The Jan. 6 committee hearings ain’t exactly riveting television, but you can bet Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ eyes were glued to the screen for today’s testimony.
Specifically, that of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who got the infamous call from ex-president Donald Trump last January begging him to “find” just enough votes to overturn that election, along with former Atlanta poll workers Wandrea Shaye Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman, who were tormented by Trump supporters (including a former publicist of Kanye West) over lies the former president spread about them trying to steal votes.
Willis is one of two Black women prosecutors (the other being New York Attorney General Letitia James), working on potential cases against Trump. Only Willis’ investigation, though, is criminal in nature. She wants to know if there’s enough evidence to prove that Trump’s call to Raffensperger, along with the subsequent harassment and threats by other Trump cronies, went beyond shadiness into felony territory. She may not have learned much more from Raffensperger’s testimony today than her investigators and subpoenas have already turned up, but I’m sure she was an interested viewer nonetheless.
I’m also certain that she was even more riveted by the testimony from Moss and Freeman, two Black women who, like Willis, bore the brunt of the Trump mob’s racism and mean spiritedness. Freeman, 62, and Moss, described how Trump and his cronies publicly attacked them, causing them to worry for their own reputations and their safety. Freeman, known as “Lady Ruby” to her friends, said she no longer uses her own name in public, which Moss says she’s gained 60 pounds due to the stress of Trump’s harassment. She won’t even give our her own business card.
Neither woman did anything wrong, but Trump seized on the fact that Freeman was seen on camera handing her daughter something—a mint, Moss said—and used that as the opportunity to claim the two had been caught “stealing votes”. Harassment and threats ensued and—because Trump fans were involved—so did the racism. One harasser sent Moss a note saying that she should be “glad it’s 2020 and not 1920", an obvious nod to a time when a Black woman in Georgia would have faced a lot worse than the jeers of cowards for foiling a white man’s political schemes.
Freeman said the FBI told her she needed to leave her own house for months for her own safety. “I asked how long am I going to have to be away from home and they said at least until the inauguration,” she said in recorded testimony played at today’s hearing.
I’ve never met Willis but I’ll bet that got her blood boiling. She, too, knows what it feels like to have to take extra precautions for her own security because of Trump’s words. She knows how it feels to be targeted and belittled by backwater bigots who see nothing wrong with hurting her, or democracy itself, to keep their tiny-handed leader in power.
All we know about Fani Willis tells us that despite Trump’s whining that her investigation is yet another witchhunt, she’s doing exactly what voters in Fulton County elected her to do: fairly adjudicate the cases in front of her. My guess is she’d much rather be addressing the skyrocketing murder rate in her county than dealing with Trump’s leftover bullshit. I also doubt that she’ll let the fact that he tried to bully two Black women in her county shade her investigation beyond the facts.
But how much would you bet that she has just a little bit more motivation after watching Moss’ and Freeman’s testimony today?