In December 2020, as Donald Trump spread false claims of fraud in the presidential election and tried to hold onto power, his attorney Rudy Giuliani told Georgia lawmakers to investigate an elections worker and her mother, who'd been hired to help count ballots.
Giuliani told Georgia state senators that Fulton County Elections Office employee Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, were captured on video on election night "surreptitiously passing around USB ports" as if they were "vials of heroin or cocaine."
"I mean, it’s obvious to anyone who’s a criminal investigator or prosecutor they are engaged in surreptitious illegal activity," the former New York City mayor said. "Their places of work, their homes should have been searched for evidence of ballots, for evidence of USB ports for evidence of voter fraud."
But in reality, what her mother handed to her was just a ginger mint, Moss told the Jan. 6 committee on Tuesday.
In emotional testimony, Moss recounted how her and her mother's lives were drastically changed by the lies lodged against them by then-president Trump and his team. As part of the House committee's fourth public hearing, which focused on evidence of Trump's pressure campaign on state officials to overturn the 2020 election, the pair described how they have faced countless death threats, vile and racist comments, and harassment that made them afraid to leave their homes and even introduce themselves by their names.
"It’s turned my life upside down," said Moss, who left her job of more than 10 years at the elections office as a result.
Moss testified that she doesn't want anyone to know her name, saying that she doesn't even go to the grocery store with her mom because she worries she might call out her name in the shopping aisle.
"I don't want to go anywhere, I second-guess everything that I do," Moss said. "It’s affected my life in a major way, in every way, all because of lies for me doing my job — the same thing I've been doing forever."
During Tuesday's hearing, the committee also heard testimony from state officials in Arizona and Georgia who spoke about the pressure they faced from Trump and his lawyers to install fake electors, "find" ballots that didn't exist, and decertify the valid election results that declared Joe Biden the victor.
But the officials, despite being themselves being Republicans who wanted Trump to win a second term, wouldn't budge. As Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger put it, "The numbers were the numbers."
Trump infamously pressured Raffensperger during an hourlong call days before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to "find" him enough votes to overturn the election. While on the phone, Trump also referenced Freeman and her daughter 18 times, according to Rep. Adam Schiff, a member of the committee investigating the insurrection. In audio of the call played during the hearing, Trump is heard calling Freeman "a professional vote scammer and hustler."
In a video interview shown during the hearing, Freeman, who alongside her daughter on Election Day was processing ballots as a temporary employee, said that around Jan. 6, 2021, she left her home upon direction from the FBI because of the threats and fears that people would show up on her doorstep. She didn't return for about two months.
"There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere," Freeman said in the video. "Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States to 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 stand up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of the pandemic."
Freeman said she, like her daughter, is scared to introduce herself by her name, something that was once a point of pride. On the night of the election, Freeman wore a T-shirt that proclaimed that she was "Lady Ruby," a nickname she'd been proud to carry in her community and a nod to her small fashion business, LaRuby's Unique Treasures. Screenshots of a newscast showing Freeman in her purple shirt while counting ballots circulated on social media, drawing commentary from right-wing media figures.
"I haven't worn it since, and I will never wear it again," Freeman said.
Now, she gets nervous when someone she knows says her name aloud in public or when she has to provide her name to order food.
"I'm always concerned of who’s around me," Freeman said. "I’ve lost my name, I've lost my reputation, and I've lost my sense of security all because a group of people, starting with number 45 and his ally Rudy Giuliani, decided to scapegoat me and my daughter Shaye to push their own lies about how the presidential election was stolen."
Moss also testified that after the election, she received a call from her grandmother "screaming at the top of her lungs" after people showed up at her home looking for Moss and Freeman. It had been her grandmother who had instilled in her the importance of exercising her right to vote — something that previous generations of her family had been denied as Black Americans.
The attacks by Trump and threats toward her family made Moss feel "horrible" for deciding to be an elections worker, she testified.
"I could have done anything else, but that's what I decided to do and now people are lying and spreading rumors and lies and attacking my mom," Moss said. "I felt so bad. I just felt bad for my mom, and I felt horrible for picking this job and being the one that always wants to help and always there and never missing not one election. I just felt like it was my fault for putting my family in this situation."
To close out the hearing, Schiff urged viewers not to take US democracy for granted, adding that Trump's attempts to overturn the election and the deadly attack on the Capitol showed just how fragile it is.
"If the most powerful person in the world can bring the full weight of the presidency down on an ordinary citizen, who is merely doing her job, with a lie as big and heavy as a mountain, who among us is safe?" Schiff said. "None of us is. None of us."