine how Trump’s campaign used pressure on local and state officials to void Biden’s victory at its fourth hearing. Two Republican election officials from Georgia and an Arizona state lawmaker who defied Trump’s demands and endured repeated threats from his fans into the elections of 2022 are among the witnesses on Tuesday.
According to the panel’s disclosures and other reporting gathered by States United Democracy Center, a nonpartisan group promoting free, fair, and secure elections, the occurrences in Arizona followed a pattern also seen in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
“The same lies and conspiracy theories that fueled the January 6 attack contributed to threatening and violent messages aimed at election officials,” its Arizona update said. “These threats were launched over email, voicemails, texts, letters, social media, and in-person events, including gathering outside election officials’ homes.”
As the hearings go on, there are concerns about how participants in Trump’s failed coup of 2020 will be held accountable as well as what can be done about Republicans who continue to support the stolen election lie. The Texas Republican Official, for instance, incorporated similar assertions into its party platform this past weekend. This action comes after a large number of election-denying candidates won their primaries and ran for state and federal offices in 2022.
“These candidates and their successful primary campaigns are a stark reminder that the insurrection—and the lies that sparked it—did not end on January 6, 2021, or when former President Trump left office,” wrote States United’s leadership team, Norman Eisen, Joanna Lydgate and Christine Todd Whitman (New Jersey’s ex-governor and a Republican) in Slate. “And they are proof that the kindling for the attack—and the continued stoking of the fire—is alive and well in the states.”
The trio asserts that establishing local accountability would have the biggest influence in putting an end to the deceitful and perilous accusations of stolen elections. They propose prohibiting the “bad lawyers” who spread the unsupported claims, thereby destroying their legal careers. They referenced the inquiry in Georgia’s Fulton County, where Trump attempted to persuade Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” ballots to overturn Biden’s victory, and asserted that “district and county attorneys can file criminal charges” against the coup’s participants.
Furthermore, citing a lawsuit filed by the District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, they recommended that local prosecutors pursue militias like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers for altercations with law enforcement. Additionally, noting an ongoing investigation in Michigan and a potential New York State investigation, they recommended that state attorneys general pursue Trump’s post-election fundraising, where fraudulent statements were made to deceive donors.
“Democracy cannot exist without the rule of law,” they wrote. “Seeking accountability for those who step outside those bounds is critical to stopping the ongoing insurrection before it’s too late. If we want to prevent an election hijack in 2022 and 2024, it’s going to take a full-speed-ahead approach to accountability. And just like with our elections, we believe those [accountability efforts] will be run and led by the states.”
The revelations from Tuesday might provide insight into the best legal forums for holding people accountable.
The knowledge and confrontation of the defective political psychologies that made this disaster possible, however, is another component of accountability. Politicians, candidates, and campaigners in favor of Trump appear to have a mentality that prioritizes gaining power over other private, public, and professional interests. Being a devoted and ambitious politician is one thing. It’s one thing to imitate party leaders who tell lies, disregard the truth, embrace chaos and violence, deceive supporters, and claim that such behavior was and still is patriotic.
How far some who admired or envy Trump were willing to go is being shown by the hearings. Suggestions for how and where to hold participants accountable emerge along with new information. What might change the political structure that permits such self-serving individuals to advance and, as we recently saw in Texas, to continue lying, has not yet been made public.