January 6 committee holds second hearing

The House committee investigating the January 6th, 2021, Capitol riot met on Monday.

During the first section of their meeting, they went into detail about how those around then-President Donald Trump told him he lost the 2020 election. They went onto say that Trump refused to listen and turned to his attorney Rudy Giuliani to claim that the election was stolen.

The panel heard testimony from a former Fox News digital politics editor, a conservative lawyer, a former US attorney and a former Republican election official, who all said it was clear President Joe Biden won the election and Trump’s claims of fraud were nonsense.

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien initially planned to testify, however he pulled out when his wife went into labour. This turn of events resulted in a 45-minute delay. Lawmakers were able to reconvene after the delay and they played video clips from Stepien’s private deposition.

The panel also played lengthy portions of former Attorney General William Barr’s deposition with the committee, where he described in detail why Trump’s fraud claims were “bogus” and why he has seen nothing since to convince him there was fraud.

“There was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were,” Barr said in video of his deposition played Monday. “I was somewhat demoralized, because I thought, ‘Boy, if he really believes this stuff, he has lost contact with — he’s become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff.'”

Barr said the theories Trump supported were “idiotic” and “amateurish” and “detached from reality.” Barr also hit out at “2,000 Mules,” the film created by right-wing activist Dinesh D’Souza, a convicted felon who claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Barr laughed off the film and said it was “completely lacking” in evidence. The committee did not invite Barr to testify publicly for Monday’s hearing.

One of the primary areas of focus of Monday’s hearing was to underscore the idea that Trump and some of his allies continued to peddle false claims of election fraud after they were personally told those claims were not legitimate.

The committee made the argument that Trump was repeatedly told by his own top officials, including Barr and Stepien, that the myriad of fraud claims he was pushing were groundless and were certainly not evidence that the election was stolen.

“I specifically raised the Dominion voting machines, which I found to be among the most disturbing allegations — disturbing in the sense that I saw absolutely zero basis for the allegations, but they were made in such a sensational way that they obviously were influencing a lot of people, members of the public,” Barr said during his deposition, according to a video played Monday.

The committee focused on testimony Monday that distinguished between two groups advising Trump in the days after the election: “Team Normal” and those who were with Rudy Giuliani pushing claims of voter fraud.

“We called them kind of my team and Rudy’s team,” Stepien said in deposition video played by the committee. “I didn’t mind being characterized as being part of Team Normal.”

The committee traced back the divide to election night, when Stepien and others were telling Trump it was too early to call the race, while Giuliani told him to declare victory.

“The President disagreed with that. I don’t recall the particular words. He thought I was wrong. He told me so,” Stepien said of a conversation with Trump on election night. “And that he was going to go in a different direction.”

The committee also took a dig at Giuliani and his state of mind on Election Night, playing video from Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller’s deposition where he said that Giuliani “had too much to drink.”

“I mean, the mayor was definitely intoxicated,” Miller said. “But I did not know his level of toxic intoxication when he spoke with the President, for example.”

During Monday’s hearing, the January 6th committee specifically focused  was how Trump’s election fraud claims garnered millions of dollars in fundraising for Trump’s campaign and the political action committee he created after the election. The panel made the case that Trump’s claims about voter fraud dovetailed with his campaign’s fundraising effort, resulting in $250 million being donated to Trump and his allies, including solicited requests for an “official election defense fund,” that did not exist.

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson introduced a video showing that those who went to Washington on January 6 and breached the Capitol did so believing the election lies. “We know they were there because of Donald Trump. Now we hear some of the things they believed,” Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, said.

In the video, Trump’s supporters said they believed the claims about Dominion software and about how Trump’s votes were not counted. 

“I voted early, it went well except for you can’t really trust the software, Dominion software all over,” one person said.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Monday he plans to watch all the hearings of the committee, and that the prosecutors handling criminal cases stemming from the January 6th insurrection are watching, too. Garland has faced mounting pressure from Democrats to pursue a criminal case against Trump and his allies related to January 6th.




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