In one of the most troubling parts of Monday’s hearing of the House select committee investigating the events of Jan. 6, 2021, a former Philadelphia city commissioner testified that Donald Trump supporters targeted his family following false and vicious tweets about the 2020 election in which the former president singled him out.
Republican Al Schmidt was one of three commissioners who investigated claims of election fraud in Pennsylvania, none of which withstood careful examination.
Schmidt told the House panel that while “general” threats were relatively common against the commissioners during the election investigations, the situation became truly frightening when Trump tweeted “at me by name, calling me out … [and] threats became much more specific, much more graphic.”
They then included “not just me” but also “members of my family by name, their ages, our address, pictures of our home, just every bit of detail that you can imagine. That was what changed with that tweet,” Schmidt testified.
During Trump’s second impeachment hearing in the House, Schmidt tweeted to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), appealing to him to “vote his conscience” to convict Trump. He pointed out then that the “former POTUS incited supporters to threaten to kill my children and put their ‘heads on spikes’ because we counted votes cast by eligible voters.”
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who was questioning Schmidt at the hearing, showed on a video screen some of the threatening messages Schmidt had received following the Trump tweet. Identifying information and some of the details of the threatened violence had been redacted.
The situation underscored the panel’s repeated point that incendiary lies relentlessly repeated by a president to trusting supporters do not occur in a vacuum; they can spark threats — and even violence.
Zofgren apologized for what Schmidt went through.
Part of Schmidt’s testimony included video clips from the House panel, including a section from a year ago showing Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani — apparently snatching a figure out of the air — claiming that 8,021 “dead people” voted in the presidential election in Pennsylvania. He sarcastically quipped that it’s “easier for dead people to submit mail-in ballots than it is to vote in person.”
Schmidt responded to that claim: “Not only was there not evidence of 8,000 dead voters voting in Pennsylvania, there wasn’t evidence of eight” such “voters.” Yet, he said, every single election complaint — “no matter how fantastical, how absurd” — was taken seriously and carefully investigated.