Warning: The following article contains quotes from a witness who repeated a racial slur used against her.
It is happening again: Former President Donald Trump is attacking innocent Americans and smearing them with dangerous lies.
The Jan. 6 committee recently released its transcripts from interviews with election workers Ruby Freeman and Wandrea ArShaye Moss, two women who endured smears and death threats spurred by the former president, his attorney Rudy Giuliani, and a mass of Trump’s supporters who failed to discern fact from fiction when it came to the 2020 election.
Freeman and Moss were election workers in Georgia targeted by Trump and Giuliani as the men publicly shared conspiracy theories about election fraud in Georgia.
Pointing to security footage of Moss and Freeman innocently working at a voting center, they publicly accused Moss of giving her mother “USB drives” containing votes for now-President Joe Biden.
Giuliani once said she passed them off to her mother like vials of cocaine.
The “USB” was, in fact, a ginger mint.
After the committee published transcripts from its interviews with Freeman and Moss, on Jan. 3 Trump took to his social media platform TruthSocial and picked up right about where he left off with the women.
“Wow! Has anyone seen the Ruby Freeman ‘contradictions’ of her sworn testimony? Now this is ‘BIG STUFF.’ Look what was captured by Cobb County police body cameras on January 4, 2021….” Trump wrote.
He followed it up with two more posts sputtering similar lies about “suitcases” packed with ballots. Investigators have determined those “suitcases” were standard issue boxes used to transfer ballots.
This conspiracy theory and others like it have been debunked at length. It would all seem merely to be a bit of horrible deja vu, but there is at least one critical difference this time around. Thanks to the select committee’s 18-month investigation of Jan. 6, there is a mountain of evidence featuring corroborated witness testimony from among the highest ranks of the Trump administration affirming that Trump was told, repeatedly and directly, that his accusations of election fraud were patently false.
Trump’s behavior is unsurprising, but it underlines exactly why the testimony Freeman and Moss gave to the committee is such a vital part of the record of Jan. 6. It affirms, among many other things, that Trump is a danger not just to the rule of law but to everyday people when he weaponizes disinformation against them from his platform, president or not.
Trump is running for the White House in 2024. Though his popularity may be deemed waning by many pundits and onlookers today, his vitriol doesn’t need their confidence or a national audience to unleash chaos.
Freeman was forced to move out of her house because of the barrage of death threats she received after Trump named her while spewing the Big Lie in 2020.
Trump said her name 18 times when discussing so-called election “fraud” with Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Even months after the election, she was still dealing with the fallout.
“Number 45 and his crew destroyed our lives. So I won’t call Number 45 by his name, He and his allies took my name, so I won’t utter his,” she said when she met with the committee in May.
Freeman, who is in her sixties, worked as an “opener” during the tabulating of votes at State Farm Arena in Georgia. This meant she would open the ballots after they had been cut to make sure the information added up and matched, she said. It was early December when she learned that she was being accused of stealing ballots for now-President Joe Biden. With reporters calling around the clock, hate emails, and threats deluging her cell phone, she went straight to the state’s election department to inform them of this new, ominous disruption. She also went to the police. For a grueling week, all while being peppered with death threats, she sat through interviews with the FBI, the Fulton County manager’s office, and the county attorney’s office and other officials. She had to inform them of her Moss’ every move while they worked at the arena.
It was “a lot,” she testified, though meeting with law enforcement officials wasn’t “intimidating”—she worked for a police department for 12 years where she maintained a 911 database.
Surveillance video from Georgia’s State Farm Arena was circulated by Trump as well as Giuliani as “proof” that Freeman and Moss “stole” ballots. Federal and state investigators reviewed the footage thoroughly. They were able to debunk the claims that Moss and Freeman had moved suitcases packed with illegal ballots.
“I thought it was horrible,” Freeman said when committee counsel asked what she thought the very first time she saw the surveillance footage that Giuliani had passed off as evidence of a supposed crime.
“I thought it was—I thought it was horrible. It was degrading. It was all a lie. They felt that—they made it to be what they wanted it to be, not what it actually was,” she said.
