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Election workers describe ‘hateful’ threats after Trump’s false claims

On June 21, the Jan. 6 committee outlined a scheme supported by President Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 election. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

Shaye Moss’s life forever changed on Dec. 10, 2020, when Rudy Giuliani, then President Donald Trump’s top campaign lawyer, publicly claimed that she and her mother, a fellow poll worker in Fulton County, Ga., had rigged the outcome in her state.

Moss’s supervisor suggested that day that she check her social media accounts to see if she had received any threats, as others in the office had. She was stunned by what she saw when she pulled up her Facebook Messenger account.

“It was just a lot of horrible things there,” Moss said at a hearing Tuesday before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. Many of the messages were racist and “hateful,” said Moss, who is Black. “A lot of threats wishing death upon me, telling me I’ll be in jail with my mother and saying things like, ‘Be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920.’ ”

Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman said on June 21 that she has questioned her safety since President Donald Trump targeted her during the 2020 election. (Video: The Washington Post)

That was only the beginning. Moss eventually stopped going to the grocery store, where she feared acquaintances might say her name and call attention from believers of Trump’s voter-fraud claims. Election deniers showed up at the home of her grandmother and tried to push their way in to search for evidence of fraud. Both she and her mother, Ruby Freeman, were forced into hiding. They quit their jobs with the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections, where Moss had proudly served as a poll worker for more than a decade.

I’ve always been told by my grandmother how important it is to vote and how people before me, a lot of people, older people in my family, did not have that right,” Moss told the committee. “So what I loved most about my job were the older voters. They like to call. They like to talk to you. I was excited always about sending out all the absentee ballots for the elderly disabled people. I even remember driving to a hospital to give someone her absentee ballot application.”

Moss’s and Freeman’s emotional testimony capped a riveting hearing, the committee’s fourth so far, that focused on Trump’s pressure campaign on state and local officials to reverse his loss in a half-dozen contested states. The mother and daughter, in particular, revealed in searing detail the cost of Trump’s baseless accusations about the 2020 contest on the lives of rank-and-file election workers, many of whom have described violent threats.

‘We are in harm’s way’: Election officials fear for their personal safety amid torrent of false claims about voting

Moss said she was speechless when her supervisors showed her a recording of Giuliani’s statement to a Georgia state Senate committee investigating the 2020 result. Giuliani claimed that Moss and Freeman had plotted to kick out observers at the State Farm Arena, where the county had set up a ballot counting operation. They had brought in suitcases filled with fraudulent ballots for Biden and scanned them through the tabulating teams multiple times, he said. He described surveillance video from the arena that he claimed showed the two exchanging USB memory sticks, presumably containing fraudulent vote counts, “as if they’re vials of cocaine.”

“I mean, it’s obvious to anyone who’s a criminal investigator or prosecutor that they are engaged in surreptitious, illegal activity,” Giuliani said. “And they’re still walking around Georgia. They should have been questioned already. Their homes should have been searched for evidence.”

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), who led the questioning at Tuesday’s hearing, asked Moss: “None of that was true, was it?”

Moss’s answer: “None of it.”

Schiff then asked about the USB memory sticks.

“What was your mom actually handing you on that video?”

“A ginger mint,” Moss said.

Trump also attacked Freeman and Moss personally in a phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) just days before the Capitol attack, mentioning Freeman 18 times and describing her at one point as a “professional vote scammer and hustler.” The Washington Post obtained a recording of the call and published it last year.

The threats and harassment that ensued even reached Moss’s grandmother, who called one day, screaming, to say people had knocked on her door and, when she had opened it, had tried to push into the home in search of Moss and Freeman. Moss recounted how awful she felt telling her grandmother, “who likes to get her steps in walking around the neighborhood,” that she had to stop exercising outside for her own safety. At night, pranksters “continuously” sent pizzas to her home that the delivery drivers expected her to pay for, Moss testified.

“I just felt so helpless and so horrible for her,” Moss said.

Schiff closed Moss’s appearance by asking her how many other election workers pictured in the State Farm Arena surveillance video are still working for Fulton County.

“There is no permanent election worker or supervisor in that video that’s still there,” she said.

The committee played videotaped testimony from Freeman, who sat behind her daughter on Tuesday but did not testify in person, about how her life was upended by Trump as well. The testimony left Freeman in tears and Moss wiping her eyes and shaken.

Freeman told the committee that she is known as “Lady Ruby” and had built her own small business, a shop “catering to ladies with unique fashions,” using that moniker. She was wearing a shirt proclaiming “Lady Ruby” while ballot counting at State Farm Arena — but she won’t wear it again.

“I won’t even introduce myself by my name anymore,” Freeman said. “I get nervous when I bump into someone I know in the grocery store who says my name. I’m worried about who is listening. I get nervous when I have to give my name for food orders. I’m always concerned of who is around me. I’ve lost my name, and I’ve lost my reputation. I’ve lost my sense of security.”

Moss and Freeman filed defamation lawsuits last year against Giuliani as well as pro-Trump media outlets including One America News. They settled with OAN in May for undisclosed terms. As part of the settlement, OAN aired a segment reporting that Georgia officials had concluded there was “no widespread voter fraud by election workers” at the State Farm Arena and that neither Freeman nor Moss engaged in ballot fraud or criminal misconduct. Giuliani filed a motion to dismiss his suit in early June.

The week of Jan. 6, the FBI contacted Freeman to tell her to leave her home for safety. She stayed away for two months.

“There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere,” Freeman said. “Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you? The president of the United States is supposed to represent every American, not to target one. But he targeted me, Lady Ruby, a small-business owner, a mother, a proud American citizen who stood up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of a pandemic.”

Jacqueline Alemany contributed to this report.

The Jan. 6 insurrection

Congressional hearings: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held a series of high-profile hearings to share its findings with the U.S. public. What was likely to be the panel’s final public hearing has been postponed because of Hurricane Ian. Here’s a guide to the biggest hearing moments so far.

Will there be charges? The committee could make criminal referrals of former president Donald Trump over his role in the attack, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in an interview.

What we know about what Trump did on Jan. 6: New details emerged when Hutchinson testified before the committee and shared what she saw and heard on Jan. 6.

The riot: On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. Five people died on that day or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were assaulted.

Inside the siege: During the rampage, rioters came perilously close to penetrating the inner sanctums of the building while lawmakers were still there, including former vice president Mike Pence. The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and videos to create a video timeline of what happened on Jan. 6.