WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s closest campaign advisers, top government officials and even his family were dismantling his bogus 2020 voter fraud allegations by Jan. 6, but the defeated president seemed “detached from reality” and continued to clinging to outlandish theories to stay in power, the committee investigating the Capitol attack said Monday.
With gripping testimony, the panel explains step-by-step how Trump ignored data from his own campaign team as state after state turned to Joe Biden, and instead clung to conspiracy theories , court cases and his own declarations of victory. rather than having to admit defeat.
Trump’s “big lie” about voter fraud escalated into marching orders that summoned supporters to Washington, then sent them to the Capitol on Jan. 6 to block Biden’s victory.
“He’s detached from reality if he really believes in it,” former attorney general William Barr said during his interview with the committee.
Barr called the election fraud allegations “bull”, “false” and “idiot”, and resigned in the aftermath. “I didn’t want to be part of it.”
The House 1/6 Committee spent the morning hearing delving into Trump’s voter fraud allegations and the myriad ways his entourage tried to convince the defeated Republican president that they weren’t true, and he simply lost the election.
Witnesses on Monday, mostly Republicans and many testifying in pre-recorded videos, described in direct terms and sometimes exasperated detail how Trump refused to take the advice of those close to him, including family members. As the people around him split into a “normal team” led by former campaign manager Bill Stepien and others led by Trump confidant Rudy Giuliani, the president chose sides.
On election night, Stepien said, Trump was “increasingly disgruntled” and unwilling to accept the bleak outlook for his presidency.
His son-in-law Jared Kushner tried to distance Trump from Giuliani and his far-flung theories on voter fraud. The president would have none of that.
The back and forth intensified as January 6 approached. Former Justice Department official Richard Donoghue recalled breaking down one claim after another — from a truckload of ballots in Pennsylvania to a missing suitcase of ballots in Georgia — and having says Trump “most of the information you get is wrong”.
Yet he continued his misrepresentations even after dozens of court cases collapsed.
On Monday, an unrepentant Trump called the hearings in his colloquial language “ridiculous and a betrayal” and repeated his claims.
The former president, eyeing another run for the White House, defended the attack on Capitol Hill as ordinary Americans seeking to “empower their elected officials.”
Nine people died in the riot and its aftermath, including a Trump supporter who was shot by Capitol police. More than 800 people have been arrested and members of two extremist groups have been charged with rare sedition charges for their role in leading the charge against the Capitol.
During the hearing, the panel also provided new insights into how Trump’s fundraising machine raised some $250 million with his campaigns for “Stop the Steal” and others in the aftermath of the November elections, mostly thanks to small donations from Americans. A call for money was launched 30 minutes before the January 6, 2021 uprising.
“Not only was there the big lie, there was the big scam,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.
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.”
As the hearings unfold for the public, they are also watched by one of the most important viewers, Attorney General Merrick Garland, who must decide whether his department can and should prosecute Trump. No sitting president or former president has ever faced such an indictment.
“I’m watching,” Garland said Monday during a Justice Department press briefing, though he can’t watch all of the hearings live. “And I can assure you that prosecutors on January 6 are also monitoring all hearings.”
Biden was getting updates but not looking “blow-by-blow,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
Stepien was scheduled to be a key in-person witness on Monday, but abruptly backed out of appearing live because his wife went into labor. Stepien, who is still close to Trump, had been subpoenaed. He is now a top campaign adviser to Trump-endorsed House candidate Harriet Hageman, who is challenging committee vice-chairman Rep. Liz Cheney in Wyoming’s Republican primary.
The panel moved forward after an early morning scramble and delay, with witness after witness saying Trump embraced and repeated his claims about the election despite those closest to him telling him the stolen ballot or voting machine theories faked were just not true.
Stepien and senior adviser Jason Miller described how the celebratory mood at the White House on election night turned dark when Fox News announced that Trump had lost the state of Arizona to Joe Biden, and that aides worked to advise Trump on what to do next.
But he ignored their advice, choosing instead to listen to Giuliani, who was described as intoxicated by several witnesses. Giuliani issued a blanket denial on Monday, dismissing “all the lies” he said were being told about him.
Stepien said: “My belief, my recommendation was to say the votes were still counted, it’s too early to tell, too early to call the race.”
But Trump “thought I was wrong. He told me.
Barr, who also testified at last week’s blockbuster opening hearing, said Trump was “as crazy as I’ve ever seen him” when the attorney general later explained that the Department of Justice would not take sides during the elections.
Barr said that when he would tell Trump “how crazy some of these allegations were, there was never, there was never any indication of interest in the actual facts.”
For a year, the committee has been investigating the most violent attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812, which some say posed a serious threat to democracy.
Monday’s hearing also featured live witnesses, including Chris Stirewalt, a former Fox News Channel political editor who was part of a team that declared on election night that Arizona was won by Biden. Also appearing was former Atlanta U.S. attorney BJay Pak, who abruptly resigned after Trump pressured Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find enough votes to overturn his defeat.
The panel also heard from election attorney Benjamin Ginsberg, who discussed campaign challenge standards, and former Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, the only Republican on the city’s Board of Elections, who told the panel that no matter how badly some of the claims Trump and his team made, city officials investigated. He discussed the threats after Trump criticized him in a tweet.
Associated Press writers Kevin Freking and Michael Balsamo in Washington and Farnoush Amiri and Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.
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