January 6 Panel Follows How Trump Created And Spread Election Lies

WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol on Monday released an extensive case that former President Donald J. Trump had created and relentlessly spread the lie that the 2020 election had been stolen from him in the United States. face of mounting evidence from a growing chorus of advisers that he was legitimately defeated.

The commission, at its second hearing this month, traced the origins and progression of what it has described as Mr Trump’s “big lie.” It showed through live witness testimony and recorded statements how the former president, defying many of his advisers, insisted on declaring victory on election night before the votes were fully counted, then tried to challenge his defeat with increasingly bizarre and baseless claims. that he had been repeatedly misinformed.

“He’s disconnected from reality if he really believes this,” former Attorney General William P. Barr said of Mr. Trump during a videotaped interview the panel played Monday, in which he at one point laughed. could not contain the absurdity of the claims made by the former president.

“There was never any indication of interest in what the actual facts were,” said Mr Barr.

The panel also used the testimony of Bill Stepien, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, who told his investigators that Mr. Trump had ignored his election warning not to declare a victory he could not claim. Instead, the president took the advice of Rudolph W. Giuliani — his personal attorney who, according to Jason Miller, was a top campaigner, “absolutely drunk” — and said he had won, while the votes were still being tabulated.

It was all part of the committee’s attempt to show how Trump’s invective over the election results led directly to the events of January 6, when a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol in the deadliest attack on the building in centuries, inciting to the president’s admonitions to “stop the theft.”

Continuing on Monday, the investigators detailed how the Trump campaign and its Republican allies were using claims of a rigged election that they knew were fake to mislead small donors and raise as much as $250 million for an entity they the Official Election Defense Fund. campaign workers testified never existed.

“There wasn’t just the big lie,” said Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who played a key role in the hearing, “there was the big scam.”

Money ostensibly raised to “stop the theft” instead went to Mr. Trump and his allies, including, the investigation found, $1 million for a charitable foundation run by Mark Meadows, his chief of staff; $1 million to a political group led by several of its former staffers, including Stephen Miller, the architect of Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda; over $200,000 worth of Trump hotels; and $5 million to Event Strategies Inc., which led the January 6 rally preceding the Capitol riot.

Aid workers said Kimberly Guilfoyle, girlfriend of Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr., was given $60,000 to speak at the event, a speech that lasted less than three minutes.

“Clearly he deliberately misled his donors, asking them to donate to a fund that didn’t exist and using the money raised for something other than what he said,” Ms Lofgren said of Mr Trump.

But most of the session was devoted to showing Mr Trump’s determination to cling to the fiction that he had won the election, only delving deeper when assistant after assistant told him he hadn’t.

According to the commission’s presentation, the list of aides and advisers who tried to keep Trump away from his false claims was long and varied. Among them were low-level campaign attorneys who outlined how they told the president that field results showed he would lose the race. Also among them were top Justice Department officials — including its former attorney general — who understood how they’d investigated claims that the race had been rigged or stolen and found them to be not only baseless, but nonsensical.

“There were suggestions from, I believe it was Mayor Giuliani, to go and declare the win and say we had won it outright,” said Mr Miller in a video interview played by the panel.

Mr. Stepien later said he considered himself part of “Team Normal,” while a separate group of outside advisers, including Mr. Giuliani, encouraged Mr. Trump’s false claims.

The commission played several parts of a statement by Mr. Barr, Mr. Trump’s last attorney general, who called the president’s claims about a stolen election “bullshit” and “phony.”

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

Mr. Trump was still at it on Monday, issuing a lengthy 12-page statement just hours after the committee hearing ended, doubling down on his claims of fraud and complaining — again without any evidence — that the Democrats had blown up voter lists, illegally collected ballots, removed Republican pollsters from vote-counting facilities, bribed election officials and stopped counting on election night while he was still in charge.

“Democrats created the January 6 narrative to detract from the much larger and more important truth that the 2020 election had been rigged and stolen,” Trump wrote.

In Monday’s hearing, the panel showed in striking detail how Mr Trump’s advisers tried and failed to get him to drop his lies and accept defeat. In his statement, Mr. Barr recalled several scenes at the White House, including one in which he said he asked Mr. Meadows and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and top adviser, how long Mr. Trump planned to “go.” move on with this stolen election stuff.”

Mr. Barr recalled that Mr. Meadows assured him that Mr. Trump was “becoming more realistic” and knew “how far he can go in this.” As for Mr. Kushner, Mr. Barr said he answered the question by saying, “We’re working on this.”

After informing Mr. Trump that his fraud claims were false, Mr. Barr had a follow-up meeting with the president and his White House attorney, Pat Cipollone. Mr. Barr, in his statement, described how Mr Trump became furious that his own attorney general had refused to support his allegations of fraud.

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

In total, Mr. Trump and his allies have filed more than 60 lawsuits against the election results. But among the numerous fraud allegations, Mr Barr told the committee, the worst — and most sensational — was an alleged plot by Chinese software companies, Venezuelan officials and liberal financier George Soros to hack into Dominion Voting Systems machines and to spin. vote away from mr. Trump.

These allegations were most pronounced by a former federal prosecutor named Sidney Powell, who collected several unconfirmed affidavits from witnesses who allegedly had information about Dominion. In the weeks following the election, Ms. Powell, in conjunction with a group of other attorneys, filed four federal lawsuits setting out her claims in Democratic strongholds of Atlanta, Detroit, Milwaukee and Phoenix, even though the Trump campaign had already determined that some of the her accusations were false.

All of the suits — known as the “Krakens,” a reference to a mythical, ravaging sea beast — were ultimately rejected and deemed so frivolous that a federal judge sentenced Ms. Powell and her colleagues. Dominion has sued her and others for defamation.

In his statement, Mr. Barr described the claims against Dominion as “crazy stuff” — a sentiment echoed by other Trump associates whose testimony was presented by the committee.

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

Another witness who testified Monday and dismissed Mr Trump’s fraud allegations was Byung J. Pak, the former US attorney in Atlanta who abruptly resigned on January 4, 2021. After speaking with Mr. Barr, Mr. Pak investigated allegations of voter fraud in Atlanta, including an allegation by Mr. Giuliani that a suitcase of ballots had been pulled under a table at a local counting station on election night.

Trump and his allies also claimed rampant fraud was happening in Philadelphia, with the former president recently claiming that there were more people voting in the city than registered voters. In his statement, Mr Barr called this allegation “nonsense”. To bolster this argument, the committee called Al Schmidt, a Republican who served as one of three city commissioners on the Philadelphia County Board of Elections.

Mr. Schmidt rejected the fraud claims of Mr. Trump and his allies, saying there was no evidence that more people voted in Philadelphia than were registered there or that thousands of dead voted in the city.

Mr. Schmidt also testified that after Mr. Trump posted a tweet accusing him by name of committing voter fraud, he received online threats from people who made the names of his relatives, his address and photos of his home public.

Zach Montague and Charlie Savage reporting contributed.

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