U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Speaker Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Vice Speaker U.S. Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) listen during the second public hearing of the United States House Select Committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, United States, June 13, 2022.
Joshua Roberts | Reuters
The House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot has put former President Donald Trump’s false claims of voter fraud at the center of the second public hearing detailing the investigation’s initial findings.
The narrowly focused hearing, which ended after just over two hours, sought to establish that Trump knew he had lost the 2020 election to President Joe Biden, but nonetheless worked to convince a large part of the public that the race had been stolen from them by widespread fraud.
The panel showed numerous images of former Trump aides and officials, in particular former Attorney General William Barr, testifying before the committee about their conversations with Trump and those close to him. Numerous witnesses said they told Trump at the time of the election that his fraud allegations were false. The committee also heard in-person testimony from former Fox News political editor Chris Stirewalt, Republican election lawyer Benjamin Ginsberg and others.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the second hearing:
Barr tore into ‘crazy’ voter fraud allegations and questioned Trump’s grip on reality
Former United States Attorney General Bill Barr is seen on video during his deposition for the open hearing of the United States House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol of the United States, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 9, 2022. REUTERS/ Jonathan Erst
Jonathan Ernest | Reuters
Barr, who served as U.S. attorney general until the end of December 2020, became a main character arguing to the committee that Trump was repeatedly told there was no evidence. allegations of fraud he was peddling.
In his interviews with committee investigators, Trump’s former Justice Department chief repeatedly called such voter fraud conspiracy theories “bull—” and “crazy,” among other terms. He testified that he said it in front of the then president.
In one clip, Barr recounted an Oval Office meeting a few weeks after the Nov. 3, 2020 election, during which he had to tell Trump that the DOJ “is not an extension of your legal team” and cannot not be used to “take sides in elections” when investigating allegations of fraud.
“We’ll look at something if it’s specific, believable and could have affected the outcome of the election, and we’re doing it and it’s just not meritorious, they’re not happening,” Barr recalled telling Trump.
The former DOJ chief also said he told Trump “that the stuff his people were offering to the public was bullshit —. I mean, the fraud allegations were bullshit —. And he was outraged on this subject .”
“I repeated that they wasted an entire month with these claims on these Dominion voting machines, and they were silly claims,” Barr said.
Barr said he found these claims, that Dominion voting machines were rigged to flip votes in Biden’s favor, “disturbing” in that “I saw absolutely zero basis” for them. But “they were obviously influencing a lot of audience members” even though they were “completely absurd,” Barr said.
He added: “I told him it was crazy stuff and they were wasting their time on it and it was doing the country a disservice.”
Barr said Trump gave him a copy of a report filled with allegations of voter fraud. Trump said the report showed he would get a second term, but “to be frank, it sounded very amateurish to me,” Barr said.
“I was kind of demoralized, because I was thinking, boy, if he really believes in this stuff, he’s lost touch with – he’s become detached from reality if he really believes in this stuff. things,” Barr said.
When Barr was telling Trump how “crazy” some of those claims were, “there was never any interest in the actual facts,” the former attorney general said with a laugh.
Rudy Giuliani ‘definitely drunk’ on election night pushed Trump to declare victory, campaign aide says
Former Trump campaign attorney Rudy Giuliani is shown on a screen during a select committee hearing investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol on June 13, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
In another clip of witness interviews, former Trump campaign aide Jason Miller said former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was “definitely drunk” on election night 2020 when he told the White House that Trump should just declare victory.
Miller said he noticed Giuliani was intoxicated when he and other officials, including former campaign manager Bill Stepien and former chief of staff Mark Meadows, met at the White House to listen to what Giuliani wanted to say to Trump.
“The mayor was definitely drunk, but I didn’t know his level of drunkenness when he spoke with the president, for example,” Miller said as part of an interview with the select committee, excerpts of which have been released. broadcast during the hearing.
“There were suggestions from, I believe it was Mayor Giuliani, to go and declare victory and say we won it,” Miller said. Giuliani was effectively saying, “‘We won it, they’re stealing it from us, where all the votes are coming from, we have to go say we won’, and basically anyone who disagreed with that position was to be low,” Miller told investigators.
