The House January 6 Committee on Monday held its second day of public hearings, focusing on witness testimony contesting President Donald Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
During their first public hearing last week, the committee singled Trump out as the cause of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach in a hearing that has been blasted by conservative critics as overtly partisan.
Absent from that hearing—during which panel members displayed four tweets or videos that had been selectively edited—was any discussion of the circumstances of the death of Ashli Babbitt, who was shot point-blank by Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd, or Roseanne Boyland, who was trampled after a panicking crowd rushed from a Capitol tunnel filling with tear gas before being beaten by a capitol officer while unresponsive.
The same tone was on display during Monday’s hearings, as the committee continued to excoriate Trump for what they called an attempt to overthrow the U.S. government. During this hearing, the committee focused on Trump’s claims of widespread election fraud, which they said were baseless.
Before the hearing began, Trump took to Truth Social to blast the proceedings.
“This one-sided Witch Hunt is a disgrace to America,” Trump wrote. “Should never have been allowed to happen!”
“Last week the Select Committee laid out a preview of our initial findings about the conspiracy overseen and directed by Donald Trump to overturn the results of the 2020 election and block the transfer of power, a scheme unprecedented in American history,” Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in his opening statement.
“This morning, we’ll tell the story about how Donald Trump lost an election, and knew he lost an election, and—as a result of his loss—decided to wage an attack on our democracy,” Thompson said later.
To paint an image of the months leading up to the election and its aftermath, the committee showed testimony from various members of the Trump team discussing the election.
Initially, Bill Stepien, who served as Trump’s 2020 campaign manager and White House political director in the first half of the Trump administration, was expected to be the star witness of Monday’s hearings, but it was revealed shortly before the hearing began that Stepien was unable to make it.
“Due to a family emergency, Mr. William Stepien is unable to testify before the Select Committee this morning,” the panel said in a statement. “His counsel will appear and make a statement on the record.”
In recorded testimony presented by the committee, Stepien told investigators that he and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had on several occasions advised Trump that mail-in voting could help his campaign rather than hurt it.
“We made our case for why we believed mail-in balloting, mail-in voting, not to be a bad thing for his campaign, but you know the president’s mind was made up and you understand how many times to go to the well on a particular topic,” Stepien said.
McCarthy’s advice, Stepien recalled, “echoed mine.”
Still, Trump rallied against the expansion of mail-in voting that was being undertaken in several states, suggesting that it was rife with the potential for fraud.
In so doing, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said, Trump “laid the groundwork for these false claims well in advance of the election.”
“As early as April 2020, Mr. Trump claimed that the only way he could lose an election would be as a result of fraud,” she added.
Trump Allies Divided Over Fraud Claims
Various advisers said in testimony that the Trump campaign team was conflicted on the night of the election, with some suggesting that the president declare victory and others advising patience.
According to Jason Miller, CEO of GETTR and a former Trump adviser, most of Trump’s advisers on election night called for Trump to hold off on declaring victory. Only Rudy Giuliani, he said, advised Trump to declare victory.
In his testimony to investigators, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, said that Giuliani’s advice was “not the approach I would take if I was you.”
“You know, I have confidence in Rudy,” Trump reportedly responded.
Ultimately, Trump took a middle-of-the-road approach, suggesting in a tweet that the race was going in his favor, but did not go so far as to declare victory outright.
Following the election, many Trump advisers and staff members, including Kushner and former Attorney General Bill Barr, also reportedly opposed Trump’s claims of election fraud.
Barr in particular was highly critical of the claim, telling the committee that Trump became “detached from reality” following the election.
A series of other advisers, analysts, and lawyers took a similar vein, saying that they opposed Trump’s claims.
“What struck me most is the number of people around Donald Trump … who told him all of his claims of fraud and all of the things people were trying to throw out there were not substantiated,” Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) told NBC News during a break in the hearing.
Still, conservative critics have pointed to various instances that appear to suggest there was enough fraud in the 2020 election to have changed the results.
For instance, one report by Verity Vote, an election integrity watchdog, suggested that 19,000 late, invalid mail-in ballots were counted in Arizona.
Because Trump reportedly lost the state by a little more than 10,000 votes, these ballots could have changed the results in his favor if they were rejected.
Another investigation, this time conducted by True the Vote, found that in Wisconsin at least 137,500 absentee ballots were cast through unlawful vote trafficking throughout several of Wisconsin’s largest cities in the 2020 election.
In a recent documentary, filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza—working with a private team of investigators—claimed that through ballot harvesting, mail-in voting, and other methods, Democrat operatives flipped the result of the 2020 election in all key battleground states.
Proponents of Trump’s claims say that these and other investigations point to there being more to the claim than the January 6 panel suggests.
For several members of the committee, the end goal is clear: a criminal indictment of the former president.
“I would like to see the Justice Department investigate any credible allegation of criminal activity on the part of Donald Trump or anyone else,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on ABC News’ “This Week.” “They need to be investigated if there’s credible evidence, which I think there is.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said the committee has laid out in various legal pleadings “the criminal statutes that we think have been violated,” and claimed that the panel has evidence that Trump knew Joe Biden won the 2020 election.
“I think we can prove to any reasonable, open-minded person that Donald Trump absolutely knew because he was surrounded by lawyers,” Raskin said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “He continues to spread it to this very day. He continues to foist that propaganda on his followers.”
It remains unclear whether the Department of Justice will take the unprecedented step of opening a criminal investigation of Trump, whatever the calls from members of the panel.
Steven Kovac contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times