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A mother and daughter from Georgia who worked on the 2020 presidential election told lawmakers at a Tuesday congressional hearing that former President Donald Trump’s efforts to delegitimize the vote upended their lives and left them deeply traumatized.
“I have lost my name and I have lost my reputation,” Ruby Freeman said in a pretaped interview aired at the hearing. “I have lost my sense of security. All because a group of people, starting with Number 45 and his ally Rudy Giuliani, decided to scapegoat me to push their own lies about how the presidential election was stolen.”
Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, Freeman’s daughter, testified that she no longer feels comfortable leaving home, even to go to the grocery store, and that she now second-guesses everything she does. Moss has also quit her job as an election worker ― which she said she valued because her grandmother emphasized the importance of voting, and she liked helping older voters ― after 10 years of service.
In the weeks after the November 2020 vote, Trump and his attorney Giuliani promoted a video of Freeman and Moss on election night, falsely claiming that it showed them meddling on behalf of Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The accusation circulated widely among Trump supporters, who hurled abuse and threats at the two women ― and even at Moss’ grandmother.
At the hearing, organized by the House committee investigating how Trump’s election lies spurred the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Moss said she learned of the video when two of her colleagues showed it to her and warned that she was facing attacks online. She then checked her Facebook inbox, where she found violent messages and assertions that she and Freeman, who are both Black, would be imprisoned. The invective included racist attacks, Moss said, like the statement “Be glad that it’s 2020 and not 1920.”
In a Dec. 10, 2020, Zoom call with Georgia legislators, Giuliani personally employed racist tropes when talking about Moss and Freeman, claiming that they could be seen in the video “passing around USB ports as if they’re vials of heroin or cocaine.”
Rather than some kind of USB device, what Freeman actually handed her daughter in that video was a ginger mint, Moss said.
People who believed the Trump team’s narrative eventually went to the home of Moss’ grandmother and tried to force their way in, claiming they would carry out a citizen’s arrest of Moss and Freeman.
“This woman is my everything ... I told her, ‘Close the door. Don’t open the door for anyone,’” Moss said. “She is a 70-something-year-old woman, and she doesn’t like having restrictions. She wants to answer the door. She likes to get her steps in walking around the neighborhood. I had to tell her, ‘You can’t do that. You have to be safe.’”
“I felt horrible for picking this job and being the one who always wants to help and is always there, never missing out on one election,” she said. “I just felt like it was my fault, putting my family in this situation.”
As Trump ramped up his efforts to cling to power ahead of Jan. 6 ― the date on which Biden’s legitimate victory would be certified ― the FBI approached Freeman to warn that her home might also be targeted, and that she should find another place to stay.
“I can’t believe this person has caused this much damage to me and my family, to have to leave my home that I have lived at for 21 years,” Freeman said. “It was horrible.”
Beyond the initial fear and chaos, the smear campaign had a broad, lasting impact, both women said. They still worry about their names being publicly mentioned by waitstaff at a restaurant or by a family member, and Freeman said she will never again wear the shirt she wore that election night, which proclaimed her as “Lady Ruby.”
“There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere. Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you?” Freeman said. “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 would stand up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of the pandemic.”
Moss and Freeman are currently suing Giuliani. They also sued the pro-Trump media outlet One America News, which agreed to a settlement with them in April.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.