Jan 6 hearings: How Giuliani, Trump buffoonery helps case

Riot is no joke. But it was hard not to laugh during Monday’s January 6 committee public hearing, as Day 2’s topic came into focus: the truth behind The Big Lie. Witness after witness testified to the outlandish schemes, absurd conspiracy theories and drunken advice that President Trump used to falsely declare he had won the 2020 election.

What emerged was an image of Trump’s White House, whose alternate reality “Veeps” makes fictional Selena Meyer look like a political nutcase: there was “the suspicious black suitcase”; ballot mules; manipulated voting machines; deep state agents; armies of dead voters; a deceased Venezuelan communist conspiring to sink the incumbent. Peter Sellers couldn’t have dreamed up a crazier flight.

The televised hearing, chaired by Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), signaled a tonal shift from the violence and horror of the attack on the Capitol, which took place in emotional prime time were documented on Thursday premiere. The process fulfilled the committee’s promise to examine the events leading up to the attempted coup in manageable sections, or episodes. “Trump rejected the advice of his campaign experts on election night and instead followed the course recommended by an apparently drunk Rudy Giuliani to simply claim he’d won,” Vice Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) told viewers in her opening statement for a juicy segment exploring the role of the former New York mayor. (Giuliani’s attorney denied being drunk to CNN.)

As with any compelling television series, levity is key to keeping viewers engaged in an otherwise heavy-hitting story. Audiences can only endure so much trauma before turning their backs, especially with the story still unfolding. Consciously or unconsciously, Monday’s live broadcast wove comic relief into a broader narrative of misbehaving powerful men, showing once again that the hearings are a far cry from the usual political theatre. Instead, the committee highlighted the ridiculous culture in the Oval Office and underscored the absurdity of the Big Lie.

Through the affidavits of close associates, advisers and family members, including Ivanka Trump, we learned that many in Trump’s inner circle knew and said such claims were dangerous, and those who spread the lie were met with a heady mix of misconduct and Corruption fueled and hubris. Former Trump White House attorney Eric Herschmann testified to the weakness of the “stop the steal” campaign and told the committee he confronted John Eastman, the attorney behind the vote-fraud strategy, in the Capitol the day after the riot. “I said to him, ‘Are you crazy? I just want to hear two words out of your mouth from now on: orderly transition.’” In another clip, former Atty. General William P. Barr addressed the ridiculousness of the fraud allegations head on, calling them “stupid” and “false.”

Living witnesses included former Fox News digital political director Chris Stirewalt, veteran GOP campaign attorney Benjamin Ginsberg, Byung J. “BJay” Pak, the former US Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia who resigned after a leaked phone call with Trump pressured state officials in Georgia to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory there, and Al Schmidt, a Republican former city commissioner in Philadelphia. And in a twist that seemed pulled out of a sitcom comedy, former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien was unable to testify live because his wife went into labor. (In an affidavit clip, he positioned himself and his allies as “Team Normal” to stop the “rigged election” nonsense being spread by Giuliani and co.

Those who were able to testify in person not only noted that the former president and his associates knew he had lost the 2020 election, and still made allegations of voter fraud for political and financial gain. They also showed that Trump and his cronies did so with the subtlety of the Keystone Kops.

Stirewalt testified at the Hall that when Arizona was called up for Biden in 2020, he knew the likelihood of an election-tipping fraud was almost non-existent: “It took him three states, and to do that… you are.” Better off playing the Powerball than that coming in. In Schmidt’s description, the president’s claim that 8,000 dead voted in Philadelphia was “fantastic” and “absurd” – but the fallout from Trump’s anger, including threats from the president’s supporters, was all too real. And Ginsberg pointed to the almost ridiculous gap between the Trump camp’s claims and the truth: Not only was the 2020 election nowhere near as close as they claimed, out of more than 60 cases spanning more than 180 allegations of fraud, none came to pass found credible by a court.

The hearing ended with a video presentation revealing how Trump and his associates used The Big Lie to raise $250 million from people for bogus efforts like the “Election Defense Fund” — a nonexistent operation.

“There wasn’t just The Big Lie, there was The Big Ripoff,” Lofgren said. And the title for an upcoming comedy show based on the hearings was born.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2022-06-13/jan-6-committee-hearings-stepien-barr-giuliani-trump-monday-day-2 Jan 6 hearings: How Giuliani, Trump buffoonery helps case

Sarah Ridley

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