Rep. Jody Hice, who is leading the Republican primary in Georgia’s secretary of state race, was among the members of Congress who played a far bigger role than previously understood in former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, according to recent testimony provided to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection and reported Saturday by The New York Times.
Hice and other members of the Freedom Caucus, a right-wing band of Republican lawmakers, participated in strategic discussion with Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows that focused on pressuring then-Vice President Mike Pence to disregard electoral votes from states Trump lost and replace them with fake slates of votes showing Trump had instead won, the Times reported based on testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former Meadows aide.
The testimony was included in a court filing that was unsealed last week.
Other members of the group, including Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) are more well-known than Hice, and have previously been linked to the events of Jan. 6.
But Hice’s involvement is especially notable given that he is now seeking to become the top elections official in Georgia, one of the states in which Republicans attempted to overturn the 2020 contest. He is possibly the most prominent and well-positioned candidate among a slate of Republican election deniers now seeking secretary of state positions in key battleground states across the country, including Arizona, Colorado, Michigan and Nevada.
Hice victories in the May GOP primary and November’s general election would put a Trump ally who seemingly played an intimate role in efforts to invalidate the 2020 election in charge of future contests. And it would do so in a key swing state that has become a particular focal point for right-wing efforts to take over the machinery of American elections in the wake of Trump’s defeat.
The lawmakers’ scheme to replace legitimate electors with fake slates of pro-Trump electors has become a central focus of the House committee investigating the insurrection.
The Republicans mentioned in Hutchinson’s testimony, including Hice, had “appeared to embrace,” the Times reported, the plot Trump attorney John Eastman outlined to overthrow the election in his now-infamous “coup memos,” which outlined the fake electors strategy and others for invalidating the election results.
Even before the most recent revelations, Hice’s candidacy had stirred fears in Georgia and among election observers nationwide that he could potentially use the secretary of state’s office to undermine future elections, or potentially refuse to certify the results of any outcome he didn’t like.
Hice announced his bid for the office in March 2021, just two months after voting against the certification of election results on Jan. 6, the day of the insurrection. It was a direct challenge to incumbent Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger, the Republican who bucked Trump’s calls to “find” the 12,000 votes necessary to change the outcome of the election in Georgia, which President Joe Biden won. During the two months between the election and Jan. 6, Raffensperger repeatedly refuted Trump’s claims that Georgia’s contest (and the election as a whole) had been marred by fraud, and together with GOP Gov. Brian Kemp certified the results.
Hice, who received Trump’s endorsement the day after launching his campaign, has said that Raffensperger “compromised” the integrity of the Georgia election by refusing to overturn it.
Less than a month from the May 24 primary, Hice led Raffensperger, 35%-18%, in a recent Landmark Communications poll of likely Republican voters. A third of those voters remain undecided and another 13% favor one of the other two candidates in the GOP primary.
Hice raised more than $1.6 million through the end of January, outpacing Raffensperger and all other GOP candidates in the race. His candidacy and those of other election deniers seeking secretary of state positions has attracted donations from prominent billionaire conservatives who previously funded efforts to overturn the last election.
Hice’s congressional office did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the testimony.
The morning of Jan. 6, Hice tweeted that the fight to prevent the certification of the 2020 results was a “1776 moment” for Congress. He deleted the tweet after the insurrection occurred, and a spokesperson said then that he condemned the insurrection itself. But in the wake of the riotous effort to overturn the election, Hice almost immediately voted a second time to challenge the certification of the results.
“There is no room for debate about the overall integrity of the 2020 election vote count, and someone who claims there is or who says they are ‘just asking questions’ about the vote counts cannot be trusted to administer a fair election,” Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California-Irvine, wrote recently.
“Victories for Big Lie proponents,” Hasen wrote in response to Hice’s lead in GOP primary polls, “would be very dangerous for democracy.”
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