Jan. 6 committee hearings: Four takeaways from second day of hearings
▶ Watch Video: Breakdown of testimony from the second Jan. 6 committee hearing
In the second day of the House Jan. 6 select committee public hearings, Chairman Bennie Thompson said the committee would show that former President Donald Trump lost his reelection campaign, knew he lost and as a result of his loss, “decided to wage an attack on our democracy, an attack on the American people,” which culminated in the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Here are some of the highlights from Monday’s hearing:
“Intoxicated” Giuliani told Trump he should just declare victory, though others discouraged it.
On election night in 2020, Rudy Giuliani said he spoke to Trump several times. Giuliani, whom Trump aide Jason Miller observed was “definitely intoxicated,” advised Trump he should just declare victory, over the advice of campaign manager Bill Stepien, Miller and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Stepien, in an excerpt of his interview with the committee, said he felt that it was “far too early” to say Trump had won. He thought ballots would continue to be counted for days. The committee also played video of Ivanka Trump, who did not recall having a “firm” view of what her father should do, but she said she knew the “race would not be called on election night.” Jared Kushner said he told the president that Giuliani’s proposal was “basically not the approach I would take.”
But Giuliani insisted that anyone who didn’t say Trump had won was being “weak,” according to Miller’s recollection of the night, also excerpted from videotaped testimony.
Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello, said in a statement to CBS News, “Mayor Giuliani denies that he was intoxicated on election night. He does not know why Jayson Miller would make such a false claim. The Mayor suggests that you speak to others who were with him as they will undoubtedly corroborate the Mayor’s denial. We note that even though the Mayor spent more than 7 1/2 hours testifying before the Select Committee, he was not asked about this false claim. The Committee had this false allegation before Mayor Giuliani testified.”
On Nov. 4, while votes were still being counted, Trump went to the White House briefing room and touted what he claimed would be a nearly insurmountable lead in states including Pennsylvania.
“We’re winning Pennsylvania by a tremendous amount of votes. We’re up 600—think of this, think of this—we’re up 690,000 votes in Pennsylvania, 690,000,” Trump said. “These aren’t even close, this is not like ‘oh, it’s close.’ With 64% of the vote in, it’s going to be almost impossible to catch, and we’re coming into good Pennsylvania areas where they happen to like your president. So, we’ll probably expand that.”
But by Saturday, Nov. 7, Joe Biden was projected to be the winner in Pennsylvania, pulling ahead of Trump by 34,000 votes. It was the state that pushed Mr. Biden’s electoral vote total to 273 and ensured his victory over Trump in the presidential election.
Former Fox News political editor says Trump used “red mirage” to justify false election claims.
Former Fox News political editor Chris Stirewalt, who was fired after the network called Arizona early for Mr. Biden, explained the “red mirage.” The phrase refers to the expectation that Republicans would appear to be winning in early in the count because they tend to vote in person on Election Day, and those votes are counted first, but mail-in, absentee and early-voting Democrats in many states would not see their votes counted until after polls close. This is the basis of the “red mirage,” the sense that the Republican is winning.
“For us, who cares? But that’s because no candidate had ever tried to avail themself of this quick in-the-election counting system,” Stirewalt said. “We had gone to pains, and I’m proud of the pains we went to make sure that we were informing viewers that this was going to happen because the Trump campaign and the president had made it clear they were going to try to exploit this anomaly.”
Stirewalt said they knew this “quirk” would be “bigger” in 2020, because more people were voting early and using absentee and mail ballots due to the pandemic.
The committee also played a clip of Barr saying he had understood for “weeks” that this was going to happen on election night, as well as a clip of Stepien saying he also had had discussions with Trump about the “red mirage.”
Lofgren played a clip of Trump in the early hours of Nov. 4, 2020, saying, “We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at 4 o’clock in the morning and add them to the list.” Lofgren said this contradicted what his advisers were telling him.
Stirewalt said that when Fox News called Arizona, it was controversial to “our competitors” but that he had no doubts about the call. He said after the election, the chances of Trump winning the election were “none.”
“Ahead of today, I thought about what are the largest margins that could ever be overturned by a recount and the normal kind of stuff we heard Mike Pence talking about, sounding like a normal Republican that night saying ‘we’ll keep every challenge,'” Stirewalt said. “When you’re talking about a recount, you’re talking about hundreds of votes. When we think about calling a race, one of the things we think about is, is it outside the margin of a recount. And when we think about that margin, we think about in modern history, you’re talking about 1,000 votes, 1,500 votes at the way, way outside. Normally you’re talking about hundreds of votes — maybe 300 votes — that are going to change. The idea that through any normal process in any of these states — remember he needed to do it thrice, right, he needed three of these states to change. In order to do that, you’re at infinite … you’re better off to play the Powerball than to have that come in.”