When Trump delivered his speech at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, he mentioned the “suitcases” again.
Freeman told the committee that she hadn’t listened to the speech that day.
She hadn’t been aware he brought up the conspiracy theory yet again that had “turned my whole life around,” she said.
“I was afraid to go out. I was afraid for people to call my name. Like I said, I was afraid to order food and somebody would ask, ‘what’s your name?’ That was—I was, like, just standing there looking at them, you know and then I would have to come up with some name. Or it was at the red light and somebody was staring, you know, it was like, I didn’t know why they were staring, why—you know. So I was always fearful, I was always afraid.”
The FBI informed Freeman the week of Jan. 6th that she needed to leave her home.
They feared people might break into her house to harm her or worse. Letters, phone calls, text messages, and in-person visits to her home had reached a fever pitch.
She recalled the threatening messages:
“’We know where you live and we’re coming to get you, nigger,’ or ‘You’re going to jail and you’re gonna rot in hell,’ or you know, ‘Your voicemail says about your faith and you’re a Christian. Do you think Biden is gonna help you now that you have given him all these ballots? Do you think he’s gonna come to help you out? He’s not. He don’t care anything about you.’ ‘You and your daughters are—,’ they would just use a lot of curse words. Yeah.”
Agents told her it would be best if she left her home of 21 years until the inauguration.
She left for two months.
She felt “homeless,” she said.
She expressed feeling “horrible” that her friends or neighbors were indirectly roped into the dangerous circus Trump created. People appeared outside of her home to scream at her through bullhorns, she recalled. Neighbors and friends watched out for her. Some disrupted their own lives to shelter her or confront the conspiracy theorists who materialized on her doorstep.
In a chilling bit of testimony, Freeman recalled an experience on Jan. 4 after a strange woman showed up at her house saying she had come from Chicago because she wanted to “help” her.
A neighbor addressed the woman while Freeman hid inside and called the police.
“When the police came, she stayed there for a long time.
And I was telling her about it. And I said, well, I have a contact person with the FBI. And she called the FBI, and they talked and asked if it was okay for this lady to meet me at the police department to talk about how she could help me. And there was a police report made. And she—we went to the police department.
So I found out, the time that it took her to leave my house and get to the police department, that’s when she had been to my mom’s house and they tried to force their way into that house, which I didn’t know at that moment, but I found out later.”
Freeman told the committee in the aftermath of Jan. 6 she had to shut down her social media pages for her business. She installed security cameras everywhere, along with lights and alarms. She went from being a person who only slept in the dark, ”no light, no television,” to finding herself frequently unable to sleep without the lights on.
She lost her taste for being an election worker.
“I don't want people to be discouraged. I want this to teach them, even [moreso] is go out and vote. I want people to know that they shouldn’t be afraid. You should go and vote. Your voice counts. Your voice needs to be heard. You need to be that number. You need to be in that number of voters for all—wherever you live, yeah. Go and vote. And also to work—work the elections to make sure you can do the job. You can do it. Don’t let what happened to me stop anyone from doing that.”
She added: “But I wouldn’t do it because it did happen to me and I need to just stay out of the picture totally.”
“It doesn’t feel good at all. it hurts. It hurts. It hurts when, you know, you’ve been lied on, you’ve been threatened, death threats. You know, threats came from people in—that was arrested for the Capitol offense, and I was on … that I was on a death list, that hurts. That hurts to know your name was mentioned by the president of the United States several times. “
In her testimony to the select committee, Moss recalled what one of the former president’s supporters told her.
“One stranger told me I was lucky it is 2020 and not 1920. Another one told me that I should hang alongside my mom for committing treason,” she said.
Other people would send her photos of things on fire, or burning flags.
“Just hateful things you know, saying I would die and it’s, something like it’s legal for, I had to ask my lawyers that, but they said it’s legal for you to be killed for treason. And just, a lot of that. Either I’m going to jail, I’m going to die, and I committed treason or just racist terms over, like literally over and over and over and over,” Moss said.
