Russell (“Rusty”) Bowers. I had never heard of him. This week I saw him for the first time during the fourth hearing on the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington. A calm, bald man, 69, who has been a member (now Speaker) of the Arizona House of Representatives since 2015. He had previously campaigned for Trump, he told the committee, as if to emphasize his longstanding loyalty.
One Sunday after the Trump-lost election, as Bowers and his wife were driving home after church service, the phone rang: the White House. First he got Rudy Giuliani, a Trump adviser, who muttered some kindness before the president himself joined the conversation. Giuliani said something about a fraud involving 200,000 votes by illegal immigrants and even 6,000 dead people that invalidated the election, Bowers asked him to give the names of those voters. †Give the man what he needsTrump told Giuliani, but he didn’t come up with a single name.
“They wanted an official commission to come and for me to say what happened and then take action,” Bowers said. “But I refused, I didn’t want to be used as a pawn.”
His interlocutors were not satisfied. Giuliani suggested there was a legal possibility in Arizona to replace Biden’s electoral votes in favor of Trump. “That’s totally new to me,” Bowers said, adding that he had taken an oath to office and had no intention of breaking it.
Later, Bowers also had a personal meeting with Trump and Giuliani. “We’re all Republicans,” Giuliani had shouted at the time, “you should be open to my suggestions.”
Bowers looked at the interrogator of the hearing. He still didn’t seem to comprehend what had happened to him. “This is the dogma of my faith,” he said. “The constitution rests on divine inspiration.” What Giuliani and Trump wanted from him was alien to him, he explained. †I won’t do it.†
Other Trump advisers had approached him with similar suggestions, but they had been told the same thing over and over:I won’t do it†
God-fearing and incorruptible.
Inevitable denunciation was his share. A day before this hearing, Trump had trumpeted that Bowers was a ‘Rino’, a Republican “in name onlySo a renegade Republican. He would also have told Trump that there had indeed been electoral fraud; Bowers vehemently denies this, saying that even Giuliani slipped at one point: “We have many theories, but no proof.”
He had noticed before that he had fallen into disgrace. He received 20,000 angry emails, he was called a ‘pedophile’, ‘pervert’ and ‘corrupt’, protesters appeared in front of his house with loudspeakers, one of them brandished a gun. His daughter, now deceased, was seriously ill in bed, but fortunately his wife was “a very strong woman.”
As he told this, he fought back tears. †It was disturbing“, he said, “it was disturbing†
I thought he was a hero of our time.
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of June 24, 2022