The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot resumed public hearings on Monday with recordings of depositions from Donald Trump’s former attorney general and campaign manager to detail how the former president continued his false allegations regarding the November 2020 elections.
Bill Barr, the attorney general at the time, said Trump had become “detached from reality” in his pursuit of the fight against the election outcome. The panel of seven Democrats and two Republicans accused Trump of encouraging a mob of his supporters to besiege the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, opened the nearly three-hour hearing by saying that Trump “betrayed the trust of the American people” and “tried to stay in power while people had rejected”.
The first set of witnesses was supposed to include former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien appearing in person. But Stepien was a last-minute pullout due to a family emergency, pushing back the hearing start time by 45 minutes.
Trump went ‘in a different direction’
The committee broadcast excerpts from a taped interview with Stepien conducted in February. In those segments, Stepien said he advised the president to expect mail-in ballots — which have increased dramatically in 2020 due to the pandemic — to likely be tabulated for hours, if not days. , and that tracks may change in some states.
Trump, Stepien said, told the adviser “he was going to go in a different direction,” leading the incumbent to declare victory on election night, with a handful of states still in play.
The committee also heard from Chris Stirewalt, a former Fox News political editor.
Stirewalt said Fox had “gone to great lengths” to let viewers know the tracks might change because Democratic voters, as recent election history has shown, tended to favor mail-in voting more than the Republicans. He also explained his network’s process declaring Arizona as won by Joe Biden.
The statement rocked the Trump campaign, allies of the former president said in pre-recorded testimony broadcast Monday.
Claims about Canada’s voting society are ‘disturbing’: Barr
Despite Arizona’s statement, however, Fox aired several allegations of voter fraud by Trump surrogates, including attorney Rudy Giuliani, in the weeks following the Nov. 3 election.
Stepien said in his recorded deposition that as Trump continued his campaign protests, a distinction had been drawn between “Team Normal” and “Rudy’s Team.” Giuliani, Sidney Powell and other allies of the president shared wild allegations of voter fraud, some involving foreign entities, as well as legal strategies to help Trump.
“What they were proposing, I thought was crazy,” White House attorney Eric Herschmann said in recorded deposition.
Monday morning’s session also included more details about a recent deposition conducted with Barr, who was seen to have backed Trump during investigations into his 2016 campaign.
Barr parted ways with Trump in mid-December 2020, but not before he told The Associated Press that there was no evidence of fraud widespread enough to overturn the previous month’s election result, which that made Trump angrier than he had ever seen before, the former general counsel testified.
Barr said in recently released clips that fraud theories were multiplying and becoming like a game of “Whac-a-Mole”, and that Trump had “detached himself from reality” in his obsession.
Barr also said he informed the president that the Justice Department “was not an extension of his legal team.” He said things “deteriorated” in the last week of November 2020 when it came to Trump’s outlandish claims and his relationship with the president.
The claims about the Dominion Voting Systems machine, Barr said, were among the “most troubling” for being outlandish and shaking faith in the electoral process. Toronto-based Dominion has sued a number of Trump allies and US cable networks over unproven allegations.
Threats from Trump supporters
A second group of in-person witnesses on Monday included Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, a Republican who faced criticism as the Pennsylvania election was called for Biden.
Regarding a claim that about 8,000 votes were cast there on behalf of deceased people for the Democrats, Schmidt replied: “Not only was there no evidence of 8,000 dead voters voting in Pennsylvania, but there is no had no evidence of eight.”
After Trump angrily included his name in a tweet, Schmidt said he received a host of graphic threats, some of which included specific information about his family and home address.
Federal attorney BJ Pak has detailed some rebuttals to some voter fraud allegations in Georgia. Pak resigned from the Justice Department after failing to find examples of fraud in Georgia requested by the Trump administration.
The committee, investigating the early 2021 attack over the past year, warned that Trump’s efforts to undo Biden’s election victory posed a grave threat and set a precedent for future US elections.
Stirewalt, in an essay published on The Dispatch early Monday about why he is testifying, said the stakes were high.
“What Trump and his gang did in the 2020 election and its aftermath is a great historic moment for our country, far bigger than the Watergate scandal we are still discussing 50 years later,” he said. writing.
The panel does not have the power to issue indictments, but could increase pressure on the Justice Department if it presents compelling evidence that crimes have been committed.
No president or ex-president has ever been charged. Attorney General Merrick Garland did not say whether he would be willing to prosecute.
WATCH | The committee says the fundraising for Trump voter fraud went to the PAC, not the legal challenges:
Trump, who may be considering another presidential run, said last week that Jan. 6 “represented the greatest move in the history of our country.”
More than 800 people were arrested during the siege and members of two extremist groups were charged with rare sedition charges for their role in carrying out the attack. Among those who died at the Capitol that day was a Trump supporter who was shot and killed while part of a large group seeking to force an entrance to the Capitol.
Hearings are scheduled for Wednesday morning and Thursday afternoon this week.
LISTEN | Some Republicans hope the hearings become a moment of reflection for the GOP:
As it happens6:14The January 6 hearings are a reminder of how ‘extreme’ a majority of Republicans have become, party member says
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