House investigators are trying to methodically prove that President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election led directly to his supporters’ uprising on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
The House panel investigating the attack held the first two in a series of hearings providing its first findings after a year-long investigation and more than 1,000 interviews. The committee showed excerpts not only from the violent attack on the Capitol, but also from its own closed-door interviews with Trump aides and associates who were trying to dissuade him from spreading lies about an election he lost.
A look at what we’ve learned so far from the January 6 select committee’s public hearings — and beyond:
REBUFFED ON ELECTION NIGHT
One after another, video clips were released of Trump aides describing their conversations with the just-defeated president as the returns came in on election night and in the days that followed as he became increasingly more obvious that he had lost to Democrat Joe Biden. The committee is trying to establish that Trump pushed lies about widespread voter fraud despite clear evidence that it didn’t happen.
As aides tried to get real with the president, Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani took the opposite approach, telling him on election night that he should declare victory right away, according to testimony. It took four more days until Biden was declared the winner.
Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, said she knew it was clear the results would not be final come election night. Campaign aide Jason Miller said a better idea of the numbers was needed before making any statements. Campaign manager Bill Stepien said he advised Trump to tell reporters the race was too early to call, that he was proud of the campaign he ran and that he was in a good position to to win.
But Trump did not listen. Miller said Trump told the room that anyone who disagrees with Giuliani is “weak.” He came out and publicly declared that the election was “a fraud on the American public”.
“Frankly, we won this election,” Trump said.
FRAUD INVESTIGATIONS ARE EMPTY
In the weeks following the election, the Justice Department investigated Trump’s allegations of widespread fraud. The states and localities that counted the votes did their own verification. None found evidence to support the claims Trump and Giuliani were pushing.
Attorney General Bill Barr, who resigned after publicly saying there was no evidence of widespread fraud, described his interactions with the president as he tried to convince him of the facts. Not only was Trump angry, but he was becoming “detached from reality,” Barr said in a videotaped deposition.
Barr said when he told Trump “how crazy some of these allegations were, there was never, there was never any indication of interest in the actual facts.”
Two in-person witnesses at Monday’s committee hearing spoke about pressure from Trump and Giuliani to try to overturn the results in their states. BJay Pak, a former U.S. attorney in Atlanta who resigned as Trump lobbied Georgia officials, said his office investigated Giuliani’s “reckless” claims about fraud in the state and found them “all just wrong”.
Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, the only Republican on the city’s Board of Elections, says Trump’s claims about fraud in his city are ‘fantastic’ and thorough investigations have found no such thing .
FUNDRAISING USING FALSE ALLEGATIONS
The panel detailed Trump’s fundraising from his own lies. He and his allies raised hundreds of millions after the election, the committee said, and largely misled donors about where some of the money was going. Some of the dollars advertised as going to an “election defense fund” actually benefited groups and entities linked to Trump’s family and friends.
“Not only was there the Big Lie, there was the Big Ripoff,” said panelist Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-California.
After Monday’s hearing, Lofgren told CNN that Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, was paid $60,000 for a short speech at Trump’s pre-insurgency rally.
A REMINDER OF VIOLENCE
While some of the committee’s findings are new, some of the evidence they present is not. But the seven Democrats and two Republicans on the panel want to remind the public what happened that day in January — not just how violent it was, but also the lies that led up to it.
During the initial hearing on June 9, the panel showed new video of police being beaten as Trump supporters stormed into the Capitol and interrupted certification of Biden’s victory. Footage from body cameras and security videos showed the huge, angry crowd as they rushed to entrances and smashed windows and doors, repeating Trump’s claims of fraud.
Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards described a bloody “scene of war” and hours of hand-to-hand combat. She was one of the first policewomen injured, knocked to the ground as early rioters swept past bike racks. She suffered a head injury and still hasn’t returned to the same unit.
“It was carnage,” she said. “It was chaos.”
Although the schedule is fluid, the committee plans up to five additional hearings to present its findings. While the first two hearings showed the violence of the siege and documented Trump’s resistance as his aides and allies initially tried to present the facts of his loss in November, future hearings will describe how he continued to push the lies and finally set his sights on Congress. certificate of January 6.
On Thursday, the panel will outline Trump’s efforts to persuade Vice President Mike Pence to illegally delay the voter count or oppose Biden’s victory while he was presiding over congressional certification. In a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the committee’s Republican co-chair, said the panel will consider “Trump’s relentless effort on January 6 and in the days preceding, to pressure the vice president Pence to refuse to count legal electoral votes.
Representative Cheney also included a preview clip: Former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann told the committee in a video interview that he told John Eastman, a lawyer who worked with Trump to push the false allegations of fraud, that he needed “to get a great criminal defense attorney. You’re going to need it.
Other hearings will examine Trump’s pressure on Justice Department officials and what was happening in the White House as the violence unfolded on Capitol Hill.
“The Trump campaign’s legal team knew there was no legitimate argument — fraud, impropriety, or anything — to void the election,” Cheney said during Monday’s hearing. “And yet, President Trump went ahead with his plans for Jan. 6 anyway.
A CRIMINAL REFERRAL?
After the hearings, the committee says its investigation will continue. And the panel members will ultimately have to decide whether they have uncovered criminal activity and, if so, whether to report it to the Department of Justice. The department, which is conducting its own investigation, could accept or leave the recommendation.
Committee members debated this issue, but noted that a removal was not their primary objective.
“We’re reporting back to the American people on what happened, why it happened, and how we need to protect ourselves in the future,” said Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat on the committee.
Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.