Lawmakers Paint Picture of Trump as Defiant, Delusional and Duplicitous as He Pressed Claims that the Presidential Election was Stolen

Congressional panel calls former President Trump’s claims the “big lie”

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: Jun 14, 2022

The select committee follows up last Thursday's primetime televised Congressional hearing on the Jan. 6 insurrection with daytime hearings on Monday and Thursday. Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney once again takes centerstage as one of only two Republicans serving on the committee. (Wyoming Truth photo by Jacob Gardenswartz)

By Jacob Gardenswartz

Special to the Wyoming Truth

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection detailed Monday their findings into the origins of what they called the “big lie,” the unsubstantiated allegation by former President Donald Trump and others in his orbit that the 2020 presidential election was plagued by voter fraud and that Trump, not President Joe Biden, was the legitimate winner.

The second public hearing of the Jan. 6 select committee worked to demonstrate the degree to which officials in and around Trump’s White House believed the allegations of voting irregularities were false and said as much to the president. Trump continued to push those claims, with members of the panel drawing a direct line between Trump’s allegations and the violence that took place at the Capitol last year.  

“The Trump campaign legal team knew there was no legitimate argument, fraud, irregularities, or anything to overturn the election. And yet President Trump went ahead with his plans for January 6 anyway,” said Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), vice chair of the select committee and one of only two Republicans serving on it.

“They came to Washington, D.C., at his request,” Cheney added. “They marched on the Capitol at his request. And hundreds of them besieged and invaded the building at the heart of our Constitutional republic.”

In taking their case to the public, committee members tried to rebuff efforts by Trump and his allies to label the Jan. 6 attack legitimate political discourse and the Congressional investigation a witch hunt.

The hearing took place in two parts. The first sought to explore Trump’s mindset on election night, when he declared victory before all the votes had been counted in several states. It featured testimony from former Fox News digital political director Chris Stirewalt, who was ousted from the network after he projected Biden to be the winner of the election.

Former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien had been scheduled to testify after receiving a subpoena from the committee, but backed out shortly before the hearing was scheduled to begin due to what he characterized as a “family emergency.” Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said that Stepien’s wife had gone into labor.

In lieu of his in-person testimony, the committee aired several previously-unseen clips of a closed-door deposition they conducted with Stepien, during which he said that he believed Trump’s chances of remaining president in the days following the election were “very, very, very bleak.”

The hearing also featured several clips from a taped deposition with Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr, who testified that he thought Trump’s allegations of fraud were “bulls—t” and that he communicated that to the president. And yet, Barr said, Trump remained “indignant” in his belief that the election was stolen.   

The committee also sought to detail the extent to which Trump’s allegations served to increase his pocketbook; his campaign and those supporting him raised more than $250 million in the weeks following the election, when, in donor appeals, he repeatedly used unproven allegations of fraud. Campaign officials told the committee that the claims of a stolen election amounted to little more than a “marketing tactic” for Trump’s fundraising efforts.

“The ‘big lie’ was also a big ripoff,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who serves on the select committee.

The second portion of Monday’s hearing focused on efforts by Trump’s backers to pressure state election officials to investigate voter fraud.

Witnesses detailed the threats and online harassment they received, including some saying their families were targeted after facing public attacks from Trump.

“After the president tweeted at me by name, the threats became much more specific, much more graphic,” said one of the witnesses, Al Schmidt, a Republican former city commissioner in Philadelphia.

Monday’s hearing followed the blockbuster public debut last week during which lawmakers laid out their case that Trump is to blame for the Capitol insurrection, with Cheney going so far as to insinuate he could face criminal exposure for the violence that took place.

More than 20 million Americans tuned in to that hearing, according to the data analytics firm Nielsen. Though that number represents a smaller audience than other major political events, like presidential debates, it still marks a significant increase in the number of Americans who typically tune into a Congressional hearing, rivaling the average viewing audience of a major “Sunday Night Football” game.  

While every other major news organization carried Thursday’s inaugural public hearing live, Fox News chose instead to air its usual programming from opinion hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, who decried the hearings as propaganda.

And even some of the key figures whose Monday testimony undercut Trump’s voter fraud claims continue to back candidates calling into question the 2020 election results. Stepien, for example, now works for Harriet Hageman, who has repeatedly declined to acknowledge Biden’s victory in 2020 and whose campaign to unseat Cheney centers on her role in the Jan. 6 investigation.

“Cheney has turned her back on Wyoming, but is using our only House seat to elevate and continue her own personal war on President Trump,” Hageman wrote in a statement following Thursday’s hearing. Online, campaign advisors touted her strong fundraising numbers in the hours after the first hearing. 

Lawmakers concluded by previewing upcoming hearings, the next of which is now scheduled for June 16 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. The hearing scheduled for June 15 has been postponed. Cheney said the committee will explore Trump’s “detailed planning” to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence and others to overturn the election.

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