Trump, in the early hours of November 4, 2020, falsely claimed, “Frankly, we won this election.”
A spokesperson for Giuliani, who also sent a conspiracy theory and misrepresentation from Trump’s former lawyer, denied that Giuliani was drunk on election night.
The star witness gives up
Campaign manager Bill Stepien stands with US President Donald Trump as he speaks to reporters aboard Air Force One as it flies from Manchester, New Hampshire to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, on August 28, 2020, following a campaign rally.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
Stepien was due to appear under subpoena at Monday’s hearing. But his wife gave birth earlier in the morning, preventing him from testifying and forcing the select committee to delay proceedings for 45 minutes.
Instead of hearing Stepien’s in-person testimony, the committee played a handful of video and audio clips of his interviews with investigators.
In a video clip, Stepien told the committee that on election night he felt it was “far too early” for Trump to claim he had won the election, as Giuliani allegedly pushed him to do, since the ballots were still counted.
Stepien said he recommended Trump say the race was too early to call, but they are proud of the campaign and will have more to say later. Trump disagreed with that message, Stepien said.
“He thought I was wrong, he told me,” he said.
Trump officials have pushed back against allegations of fraud again and again
A video featuring Eric Hershman, White House attorney under former President Donald Trump, is played during a hearing of the select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol building of Cannon House offices on June 13, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Somodevilla chip | Getty Images
The panel showed clip after clip of former Trump officials testifying that they had seen no evidence of fraud in the 2020 election that could have changed the outcome of the race.
Former Trump campaign general counsel Matt Morgan, for example, recalls assessing “whether the [fraud], if they are aggregated and read most favorably to the campaign, will this be decisive for the result? And I think the assessment of everyone in the room, at least among the staff…was that it wasn’t enough to determine the outcome.”
Former White House attorney Eric Herschman, discussing the allegations of rigged Dominion voting machines, said, “I have never seen a shred of evidence to support these allegations.”
“What they were proposing, I thought was crazy,” Herschman said in a later clip, referring to fraudulent conspiracy claims made by Giuliani and pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell.
In another clip, former Trump campaign lawyer Alex Cannon said he spoke to White House adviser Peter Navarro in mid-November about Dominion voting machines and other fraud allegations. electoral.
“I remember telling him that I didn’t believe the Dominion allegations because I thought the manual recount in Georgia would solve all the problems with the technology problem,” Cannon said, adding that Federal Director of Cybersecurity Christopher Krebs, had recently declared the election secure.
“I believe Mr. Navarro accused me of being a deep state agent working with Chris Krebs against the president. And I never took another phone call from Mr. Navarro,” Cannon said.
“Trump’s own campaign advisers, the Justice Department and his cybersecurity experts all told him the same thing,” committee vice chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said during the hearing.
Former acting assistant attorney general Richard Donoghue told the committee that he tried to tell Trump “in very clear terms” that “the main allegations are not supported by the evidence developed.”
“We looked at Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada. We’re doing our job. Most of the information you get is wrong,” Donoghue said. Donoghue told the panel that when he went into detail to debunk a fraud allegation, Trump said, “OK, what about the others?”
“There were so many of these allegations that when you gave him a very direct answer on one of them, he wouldn’t fight us but he would move on to another allegation,” Donoghue said.
Trump’s unsuccessful legal claims
To drive home the point, the committee posted statistics showing how the dozens of lawsuits filed by Trump’s legal team and his allies fared in court.
Between Election Day 2020 and the date of the Capitol Riot, 62 lawsuits were filed challenging the results in nine key states and Washington, DC, the committee said. Trump’s team lost 61 of those cases.
A chart posted by the committee noted that 22 of the judges who oversaw those cases were appointed by Republican presidents. Trump himself appointed 10 of these judges.
What will happen next
The committee is scheduled to hold five more public hearings in June. The main message from the panel, as stated in the first hearing last week, is that Trump was “at the center” of a plot to overturn the 2020 election result.
Upcoming hearings “will move on to President Trump’s broader planning for January 6, including his Justice Department corruption plan, and his detailed planning with attorney John Eastman to pressure the Vice President, the state legislatures, state officials and others to overturn the election,” Cheney said at the end of Monday’s presentation.