The House commission’s second court meeting on January 6 centered on persons connected to former President Donald Trump who said they cautioned him it was too soon to claim victory on the night of the election in 2020 — and also how Trump exploited that early proclamation to advance bogus accusations that he had the vote was rigged.
The panel played video evidence from top Trump administration officials who claimed that former Vice President Mike Pence and the White House were aware that Trump’s accusations of fraudulent voting were unfounded.
In videotaped evidence, former Attorney General William Barr stated he knew early assertions that Trump had won an election were “false” and “ludicrous.”
“The agency, in fact, took an effort to look into these when we had precise and substantial allegations of fraud to satisfy ourselves that they were without substance,” Barr said in taped testimony shown Monday.
Thompson aired a video showing Trump supporters on January 6 repeating the former president’s bogus allegations that the election had been rigged at the close of the hearing.
In conjunction with Trump officials’ video testimony and footage from January 6, Monday’s hearing comprised other witnesses. Former Fox News political editor Chris Stirewalt was the first witness to appear, defending the Fox News Decision Desk’s contentious early call on election night that President Joe Biden had won Arizona — a judgment that turned out to be true.
Thompson asked Stirewalt if Trump had any reason to declare victory on November 4, 2020, and Stirewalt said no. When that call was made, some of Trump’s top advisers claimed that the former president was enraged.
“Tell the tale of how Donald Trump lost an election and knew he lost an election, and as a consequence of his team losing made the decision to earn a salary a strike on our democracy, a strike on the American people, by attempting to steal you of your tone in our democracy — and thereby, lit the fuse that led to the terrible violence of Jan. 6, when a mob of his followers stormed the Capitol,” committee chair U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson said in his initial statement.
Trump’s campaign manager William Stepien, who was expected to testify alongside Stirewalt, did not show up because his wife was pregnant. The committee presented a video of Stepien’s earlier interview, in which he stated that he was a member of “Team Normal,” as opposed to “Rudy’s team,” referring to Rudy Giuliani, who supported the bogus election allegations.
“At that point in time, I didn’t think what was going on was necessarily fair or professional,” Stepien said of Trump supporters claiming the election was rigged. “As a result, I took a step back.”
In her opening statement, Committee Vice-Chairman Liz Cheney stated that Trump chose to ignore the counsel of some of his closest aides and instead attend to an “obviously drunk” Giuliani. The committee also showed a video of former Trump aide Jason Miller claiming on election night that Giuliani was “clearly inebriated.”
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a member of the committee, also claimed that Trump continued to fundraise on bogus election claims until after Dec. 14, when electoral litigation usually stops. After that, Lofgren showed a video clip about how Trump utilized his lies about election integrity to raise “millions” from the American people and promote his false claims.
The committee calculated that between Nov. 3 and Jan. 6, the Trump campaign sent hundreds of fundraising emails — up to 25 per day — claiming a “left-wing mob” was subverting the election and urging small-dollar supporters to “fight back” by giving to the so-called “Election Defense Fund.” “I don’t think there is genuinely a fund called the Election Defense Fund,” Hanna Allred, a former Trump campaign aide, testified before investigators.
Former US Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia BJay Pak, former Philadelphia city commissioner Al Schmidt, and conservative election attorney Benjamin Ginsberg were among the other witnesses who testified in a group.
Pak, who quit on January 4, 2021, said he was requested to check into some of the election’s bogus charges. One of the allegations he was instructed to look into was from former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who claimed a bag of votes had been introduced to the count unlawfully. That, according to Pak, is untrue.
“We discovered that the supposed black bag full of ballots, which was seen being dragged from beneath the table, was actually the official lockbox where ballots were kept safe,” Pak stated.
After the election, Trump tweeted about Schmidt, accusing him of being a media tool who “failed to look at a pile of corruption & dishonesty.” He dismissed Giuliani’s notion that Pennsylvania had dead voters. Schmidt stated, “Not only was there no evidence of 8,000 dead voters voting in Pennsylvania, but there was also no proof of eight.”
This week, the committee will hold two additional hearings, on Wednesday and Thursday.