“People showed up at my grandmother’s home trying to bust the door down and conduct a citizen’s arrest of my mom and me. The threats followed me to work. People would email the general email address for our office, so everyone could see the threats and hateful messages directed at me,” she added.
Even her 14-year-old son wasn’t exempt.
She had just given her son his first cell phone that year, she testified. It was her old phone, still connected to her old number. People would find that number and direct their hate to it. She couldn’t shield her son from the hate Trump had whipped into a frenzy.
When she sat for her interview before the committee on June 1, 2022, Moss said her son was doing “much better.”
“Like I said, he's had to really grow up really fast. So he's 15 now, but he feels like he has to protect me in every aspect. He's become, like, much more aware, not like a kid, you know, that just doesn't care. Like, he wants to know what's that in the mailbox, and he's just, sad to say, it's like he turned from 14 to 21 overnight, like mentally,” she testified.
His studies in school—already virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic—took a hit. The constant barrage of harassment deluging his phone was a constant interruption.
“He had just—he just received a phone. I finally let him have a phone, because boys can be boys. And, you know, because I was—it was, like, four elections that year. I was always at work, and when it's an election, it's overtime. So I wanted, you know, to be able to contact him. And school was virtual. It was COVID. He was at home … So they found my social media, but my address is why they ended up at my grandmother's house. And my phone number is why they were all on my son's phone and knocking him out of class all day because he was virtual. And I'm sorry; election workers don't get paid that much. I cannot afford WiFi. So he uses the hotspot on the cell phone to be on the Chromebook to go to school. And, yeah, he failed every class that year. First time ever.”
In the wake of Trump’s harassment in 2020, Moss had to change her hair so people wouldn’t recognize her in the street. Her son also changed his appearance.
She locked down her social media accounts, making them private, and took steps to insulate herself. But in June when she met with the committee, she recalled how even that wasn’t sufficient. She posted a happy video of herself receiving an award. It was only available to her friends and family.
A person she grew up with wrote in the comments below the video: “It’s not great what happened to your mom and your son, but as someone who has seen proof, why aren’t you in prison?”
The person then sent her screenshots of a piece circulating in the Gateway Pundit supporting Trump’s Big Lie. She deleted the posts and tried talking to her friend but blocked them when they doubled down with the disinformation.
It was the first time someone from inside her own circle had approached her like this.
The shadow Trump cast over her life now reached into lifelong friendships.
Moss said she broke down crying when she relayed this exchange to her lawyers.
Moss loved her job as an election worker and when all of this came crashing down on her, she told investigators she walked back through the choices of her life. Maybe if she had just gone to work at the Property Tax office and not the Registrations and Elections office, none of this would have happened. For years she processed ballots for Republicans and Democrats in equal measure. That was her role. That was her duty. It hadn’t occurred to her that anyone could ever accuse her or other election workers of doing anything different.
“I thought we were just helping people register and running the elections. I didn’t know people could be so cruel,” she said.
She left the Fulton County Registration and Elections Department in last May.
When an investigator asked Moss if she would have stayed on the job if not for Trump’s actions, she said she would have.
“Yes. Well, I will just say, everyone is gone. Everyone is either fired or made too uncomfortable and quit,” she said. “My office was, like, under attack. Not just me. They seem to hate the entire county of you know, Registration and Elections.”
In December 2021, Freeman and Moss sued Giuliani for defamation. Giuliani attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed, saying his conduct and speech was protected under the First Amendment. The judge presiding over the matter at a federal court in Washington, D.C., rejected Giuliani’s protests. In an initial lawsuit, Moss and Freeman also named One America News, its owners, and the network’s chief White House correspondent. They reached a settlement, however, and were dismissed from the suit, but not before admitting during a broadcast that neither woman committed fraud.
What better way to start the year than by previewing the biggest contests of 2023 on this week's episode of The Downballot? Progressives will want to focus on a Jan. 10 special election for the Virginia state Senate that would allow them to expand their skinny majority; the April 4 battle for the Wisconsin Supreme Court that could let progressives take control from conservatives; Chicago's mayoral race; gubernatorial contests in Kentucky and Louisiana; and much, much more.