Jake Johnson, Common Dreams
Donald Trump’s incessant and frequently outlandish lies about the 2020 election were in the spotlight Monday as a special House committee laid out its case that the former president’s falsehoods about widespread voter fraud were pivotal in catalyzing the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Monday’s hearing, the second in a series of six, featured videotaped testimony from Trump administration insiders—including former Attorney General William Barr—and campaign officials who told House investigators that they informed their boss his claims about the 2020 election were unfounded, but he nevertheless made them on the night of the November contest and in subsequent weeks, ginning up his right-wing base and raking in massive sums in donations from supporters.
“Today’s hearing showed clearly that Trump lied. And he knew he lied,” Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of Public Citizen, said in a statement following the hearing. “He and his allies methodically and knowingly spread untruths about the election, with the goal of overturning it. The words of Trump’s former campaign manager, as well as testimony from other prominent GOP representatives today, cannot be denied.”
While Bill Stepien—who directed Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign—backed out of his planned in-person testimony at the last minute Monday because his wife went into labor, lawmakers played a recorded deposition clip in which Stepien says he cautioned Trump against declaring victory prematurely on election night.
“It was far too early to make any calls like that. Ballots were still being counted, ballots were still going to be counted for days,” Stepien told congressional investigators, noting that Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was pushing for an election-night victory declaration.
“It was far too early to be making any proclamations like that,” added Stepien, who said he told Trump that early returns would likely be more favorable to him than later ones—the so-called “red mirage” phenomenon.
Barr, who helped boost the former president’s voter fraud lies as attorney general, similarly testified that “everyone understood for weeks” that in-person vote counts would potentially favor Trump early on and later ballots would favor Biden—particularly given the surge in mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But that didn’t dissuade Trump from baselessly citing the later-counted Democratic votes as evidence of a nefarious plot to steal the election.
“He’s become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff,” Barr told the panel. “There was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were.”
Barr and Stepien in their depositions both acknowledged that everyone understood the early election night returns would be positive for Trump but the situation would change as mail votes were tallied pic.twitter.com/yfWhwEkypN
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 13, 2022
Christina Harvey, executive director of Stand Up America, said in a statement that the House January 6 committee’s second high-profile public hearing made clear that “President Trump knew he lost the 2020 election—his own attorney general, lawyers, and campaign manager testified that they told him so.”
“Today, we even heard testimony from an electoral expert who was a Fox News political editor on election night 2020 that ‘Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.’ was the clear winner of the 2020 presidential election,” said Harvey, pointing to Chris Stirewalt, part of the Fox team that drew the ire of Trump supporters by calling Arizona for Biden on election night.
Stirewalt, whom Fox fired just months after the presidential election, said during his testimony that “you’re better off to play the Powerball than to have that come in,” referring to the Trump team’s floundering multistate legal effort to overturn the election.
Harvey noted Monday that “instead of accepting his loss, Trump planned, promoted, and paid for a criminal conspiracy to overturn the will of American voters.”
“He peddled bogus claims of election fraud, swindled his supporters out of millions of dollars, and encouraged them to break the law in an effort to block the peaceful transition of power,” she added. “It’s clear we cannot allow Trump or his allies to evade accountability for the dangerous lies and actions that continue to put our democracy in peril.”
The January 6 committee just exposed how even Trump's closest allies knew his lies about the election were, to quote Bill Barr, "bullshit."
Trump knew he had lost the election. Everything he did after that was a criminal conspiracy to sabotage self-government. pic.twitter.com/linat3Sj1m
— MoveOn (@MoveOn) June 13, 2022
Former Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, a Republican who helped investigate the Trump team’s claims of voter fraud in Pennsylvania, told the House panel during in-person testimony Monday that local officials took seriously every claim of wrongdoing “no matter how fantastical,” including Giuliani’s baseless assertion that more than 8,000 “dead people” voted by mail in the battleground state.
“Not only was there not evidence of 8,000 dead voters voting in Pennsylvania,” said Schmidt, “there wasn’t evidence of eight.”
Former Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt testified before the Jan 6. House panel, describing threats he received after former President Donald Trump tweeted about him, accusing him of dishonesty pertaining to the 2020 election results https://t.co/5h9mTpm8r6 pic.twitter.com/N4CgYt4PpQ
— Reuters (@Reuters) June 13, 2022
Khalif Ali, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, applauded Schmidt for his testimony “and for his continued willingness to speak the truth in the face of lies and harrowing threats” from Trump supporters.
“The Big Lie was just that—a lie,” said Ali. “We look forward to the planners and perpetrators of the attack on the Capitol on January 6 being held responsible. We also look forward to accountability for the people who have threatened and harassed election workers and officials.”