January 6 panel tracks how Trump created and spread election lies

House of Representatives Committee of Inquiry January 6, 2021, the attack on the Capitol He made a wide-ranging case Monday that former President Donald Trump created and spread the lie that the 2020 election had been stolen from him in the face of mounting evidence from his growing chorus of advisers that he had been legitimately defeated.

The committee, at its second hearing this month, traced the origins and development of what it called “Trump’s Big Lie.” It showed through live testimonies and testimonies how the former president, defying many of his advisers, insisted on declaring victory on election night before the vote was fully counted, and then sought to challenge his defeat by repeatedly making outlandish and unfounded claims. Reported it was wrong.

Bill Barr, the former attorney general, said of Trump during a videotaped interview shown on Monday that he could not control his laughter because of the absurdity of the allegations the former president was making.

“There was no indication of any interest in what the actual facts were,” Barr said.

The commission also used testimony from Bill Stebbin, Trump’s campaign chairman, who told its investigators that Trump ignored his election night warning to refrain from declaring a victory unfounded for his claim. Instead, the president took the advice of Rudy Giuliani—his personal attorney who, according to Jason Miller, one of his top campaign aides, was “certainly drunk”—and said he won even as votes continued to be tabulated.

It was all part of the commission’s attempt to show how Trump’s failure to deliver the election results directly led to the events of January 6, when a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol in the deadliest attack on the building in centuries, motivated by the president. Warnings to “stop theft”.

Investigators went further on Monday, detailing how the Trump campaign and its Republican allies used allegations of election fraud that they knew were false to mislead small donors and raise up to $250 million for an entity they called the Official Election Defense Fund, which is leading the campaign. The assistants testified that they were never there.

“There wasn’t just the big lie, there was the big robbery,” said Representative Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who played a key role in the hearing.

The money raised ostensibly to “stop the theft” went instead to Trump and his allies, including, the investigation found, $1 million to a charitable foundation run by Mark Meadows, his chief of staff; $1 million for a political group run by several of his former employees, including Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump’s immigration agenda; more than $200,000 for Trump hotels; and $5 million for Event Strategies Inc. , which organized the January 6 rally that preceded the riots at the Capitol.

Bill Stebbin, the last campaign chairman of former President Donald Trump, listens to Trump speak at his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, November 3, 2020 (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)

Aides said Kimberly Gilfoyle, a friend of Trump’s son Donald Jr., received $60,000 to speak at the event, a speech that lasted less than three minutes.

“Obviously he deliberately misled donors, asked them to donate to a fund that didn’t exist, and used the money raised for something other than what he said,” Lofgren said of Trump.

But the bulk of the session was devoted to showing how insistent Trump was to cling to the illusion that he had won the election, not going deeper after his aide told him he hadn’t.

According to the commission’s presentation, the list of aides and advisers who sought to distance Trump from his false allegations was long and varied. Among them were low-level lawyers who outlined how they told the president that revenue from the field showed he would lose the race. Also among them were senior officials at the Department of Justice – including a former attorney general – who reviewed how they investigated allegations that the race had been rigged or stolen and found them not only unfounded but unreasonable.

“There have been suggestions before, I think it was Mayor Giuliani, to go and declare victory and say we won it on the spot,” Miller said in a video interview conducted by the committee.

Stebbin later said he considered himself part of the “regular team,” while a separate group of outside advisers, including Giuliani, were encouraging Trump’s false claims.

The committee played several parts of the testimony of Barr, Trump’s last attorney general, who called the president’s allegations of stolen elections “nonsense” and “fake.”

“I told them it was crazy stuff and they were wasting their time,” Barr testified. “And that was a great deal of damage to the country.”

Still present on Monday, Trump issued a sporadic 12-page statement several hours after the committee session ended, in which he doubled down on his allegations of fraud and complained – again without any evidence – that Democrats had inflated voter rolls and illegally harvested ballot papers. . He removed Republican election observers from vote-counting facilities, bribed election officials and halted the count on election night when he was still ahead.

Schmidt, Philadelphia board member overseeing voter registration and elections, Philadelphia, October 27, 2020 (Michelle Gustafson/The New York Times)

“The Democrats created the January 6 narrative to discredit the larger and more important fact that the 2020 election was rigged and stolen,” Trump wrote.

In the hearing on Monday, the panel showed in astonishing detail how Trump’s advisers tried and failed to get him to give up his lies and accept defeat. In his testimony, Barr recalled several scenes inside the White House, including one in which he said he asked Meadows and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and chief adviser, how long Trump intends to “keep on this stolen election stuff.”

Barr noted that Meadows assured him that Trump “has become more realistic” and knows “how far he can take this.” As for Kushner, Barr recounted that he responded to the question by saying, “We’re working on this.”

After informing Trump that his allegations of fraud were false, Barr held a follow-up meeting with the president and his White House adviser, Pat Cipollone. In his testimony, Barr described how angry Trump was because his attorney general refused to support the fraud allegations.

“This is killing me,” Barr quoted Trump as saying. “You must have said this because you hate Trump.”

In all, Trump and his allies have filed more than 60 lawsuits to challenge the election results. But of the many allegations of fraud, Barr told the committee, the worst — and the most shocking — involved an alleged plot by Chinese software companies, Venezuelan officials, and liberal financier George Soros to hack machines made by Dominion Voting Systems and turn votes away from Trump.

These allegations have been prominently pushed by Sidney Powell, a former federal prosecutor who collected numerous uncorroborated testimonies from witnesses who supposedly had information about Dominion. In the weeks after the election, Powell, along with a group of other lawyers, filed four federal lawsuits that presented her allegations in Democratic strongholds of Atlanta, Detroit, Milwaukee and Phoenix even though the Trump campaign had already determined that some of her allegations were false.

All of the suits—known as “crakens,” in reference to the mythical mayhem-causing sea monster—were eventually dismissed and deemed so frivolous that a federal judge punished Powell and her colleagues. Dominion sued her and others for defamation.

Barr, in his testimony, described the allegations against Dominion as “crazy stuff” – a sentiment echoed by other Trump aides whose testimony the commission has provided.

After Barr left his position as attorney general, his successor, Jeffrey Rosen, also told Trump that his allegations of widespread fraud had been “debunked.”

Another witness who testified on Monday and denied Trump’s allegations of fraud is Byung Jae Pak, a former US attorney in Atlanta who abruptly resigned on January 4, 2021. After speaking with Barr, Pak looked into allegations of election fraud in Atlanta, including one that had been pushed. by Giuliani that a bag of ballot papers was pulled from under a table at a local counting station on election night.

Trump and his allies have also claimed that fraud is rampant in Philadelphia, with the former president recently asserting that more people voted in the city than registered voters. In his testimony, Barr called this claim “nonsense.” To bolster this argument, the committee invited Al Schmidt, a Republican who served as one of the city’s three commissioners to the Philadelphia County Board of Elections.

Schmidt dismissed allegations of fraud raised by Trump and his allies, saying there was no evidence that more people voted in Philadelphia or that thousands of dead voted in the city.

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Schmidt also testified that after Trump posted a tweet accusing him of election fraud, he received online threats from people who announced the names of his family members, his address, and pictures of his home.

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