Colorado House Republicans’ attempt to impeach Secretary of State Jena Griswold last week predictably failed. And while the outcome wasn’t a surprise, the arguments and tactics that GOP lawmakers and witnesses employed were unexpected to say the least.

With the resolution’s fate pre-ordained in the Democrat-controlled Colorado House, Republicans were clearly pursuing political goals with their push for a hearing, but after five hours of testimony, it’s unclear what if anything they accomplished.

Minority Leader Rose Pugliese and Rep. Ryan Armagost (R-Berthoud) based their case for impeachment on two of Griswold’s public statements — in a press release and a Tweet — both stating that she agreed with the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling that Trump is an insurrectionist. Pugliese and Armagost claim those statements amounted to malfeasance, despite the fact that the secretary then followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s order to return the former president to the ballot.

The witnesses they chose to argue their positions either didn’t address the claims made in the resolution, or, in the case of their most prominent witness, former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, doubled down on denying not only the insurrection but the legitimate outcome of the 2020 election. 

Gessler’s mere appearance was notable given his reputation as a brash partisan while in office, who embraced the “Honey Badger” nickname he received for a variety of actions designed to help Republicans. He was flanked by his own former deputy, Suzanne Taheri, an attorney who like Gessler has worked for conservative political groups since leaving the SOS office. 

Once Gessler started his testimony, the Trump campaign attorney remained true to form. He refused to say that President Biden won the 2020 election fairly, claimed to have no knowledge of the Trump campaign’s lawsuits to overturn the election despite having worked on them, and said he believes Mesa County’s former conspiracist clerk Tina Peters should still have her job.  

Rep. Garcia: I’ll ask it again. Mr. Gessler, do you believe that the election was stolen?

Scott Gessler: The Electoral College voted him in, and the answer is yes.

Rep. Garcia: Do you believe that January 6th was an insurrection?

Scott Gessler: Absolutely not.

Rep. Mabrey: President Trump filed 62 lawsuits in the wake of the election. Why did none of those courts find that any of the evidence presented was rose to the level of raising questions? 

Scott Gessler: I don’t have specific knowledge of those 62 lawsuits, so I can’t answer that question. 

Rep. Herod: Thank you, Mr. Gessler. Do you still represent Tina Peters?

Scott Gessler: Yes I do.

Rep. Herod: And do you believe she should have been able to keep her office?

Scott Gessler: I do think she should have been able to keep [the] office.

Peters is currently facing ten felony and misdemeanor charges, brought by a Republican district attorney, in connection with her alleged election security violations. 

Fewer than three years ago, while running for Colorado GOP chair, Gessler cited his legal experience representing the Trump campaign in some of those lawsuits as a reason to trust his expert opinion that the 2020 election was probably stolen. 

“In this last election cycle I was honored to be able to work with the Trump campaign again, as their expert, nationwide, in a lot of these election lawsuits,” said Gessler. “I know there’s been some talk about election integrity. I’ve dealt with that a lot and I have a lot of opinions and I do think that this election, if we have a full investigation, was probably stolen from our president — I will just come right out and say that.”

Gessler also offered a lengthy defense of his position that Jan. 6 was not an insurrection, based on the fact that it didn’t last more than a few hours, was “limited to one building,” and according to him, “they did not find a single firearm anywhere, ever. Not a single knife or deadly weapon ever brandished.” That last assertion is demonstrably false. Federal law enforcement has documented numerous firearms, knives, bats, pipes, and even pitchforks carried by rioters on Capitol grounds.

Besides the sponsors and their witnesses, the other Republicans in the hearing were the three members of the committee: Reps. Don Wilson, Matt Soper and Gabe Evans. After Wilson and Soper each asked a few quick questions, Evans took over.

“I completely sympathize with what you went through at the national Capitol, but…”

Evans was the only one who chose to question former U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn who recounted his experience attempting to restrain a violent mob on Jan. 6. Evans thanked Dunn for his service, cop to cop, before complaining that it was unfair to focus on the violence on one capitol without mentioning the violence that took place outside Colorado’s own Capitol, during the George Floyd protests, events for which Office Dunn was obviously not present.

“[I] completely sympathize with what you went through, at the national Capitol,” said Evans. “But my question to you is, are you familiar with the events that happened in the Colorado State Capitol? In the spring of, like, May, late May 2020, and some of the riots and violence that occurred there?”  

Gabe Evans

His questions brought the dialogue back to the insurrection, which seems a puzzling choice after hearing resolution sponsor Armagost bristle at Rep. Steve Woodrow’s Jan. 6 questions, responding “I’m not answering questions about January 6th or election deniability or anything like that.”

In fact, the insurrection permeated the entire discussion; the word appears over 100 times in the hearing transcript.

After that exchange, Evans took on the other Democratic witnesses, including attorney Martha Tierney, who brought the lawsuit against Secretary Griswold and Donald Trump, and Jefferson County Clerk Amanda Gonzalez. The exchanges produced little of note, with the witnesses often simply rejecting the premises of Evans’ elaborate questions. 

Rhetorical results aside, it’s indisputable that Evans dominated the questioning session. He used over twenty of the GOP’s allotted thirty minutes, while his colleagues split the other ten between them. Eventually, when all the questioning and closing statements were completed, it was Evans who made the futile motion to send the resolution to the full House. It was quickly rejected.

In addition to his duties as a state representative, Evans is also running for Congress. He will face former state legislator Janak Joshi in the Republican primary on June 25, with the winner challenging Democratic Congresswoman Yadira Caraveo in Colorado’s most competitive race: the Eighth Congressional District. Evans doesn’t appear particularly concerned about Joshi. In an April 5 radio interview on the Jimmy Lakey show he acknowledged his opponent by saying, “he got on by one vote. So we do, technically, have a primary, but I’ve been very honored to receive 62% of the vote of the delegates at our state assembly this last weekend.”  

Evans did not respond to the Colorado Times Recorder’s emailed questions as to why he took such a prominent role in the hearing, whether he considered it a success despite the outcome, and whether he has any concerns about so much of the discussion having been focused on the Jan. 6 insurrection. This article will be updated with any response received.