The Jan. 6 committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol continued its public hearings on Monday morning with testimony that shed new light on how former President Trump deliberately sought to undermine the results of the 2020 election by spreading allegations of widespread voter fraud that he knew were false.
Following opening remarks from the committee chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. took the lead in questioning witnesses and presenting the committee’s examination of “the false narrative that the 2020 election was ‘stolen.’”
“Former President Trump’s plan to overturn the election relied on a sustained effort to deceive Americans with knowingly false claims of election fraud,” Lofgren said. “All elements of the plot relied on convincing his supporters of these false claims.”
What were some of the most shocking revelations?
“There was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were.”
In taped depositions given to the select committee, former Trump advisers and administration officials detailed their efforts to substantiate the various voter fraud claims that were promoted by Trump and his allies in the aftermath of the 2020 election, and to relay their findings to the former president.
One after another, officials including former Attorney General William Barr and former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, recalled multiple conversations with Trump in which they explained exactly why specific allegations such as those about suitcases of ballots in Georgia or rigged Dominion voting machines in Michigan weren’t true, only for him to move on to the next bogus claim. Barr likened the Justice Department’s effort to investigate the “avalanche of fraud allegations” to “playing whack-a-mole,” and noted that Trump continued to publicly promote bogus claims even after his attorney general told him they were “bulls***.”
“There was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were,” Barr said.
“The 'big lie' was also a big ripoff.”
Lofgren argued that Trump deliberately used claims that he knew were false to “to raise hundreds of millions of dollars” from his supporters between the election and Jan. 6.
“The 'big lie' was also a big ripoff,” Lofgren said, noting that after the election, the Trump campaign flooded supporters’ inboxes with emails requesting donations to the “Official Election Defense Fund.” However, in a taped deposition shown at Monday’s hearing, former Trump campaign staffer Hanna Allred acknowledged that this supposed fund was nothing more than a “marketing tactic.”
A “definitely intoxicated” Rudy Giuliani advised Trump to declare victory on election night, according to testimony.
The committee aired clips of videotaped depositions given by a variety of people who were with the former president on election night in 2020, including his former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, and former senior campaign adviser, Jason Miller. They testified about how the former New York City mayor influenced Trump’s decision to publicly declare victory on election night before all of the votes had been counted. Stepien had originally been scheduled to testify in person at the hearing, pursuant to a subpoena from the committee, but his appearance was canceled after his wife went into labor early Monday morning.
Miller said that Giuliani, who would go on to pursue a variety of unsuccessful legal challenges to the election results, was ”definitely intoxicated” during a discussion about what the president should say when he addressed the nation that night. (An attorney for Giuliani has since disputed that he was drunk on election night.)
“There were suggestions by I believe it was Mayor Giuliani to go and declare victory and say that we won it outright,” Miller said, adding, “I think, effectively, Mayor Giuliani was saying, ‘We won it. They’re stealing it from us. Where did all the votes come from? We need to go say that we won.’ And essentially anyone who didn’t agree with that position was being weak."
Though Stepien said he thought it was “far too early to be making any calls like that," Giuliani’s idea clearly resonated with Trump, who began pushing the narrative that Biden and the Democrats were stealing the election from him when he erroneously declared in the early hours of Nov. 4: “Frankly, we did win this election.”
Who were the witnesses?
As with last week’s inaugural primetime hearing, Monday’s hearing featured a mix of live and taped testimony from a wide variety of witnesses.
Those who appeared in person were Chris Stirewalt, a former Fox News political editor who made the controversial decision to accurately call Arizona for Biden on election night in 2020, conservative election attorney Benjamin Ginsberg, who explained how Trump’s legal challenges to the 2020 election results differed from the way such challenges are typically litigated in court; B.J. Pak, the former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia and former Philadelphia commissioner Al Schmidt, both of whom investigated allegations of voter fraud in their state.
Some of the most compelling testimony, however, came from the taped depositions of those who watched Trump’s stolen election narrative take shape in real time. In addition to Barr, Donoghue, Stepien and Miller, other notable witnesses who appeared via video Monday include Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner; Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann; and Trump campaign lawyer Alex Cannon.
The committee also showed brief clips of depositions given by Rudy Giuliani and lawyer Sidney Powell, who replaced what Stepien referred to as “team normal” after the election, and quickly took the lead in pursuing a series of unsuccessful legal challenges to the election based on far-flung, unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud.
Asked for his assessment of the more than 60 court cases lodged by Trump’s legal team to challenge the 2020 election, Ginsberg told the committee, “the simple fact is that the Trump campaign did not make its case.”
In her closing statement, committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said that in the coming days, the panel will present evidence of Trump’s “broader planning for Jan. 6,” including his plan to try to use the Justice Department to sow doubt about the legitimacy of the election results, and his “detailed planning with John Eastman to pressure the vice president, state legislatures, state officials and others to overturn the election.”
The committee’s third hearing will take place on Wednesday, June 15th at 10 a.m. ET.