The House committee investigating the January 6 insurgency charged Monday that Donald Trump “lit the fuse” that sparked the most violent attack on the Capitol in more than two centuries with his false claims of voter fraud and “big lie” Joe Biden had done. stole his victory.
But despite the panel’s painstaking arguments—and the wealth of evidence it has gathered that proves it wrong—Trump’s myth of a stolen election rages on, unchecked in the Republican party’s attempt to return to power during the midterm. November elections.
About two-thirds of Republicans believe fraud helped Biden win, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released last week ahead of the first hearing. Republican election deniers across the country are running for office, and the lie is being used as the basis for passing numerous legislation restricting access to vote.
The panel of January 6 is doing its best to counter that story. In a methodical presentation on Monday, the panel charted how the defeated former president created false claims of voter fraud as part of a conspiracy to stay in power against the electoral will of the American people.
“This morning we tell the story of how Donald Trump lost an election and knew he lost an election — and as a result of his loss decided to launch an attack on our democracy,” said Congresswoman Bennie Thompson, committee chair. and a Democrat from Mississippi, said Monday at the hearing, which charted the origin and spread of Trump’s “big lie.”
The violence on Jan. 6, when a mob of loyalists to the president captured the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from ratifying Joe Biden’s victory, was a “direct and predictable result” of lies Trump told, Thompson said.
During the hearing, the committee turned to the former president’s inner circle to argue that Trump, defeated and desperate, continued to make baseless claims about electoral fraud that he had been repeatedly told were false.
“He’s disconnected from reality when he really believes this,” Bill Bar, the former attorney general, told the panel in a clip played during the hearing. “There was never any indication of interest in what the actual facts were,” he added. At one point during the impeachment, Barr laughs at the sheer absurdity of the claims, which include a plot orchestrated by former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez. Chavez died in 2013.
Barr said he told the president the fraud allegations were “bullshit”.
Former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien testified to the commission that he knew their road to victory had nearly evaporated and tried to dissuade the then president from proclaiming victory prematurely. But Trump ignored his pleas for caution and instead followed the advice of an “apparently intoxicated” Rudy Giuliani to claim he had won an election when it became increasingly clear that he hadn’t.
Stepien was due to appear in person on Monday, but withdrew abruptly because his wife was due to give birth. The ex-campaign manager, who remains close to Trump, was reportedly subpoenaed to appear. The committee instead played extended clips of his recorded testimony.
In the days that followed, Stepien said two factions developed within the campaign, his team and another led by Giuliani. “I didn’t mind being categorized as ‘Team Normal’”.
But while Stepien helped the committee — and the country — better understand the tumultuous aftermath of the 2020 election, he’s working to topple the panel’s vice chair, Congresswoman Liz Cheney.
Stepien is an adviser to Harriet Hageman, a Wyoming Republican who is conducting a Trump-fueled primary challenge against Cheney. The former president has made defeating Cheney a priority as part of a campaign of revenge against Republicans who defied his efforts to reverse the election results. Cheney’s unwavering pursuit of Trump has made her a pariah in her party — and yet could cost her her political career.
The commission also alleged that Trump had cheated his supporters by sending money so that his campaign could continue fighting to overturn the results in court. Some panel members have suggested that the revelation Trump misled his donors might shake their yet unwavering allegiance to the defeated president.
“The big lie was also a big scam,” said Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who led the panel’s presentation Monday.
During the hearing, officials dismissed allegation after allegation, allegation after allegation.
“Dead people vote. Indians are paid to vote. There’s a lot of fraud going on here,” former Acting Attorney General Richard Donoghue said, recalling the string of outlandish claims Trump made to him. Donoghue told Trump that “a lot of the information he is getting is false and/or not supported by the evidence.”
“There were so many of these accusations that if you gave him a very direct answer to one of them, he wouldn’t fight us over it, but he would move on to another accusation,” he said.
In another taped interview with the panel, Eric Herschmann, a White House attorney, recalled a phone call with John Eastman, one of the president’s attorneys who a judge has said colluded with Trump to undo the election. .
“I said to him: Have you gone mad?” Herschmann remembered. “I said I… just want to hear two words coming out of your mouth for now: orderly transition.”
Among the witnesses on Monday was Chris Stirewalt, a former Fox News Channel political editor who declared on election night that Biden had won Arizona, once a Republican stronghold.
Stirewalt told the panel that Trump had no reasonable basis for declaring victory on election night, as the former president did. To win, Trump would have needed the number in three states to change dramatically in his favor, the former news editor explained, an outcome so unlikely that “you’re better off playing the Powerball.”
Currently, the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are about 1 in 292,201,338.
When asked who won the 2020 election, Stirewalt replied with the enthusiasm of a broadcaster on election night: “Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. of the great state of Delaware.”
“That’s the bottom line,” Thompson replied.
But for many it is not. Republicans all over the US are running for office, fueling the myth of a stolen election, and they are likely to pay little heed to the facts and evidence gathered by the committee.
In Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano, who was a leader in efforts to overturn the 2020 election in the state and put Trump’s election lies at the center of his campaign, won the Republican primary for governor. The commission subpoenaed Mastriano for his involvement in planning and organizing the January 6 demonstration that preceded the attack on the Capitol.
If elected, he would have extraordinary control over the election administration in a critical track record. On Monday, as the Washington hearing got underway, Mastriano’s campaign announced it had engaged former Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis, who became the public face of his brutal legal efforts to reverse the presidential election.
In a statement, Ellis vowed — seemingly without irony — to help Mastriano “restore the integrity of our election.”