WASHINGTON — Donald Trump has been told the same thing over and over again by his campaign team, data crunchers and a steady stream of lawyers, investigators and inner circle allies: There is no had electoral fraud that could have swayed the 2020 presidential election.
But in the eight weeks since his loss to Joe Biden, publicly, privately and relentlessly defeated Trump has pushed his false claims of a rigged 2020 election and escalated an extraordinary plan to reverse Biden’s victory. When all else failed in his bid to stay in power, Trump waved to thousands of his supporters in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, where extremist groups have led the deadly siege of the Capitol.
The scale and virulence of this scheme began to take shape during the opening hearing of the House by the committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Thursday’s prime-time hearing was watched by about 20 million people on television networks, nearly double the number who tuned in to the opening of Trump’s two impeachment trials.
When the panel resumes on Monday, it will elaborate on its findings that Trump and his advisers knew early on that he had, in fact, lost the election, but had engaged in a “massive effort” to spread false information in order to convince the public otherwise.
Biden spoke about the importance of the committee’s investigation in remarks Friday in Los Angeles. “The January 6 insurrection was one of the darkest chapters in our nation’s history,” the president said, “a brutal assault on our democracy.”
Americans, he said, must “understand what really happened and understand that the same forces that led to January 6 are still at work today.”
The House panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is set next week to reveal more details and testimony about its assessment that Trump was properly briefed about his election defeat. With 1,000 interviews and 140,000 documents over the year-long investigation, he will explain how Trump was repeatedly told there were no hidden ballots, rigged voting machines or support for his assertions. Nonetheless, Trump refused to accept defeat, and his desperate attempt to hold on to the presidency resulted in the most violent domestic attack on the Capitol in history.
“For several months, Donald Trump oversaw and coordinated a sophisticated seven-part plan to nullify the presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power,” Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said at the hearing Thursday. evening. “Trump’s intention was to remain President of the United States,” she said.
On Wednesday, the panel will hear testimony from the highest levels of the Trump-era Justice Department — Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, his deputy principal Richard Donoghue and Steven Engel, the former chief of the department’s legal counsel’s office. — according to a person familiar with the situation and granted anonymity to discuss their appearances.
The testimony of the three former Justice Department officials is expected to focus on a chaotic period in the final weeks of the administration when Trump openly weighed the idea of replacing Rosen with a lower-ranking official, Jeffrey Clark, who was seen as more willing to defend the president’s false claims of voter fraud in court.
The situation came to a head during an hour-long meeting at the White House on January 3, 2021, attended by Rosen, Donoghue, Engel and Clark, when senior Justice Department officials and attorneys for the White House told Trump they would resign if he left. moving forward with his plan to replace Rosen. The president ultimately let Rosen finish the administration as acting attorney general.
Thursday will turn to Trump’s efforts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count electoral votes on Jan. 6, a ploy proposed to the White House by outside counsel John Eastman. During the insurgency, rioters prowled the halls of the Capitol shouting “hang Mike Pence” when the vice president refused Trump’s plan to cancel the 2020 election.
“I would like to see the truth come out,” Ken Sicknick, whose brother, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, died after suffering a stroke while defending the Capitol, said on CNN Friday.
He said while the family received countless condolences over his brother’s death, including from the vice president, “not a tweet, not a note, not a card, nothing” from Trump. “Because he knows he is the cause of everything.”
The hearings are intended to build the public record of the attack and the circumstances surrounding it and could result in referrals for prosecution. As Trump considers another run for the White House, the committee’s final report aims to document the most violent attack on the Capitol since 1814.
Trump responded Friday on his social media site, decrying the “WITCH HUNT!” even as he fully acknowledged that he refused to accept defeat.
“A lot of people have spoken to me about the election results, both for and against, but I never hesitated one bit,” he said, pushing his false claim of a stolen election.
Trump said January 6 “represented the greatest movement in the history of our country.”
Initially, the panel blamed Trump outright for the insurgency, saying the assault was not spontaneous but an “attempted coup” prompted by Trump’s efforts to nullify the 2020 election.
With a new 12-minute video of extremist groups carrying out the deadly siege and startling testimony from Trump’s inner circle, the committee has provided new details about a democracy in peril.
“Jan. 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., panel chairman. “The violence was no accident.”
In a never-before-seen video clip, the panel played a remark by former Attorney General Bill Barr, who testified that he told Trump the allegations of a rigged election were “bull—-“.
In another clip, the former president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, told the committee she respects Barr’s view that there was no voter fraud. “I accepted what he said.”
Others showed leaders of the extremist Oath Keepers and Proud Boys preparing to storm the Capitol in defense of Trump. Rioter after rioter told the committee they came to the Capitol because Trump asked them to.
In heartbreaking testimony, United States Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards told the panel that she had slipped into other people’s blood as rioters pushed her through the Capitol. She suffered brain damage in the melee.
“It was carnage. It was chaos,” she said.
The riot left more than 100 police officers injured, many beaten and bloodied, as the crowd of Trump supporters, some armed with pipes, bats and pepper spray, charged into the Capitol. At least nine people inside died during or after the riots, including a woman who was shot dead by police.
Court documents show that members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers were discussing as early as November the need to fight to keep Trump in power. Leaders of both groups and some members have since been charged with rare sedition charges for the military-style attack.
The Justice Department arrested and charged more than 800 people for the violence that day, the largest net in its history.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in Los Angeles on Friday that the committee’s purpose was to “find the truth” to make sure “no one will ever again think it’s okay to have a shot.” State, to have an assault on the Capitol of the United States”. , an assault on our country’s democracy.
Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Farnoush Amir, Kevin Freking, Michael Balsamo, Jill Colvin, Darlene Superville and Zeke Miller in Washington and Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston contributed to this report.
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