Live updates from January 6 hearings: Witnesses say they told Trump not to claim a quick win after 2020 election

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s closest campaign advisers, top government officials and even his family were dismantling his false allegations of voter fraud in 2020 on election night, but the defeated president was becoming “detached from reality,” he said. clinging to outlandish theories to stay in power, many said.

Former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien testified before the House committee on Jan. 6 on Monday that Trump grew “increasingly unhappy” with the election results as the night wore on.

Son-in-law Jared Kushner tried to steer Trump away from attorney Rudy Giuliani and his far-flung theories about voter fraud that advisers believed were untrue.

Former Justice Department official Richard Donoghue recalls breaking down one claim after another — from a truckload of ballots in Pennsylvania to a missing suitcase of ballots in Georgia — and telling Trump “much of the information you get is wrong”.

“He was detaching himself from reality,” said former attorney general William Barr, who has resigned. “I didn’t want to be part of it.”

Witnesses appeared before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack as the panel focused on the ‘big lie’, Trump’s false election fraud allegations that fueled the defeated Republican president’s efforts to cancel the 2020 election and provoked a crowd of his supporters. to besiege the United States Capitol.

Most of those who appeared did so in previously recorded testimony from closed-door interviews during the panel’s year-long investigation. The committee interviewed some 1,000 witnesses and compiled 140,000 documents, and some members say they uncovered enough evidence for the Justice Department to consider an unprecedented criminal charge against the former president.

The President’s representative Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., opened Monday’s hearing by saying that Trump “betrayed the trust of the American people” and “tried to stay in power when people rejected him.”

Stepien was to be a key witness on Monday, but abruptly backed out of appearing live because his wife went into labor. The former campaign manager is still close to Trump, and had been subpoenaed.

MORE: The Jan. 6 Capitol attack, in numbers

But the panel moved forward after an early morning scramble, showing previously taped testimony from the former campaign manager and others close to the president as Trump clung to repeated false claims about the election, although those closest told him the theories of stolen ballots or rigged voting machines were not true.

Stepien described how the celebratory mood at the White House on election night turned when Fox News announced that Trump had lost the state of Arizona to Joe Biden, and aides worked to advise Trump on what to do next.

But he turned a deaf ear to them, choosing instead to listen to Giuliani, who was described as drunk by several witnesses. Giuliani issued a blanket denial on Monday, dismissing “all the lies” he said were being told about him.

“My belief, my recommendation was to say the votes were still being counted, it’s too early to tell, too early to call the race,” Stepien said in recorded testimony.

But Trump “thought I was wrong. He told me.”

Kushner testified that he told Trump that the approach Giuliani was taking was not the one he would take. But the president backed down and said he had faith in the lawyer.

And Barr, who previously testified at last week’s blockbuster hearing that he told Trump the allegations raised were bullshit, revealed in vivid detail how he was “as crazy as I had never seen it” when the Attorney General explained that the Justice Department would not take sides in the election.

SEE ALSO: Election lies spawn deadly attack on US Capitol

Monday’s hearing also featured other live witnesses, including Chris Stirewalt, a former Fox News Channel political editor who said on election night that Arizona was won by Biden.

Thompson, D-Miss., and Vice President, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., led the hearing after last week’s blockbuster session drew nearly 20 million Americans to see its findings during prime time.

For a year, the committee has been investigating the most violent attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812 to ensure that such an assault never happens again. Lawmakers hope to show that Trump’s efforts to undo Joe Biden’s election victory posed a serious threat to democracy.

A second group of witnesses testifying Monday was expected to include election officials, investigators and experts who were likely to discuss Trump’s responses to the election, including dozens of failed legal challenges, and how his actions deviated from American standards.

Among them are former Atlanta U.S. attorney BJay Pak, who abruptly resigned after Trump pressured Georgia state officials to reverse his presidential defeat. Trump wanted to fire Pak as disloyal, but Pak resigned after Trump’s call urging Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory in the state became public knowledge.

The panel will also hear from former Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, the only Republican on the electoral board and who faced criticism as the state election was called for Biden, and noted the Washington attorney and election attorney Benjamin Ginsberg.

As he ponders another run for the White House, Trump insists the committee’s investigation is a “witch hunt.” Last week, he said January 6 “represented the greatest movement in the history of our country”.

Nine people died in the riot and its aftermath, including a Trump supporter shot dead by police. More than 800 people were arrested in the siege, and members of two extremist groups were charged with rare sedition charges for their role in leading the charge against the Capitol.

During its prime-time hearing, the committee explained how Trump was repeatedly told by his trusted aides and officials at the highest levels of government that there was no voter fraud. on a scale that could have changed the outcome. But Trump continued his false claims about the election and waved to his supporters in Washington on Jan. 6 to overturn Biden’s victory as Congress had to certify the Electoral College results.

More evidence is to be released in hearings this week, focused on Trump’s decision to ignore the election result and the court cases that have been decided against him.

Monday’s hearing also turned to the millions of dollars in fundraising Trump’s team has brought in as Jan. 6 approaches, according to a committee aide who insisted on anonymity to discuss the details.

The committee said most of those interviewed in the inquiry are coming forward voluntarily, although some have demanded subpoenas to appear in public. Stepien, who remains close to Trump, oversaw the “conversion” of Trump’s presidential campaign into a “Stop the Steal” effort, according to a subpoena issued by the committee last fall. Stepien is now a top campaign adviser to Trump-endorsed House candidate Harriet Hageman, who is challenging Cheney in Wyoming’s Republican primary.

Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich suggested on Sunday that the committee’s decision to call Stepien was politically motivated.

Lawmakers have indicated that their most important audience member during the hearings could be Attorney General Merrick Garland, who must decide whether his department can and should prosecute Trump. They left no doubt as to their own view of whether the evidence is sufficient to prosecute.

“Once the evidence has been accumulated by the Justice Department, it must decide whether it can prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt the guilt of the president or anyone else,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D. -Calif, panel member. .. “But they should be investigated if there is credible evidence, which I think there is.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., another member said on CNN that he had no intention of “breaking up” Garland, but noted that the committee had already spelled out in oral argument the criminal laws that the members believe Trump raped.

“I think he knows, his staff knows, American lawyers know, what’s at stake here,” Raskin said.

No president or ex-president has ever been charged. Garland did not say if he would be ready to sue.


Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri and Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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