Top Trump officials told him that his claims of widespread election fraud were wrong.
Trump’s closest aides, political staff, government and campaign lawyers said they told him his claims the election had been stolen were wrong. Former Attorney General William Barr, whose was shown in the first hearing saying he told Trump his claims of widespread election fraud were “bullsh**,” had more to say.
A report alleging voting machines from Dominion Voting Systems were changing votes from Trump to President Biden was “amateurish,” according to Barr, while earlier claims of voter fraud were “bogus and silly and usually based on complete misinformation.”
Barr recalled being “demoralized” by Trump believing Dominion’s machines were rigged, “because I thought, ‘Boy if he really believes this stuff, he has you know, lost contact with — he’s become detached from reality, if he really believes this stuff.'”
He also called allegations that more votes were cast in Philadelphia than there were registered voters “absolute rubbish” and suggested Trump’s loss had to do not with fraud, but with his strength as a candidate.
Trump, in Barr’s telling, “generally was the weak element on the Republican ticket. So, that does not suggest that the election was stolen by fraud.”
Alex Cannon, a former Trump campaign attorney, also recalled speaking with senior White House adviser Peter Navarro about voter fraud claims and Vice President Mike Pence.
Navarro insulted Cannon when the lawyer said he didn’t believe the Dominion allegations, calling him an “agent of the Deep State” working against Trump, Cannon recalled. It was the last call he said he ever took from Navarro.
Derek Lyons, the White House staff secretary, also told the committee that allegations of fraud were discussed in a meeting more than a month after the election, during which White House counsel Pat Cipollone and White House lawyer Eric Herschmann told Trump none of his claims had been “substantiated to the point where they could be the basis for any litigation challenge to the election.”
Herschmann also told the select committee during a taped interview he “never saw any evidence whatsoever to sustain” allegations Dominion voting machines were flipping votes cast for Trump.
Al Schmidt, a Republican who served as a city commissioner in Philadelphia and was on the Board of Elections, also refuted claims raised by Giuliani that 8,000 dead people voted in Pennsylvania.
“Not only was there not evidence of 8,000 dead voters voting in Pennsylvania, there wasn’t evidence of eight,” he told the committee during the hearing. “We took seriously every case that was referred to us, no matter how fantastical, no matter how absurd, and took every one of those seriously, including these.”
$250 million raised by the Trump campaign’s “Election Defense Fund” did not fund his campaign lawsuits. A former campaign staffer said, “I don’t believe there is actually a fund called the ‘Election Defense Fund.'”
The final minutes of the hearing were spent following the money raised by the Trump campaign from small-dollar donors who were encouraged to “fight back” against the “left-wing mob” attempting to steal the presidential election.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California, said the Trump campaign continued to mount court fights after Dec. 14, when electors met in all 50 states to cast their Electoral College votes for president and vice president, in order to “raise millions.”
In a video produced by the committee, senior investigative counsel Amanda Wick estimated that between Election Day on Nov. 3 and Jan. 6, the Trump campaign sent scores of fundraising emails — as many as 25 per day — that encouraged recipients to contribute to the so-called “Election Defense Fund.”
But one former Trump campaign staffer, Hanna Allred, told the committee in an interview she did not believe such a fund existed. “I don’t believe there is actually a fund called the ‘Election Defense Fund’,” she said. Gary Coby, the campaign’s former digital director, confirmed it was a marketing tactic.
Solicitations about voter fraud brought in big bucks: $250 million, according to Wick, nearly $100 million of which was donated the first week after the election.
According to the committee’s presentation, the money did not go to funding election-related litigation, but instead to Trump’s Save America PAC. The former president’s political action committee then donated “millions” to entities and vendors with ties to Trump:
$1 million to the Conservative Partnership Institute, where former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is senior partner
$1 million to the America First Policy Institute, which lists among its leaders former Small Business Administration Administrator Linda McMahon, former senior Trump adviser Larry Kudlow, and former acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf
$5 million to Event Strategies, Inc., which ran the Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse
$204,857 to the Trump Hotel Collection
After the hearing, Lofgren was asked whether the committee has evidence the Trump campaign committed a crime with the fundraising appeals.
“It’s clear that he intentionally misled his donors, asked them to donate to a fund that didn’t exist and used the money raised for something other than what he said,” she told reporters. “Now it’s for someone else to decide whether that’s criminal or not.”
Appearing on CNN after the hearing, Lofgren revealed Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is engaged to Donald Trump Jr., was paid $60,000 from the “Election Defense Fund” to speak for two minutes and 30 seconds during the rally outside the White House on Jan. 6.