“Bogus.” Silly.” “Complete Rubbish.” “Bulls**t.” Those were just a few of the words Trump’s former Attorney General William Barr used to describe Trump’s 2020 election lies. Today, the January 6 Committee thoroughly dissected the anatomy of the Big Lie — and Trump’s former closest aides held the scalpels.
There would’ve been no insurrection without Trump’s lies about the election being stolen. By dismantling the Big Lie, the January 6 Committee established that the entire premise of Trump’s attempted coup was baseless and that Trump knew that these claims were baseless. This further establishes intent.
Today’s hearing took us inside the White House where the decision for Trump to falsely declare victory was made. It methodologically debunked very specific vote fraud lies with Trump’s own aides. And most importantly, he sought to prove that Trump knew his election fraud claims were baseless — but he proceeded to destabilize American democracy anyway.
The hearing was separated into two parts. The first part was dedicated to testimony from former Trump officials like Attorney General William Barr, former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, and former Trump campaign lawyer Matt Morgan. The second part showcased attorneys who debunked specific claims of vote fraud and highlighted Trump’s court losses.
While Bill Stepien bowed out of the hearing just before he was set to begin due to his wife going into labor, he was certainly present through his video testimony. Stepien tested that while votes were still being counted on election night, he recommended it was too early to call the race. Instead, Trump listened to an “apparently inebriated” Rudy Guiliani and falsely declared victory anyway. This began a lie-filled, months-long effort to overturn the election.
Former Fox News editor Christopher Stirewalt told the January 6 Committee that Trump had no basis to call the race for himself, and explained the “red mirage” that happened on election night as mail-in ballots were still to be counted. Trump’s campaign team informed him this would happen and even tried to get him to stop attacking mail-in ballots in the months leading up to the election. Trump was made well aware that votes were not being “made up,” they were simply being counted. And yet, he pushed to “stop the count” anyway.
William Barr’s testimony was absolutely devastating for Trump. Indeed, it was some of the most damning testimony for Trump I’ve ever heard in any of the many Trump corruption hearings I’ve covered over the last five years, and that’s saying something — especially considering it came from one of Trump’s formerly biggest sycophants.
Barr testified that he told Trump his election claims were false. He outlined how his DOJ looked into fake election fraud claims and found they were “without merit” and “based on complete misinformation.” Barr outlined how he told Trump the election fraud claims were “bulls**t” and that the “idiotic” Dominion claims were especially “crazy stuff” with “zero basis” that did a “grave disservice to the country.” What did Trump do in response to that? The very next day, on December 2, 2020, Trump released a White House video where he continued to outline these same lies. “If he really believes this stuff, he has become detached from reality,” Barr told the committee.
In criminal cases, there is a concept prosecutors try and argue called “willful blindness.” It’s when a suspect intentionally attempts to avoid the facts to avoid criminal liability. Barr’s claim that “there was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were” on the part of Trump underscores that, and so does the testimony from Trump’s other former aides.
In his role as Acting Deputy Attorney General for Trump, Richard Donoghue testified that they looked at Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Nevada and that they found the fraud claims to be false. And that as Trump was told each of these fraud claims were false, Trump would move to another allegation. It was like playing Big Lie wack-a-mole.
Former White House Lawyer Eric Herschmann called what Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell were claiming about the 2020 election “nuts”. Jared Kushner testified that he told Trump not to take advice from Rudy Giuliani. Trump proceeded to push these lies and take Rudy’s advice anyway.
In the second half of the hearing, we saw many of these high-profile fraud claims debunked with precision. Former US Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, BJay Pak, revealed that Barr asked him to investigate the alleged “suitcase of ballots” video at the State Farm arena Rudy Giuliani pushed. Pak said he found they were actually a lockbox for storing official bundles. Rudy was lying.
Former GOP City Commissioner in Philadelphia Al Schmidt says that not only was there no evidence of 8,000 dead people voting in Philadelphia, there wasn’t evidence of eight. Barr also testified that the Philadelphia fraud claims were “complete rubbish”.
Attorney Benjamin Ginsberg told the committee that he looked at the more than 61 cases where Trump contested elections around the country and found there were none where the case was made. January 6 Committee Member Rep. Zoe Lofgren also cited the 61 court losses the Trump Campaign had when litigating their election lies. She riddled off quotes from judges who lambasted the Trump Campaign’s claims as “gossip and innuendo,” “unsupported by evidence,” “a fundamental and obvious misreading of the constitution” and a “coup in search of a legal theory.”
That’s exactly what Trump’s months-long effort to overturn the 2020 election was. An attempted coup. A coup in search of a justification that Trump knew didn’t exist but lied about anyway. As Ari Melber put it on MSNBC, the first hearing was about Trump’s criminal acts while this hearing was about the criminal mindset. I think this hearing did a pretty great job of establishing that.