The panel is delving deeper into what it calls the “big lie,” Trump’s false claims of voter fraud that fueled his efforts to overthrow the 2020 election.
WASHINGTON – Donald Trump’s closest campaign advisers, senior government officials and even his family dismantled his bogus claims about 2020 election fraud before Jan. 6, but the defeated president became “detached from reality” and clung to outlandish theories to gain power remain, the committee investigating the attack on the Capitol was told on Monday.
On election night itself, Trump “became increasingly unhappy” and dismissed the results as they came in, former campaign manager Bill Stepien said in testimony before the House panel investigating the Capitol riot.
Son-in-law Jared Kushner tried to steer Trump away from attorney Rudy Giuliani and his rambling theories about voter fraud that advisers thought were wrong. Trump would have none of it.
The back and forth continued in the months that followed. Former Justice Department official Richard Donoghue recalled breaking down claim after claim — from a truckload of ballots in Pennsylvania to a missing suitcase of ballots in Georgia — and Trump said, “a lot of the information you get , are wrong”.
“He became increasingly detached from reality,” said former Attorney General William Barr, who called the allegations of voter fraud “bull—,” “false,” and “idiotic,” before resigning. “I didn’t want that to be a part of it.”
The witnesses appeared before the House Committee as the panel focused on the “big lie,” Trump’s false allegations of voter fraud that fueled the defeated Republican president’s efforts to overthrow the 2020 election and provoked a mob of his supporters, to besiege the US Capitol.
The panel also provided new information on how Trump’s fundraising machine raised some $250 million after November’s election to keep fighting, mostly from small donations from Americans. A plea for cash was issued 30 minutes before the January 6, 2021 riot.
“Not only was there the big lie, there was the big rip-off,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.
Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., opened the hearing Monday, saying Trump had “betrayed the confidence of the American people” and “tried to stay in office when people voted him out.”
Stepien was supposed to be a key personal witness but abruptly withdrew from appearing live because his wife went into labour. The ex-campaign leader is still close to Trump and had been summoned.
But the panel marched on after a morning scramble, showing pre-taped statements from the ex-campaign chief and others close to the president, as Trump repeatedly made false claims about the election, despite those closest to him denying the theories stolen ballots or rigged vote-telling machines were not true.
Stepien and Senior Advisor Jason Miller described how the festive mood in the White House changed on election night when Fox News announced Trump had lost the state of Arizona to Joe Biden and advisors worked to advise Trump on what to do next to do.
But he ignored her advice and instead chose to listen to Giuliani, who was described by several witnesses as intoxicated. Giuliani issued a blanket denial on Monday, dismissing “all untruths” he said had been said about him.
“My belief, my recommendation was to say votes are still being counted, it’s too early to say, too early to announce the race,” Stepien said in the recorded testimony.
But Trump “thought I was wrong. He told me.”
And Barr, who also testified at last week’s Blockbuster hearing, said Trump “was the furiousest I’ve ever seen him” when the attorney general declared that the Justice Department would not take sides in the election.
Chairman Thompson and Vice Chairman Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., chaired the hearing after last week’s prime-time session drew nearly 20 million Americans to see the results.
For the past year, the committee has been investigating the most violent attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812 to ensure such an attack never happens again. Lawmakers hope to show Trump’s attempt to overthrow Biden’s election victory poses a serious threat to democracy.
Monday’s hearing also included live witnesses, including Chris Stirewalt, a former Fox News Channel political editor who declared on election night that Arizona would be won by Biden.
Also seen was former US Attorney in Atlanta BJay Pak, who abruptly resigned after Trump pressured Georgia state officials to overturn his defeat. Trump wanted to fire Pak as disloyal, but Pak resigned after Trump’s call for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory in the state became public.
The panel also heard from prominent Washington election attorney Benjamin Ginsberg, who discussed the norms of campaign challenges, and former Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, the only Republican on the city’s Electoral Board, who told the panel some of them were “fantastic.” The allegations made by Trump and his team were investigated by city officials. He spoke about threats after Trump criticized him in a tweet.
As he ponders another White House run, Trump insists the committee’s investigation is a “witch hunt.” Last week he said January 6 was “the greatest movement in our country’s history.”
Nine people died in the riots and their aftermath, including a Trump supporter shot dead by police. More than 800 people were arrested in the siege, and members of two extremist groups have been charged with rare sedition charges for leading the charge against the Capitol.
Additional evidence is set to be released this week at hearings focused on Trump’s decision to ignore the election result and the court cases ruled against him, drawing supporters to Washington on Jan. 6 to overturn Biden’s victory as Congress confirms it should results of the Electoral College
The committee has said most of those interviewed in the inquiry are volunteering, although some have requested subpoenas to appear publicly. Stepien is now a top campaign adviser to Trump-backed House nominee Harriet Hageman, who is challenging Cheney in the Wyoming Republican primary.
Lawmakers pointed out that perhaps his most important listener as the hearings progress may be Attorney General Merrick Garland, who must decide whether his department can and should prosecute Trump. They left no doubt about their own view as to whether the evidence was sufficient to proceed.
“Once the evidence is gathered by the Justice Department, it must make a determination as to whether it can prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury the president’s guilt or someone else’s,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif, a member of the panel. “But they need to be investigated when there is credible evidence, which I think is the case.”
No president or ex-president has ever been indicted. Garland did not say if he would be willing to prosecute.
Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri and Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.
https://www.fox43.com/article/news/nation-world/jan-6-panel/507-14fe58f3-7242-4ca5-98b9-29172266a81f Jan. 6 panel continuing investigative hearings Monday