Former President Donald Trump’s inner circle knew he lost the election, but he pushed false claims it was stolen by fraud anyway, the Jan. 6 committee said during a hearing Monday.
The U.S. House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol interviewed witnesses who spoke about chasing down voter fraud allegations for Trump but not finding evidence.
What Trump officials told him
“We looked at the allegations, but they don’t pan out,” said Richard Donoghue, a former Trump Justice Department official.
Donoghue said in a taped interview that he told Trump “the major allegations are not supported by the evidence” and “much of the info you’re getting is false.”
Trump nevertheless went forward with his false claims that the election was stolen. “He tried to remain in office after the people voted him out,” committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said, “a scheme unprecedented in American history.”
Former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien was expected to testify before the Jan. 6 committee Monday, but he canceled last minute because of a family emergency. Stepien’s wife went into labor, according to the committee. The committee showed video of its past interviews with Stepien.
Stepien said he told Trump it was too early to declare victory before the votes were counted but Trump disagreed. He also said he was frustrated with claims people made to Trump about allegations he should look into.
Ivanka Trump tells the Jan. 6th committee that she didn't have a firm view of what her father should say as the election votes were being counted.— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 13, 2022
"The results were still being counted. It was becoming clear that the race would not be called on election night." pic.twitter.com/7B5Ut7ZzCa
“I didn’t think what was happening was honest or professional at that time,” Stepien said.
Stepien replaced Brad Parscale as former President Donald Trump’s campaign manager in 2020 after working as Trump’s director of political affairs and for campaigns for Republicans including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and former President George W. Bush.
Fox News calling Arizona for Biden
Former Fox political editor Chris Stirewalt, who accurately called Arizona for then-candidate Joe Biden for Fox News, said he expected Trump to perform better on election night and for more absentee and vote-by-mail ballots to be counted later to go to Biden, because Republican voters are more likely to vote in person.
“Republicans win Election Day and Democrats win the early vote,” Stirewalt said. “Happens every time.”
Bennie Thompson: "After the votes were counted, who won the presidential election of 2020?"— ABC News (@ABC) June 13, 2022
Former Fox News political editor Chris Stirewalt: "Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., of the great state of Delaware."
"That's the bottom line," Thompson replies. https://t.co/NRwraEIEhm pic.twitter.com/DZyGxLPG8o
Stirewalt touted Fox News’ election night coverage, saying the network was able to call Arizona before other networks because “we had a different set of data than our competitors did. We had more research and we had a better system and we had a great team.”
Biden won the election, he said.
Pushing false claims
Former White House lawyer Eric Herschman and former attorney general Bill Barr both said in their taped interviews that they saw no evidence about allegations about Dominion voting machines.
Barr said he found the Dominion allegations “among the most disturbing allegations, disturbing in the sense that I saw absolutely zero basis for the allegation, but they were made in such a sensational way that they were obviously influencing a lot of people.”
Jan. 6 Committee plays interview with former AG Bill Barr: "There was an avalanche of all these allegations of fraud...and it was like playing whack-a-mole."— ABC News (@ABC) June 13, 2022
"All the early claims that I understood were completely bogus and silly and usually based on complete misinformation." pic.twitter.com/RIVEV3unnq
Donoghue, the former Justice Department official, said Trump continued to bring up new allegations after other ones were debunked.
“There were so many of these allegations that when you gave him a very direct answer on one of them, he wouldn’t fight us on it, but he would move to another allegation,” he said.
One allegation of 8,000 dead people voting in Pennsylvania wasn’t true, said Al Schmidt, a Republican and former member of the Philadelphia City Commission that oversees election.
“Not only was there not evidence of 8,000 dead voters voting in Pennsylvania, there wasn’t evidence of eight,” he said.
Still, the Trump campaign sent millions of fundraising elections leading up to Jan. 6, 2021 that claimed the election was stolen, raised $250 million and encouraged supporters to “protect” the integrity of the election and “fight back” despite knowing the election wasn’t stolen.
The hearing Monday closed with video of people who stormed the Capitol in their own words saying they went because they thought the election was stolen.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren: "Are you aware of any instance in which a court found the Trump campaign's fraud claims to be credible?"— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 13, 2022
Republican Election Lawyer Ben Ginsberg: "No...The simple fact is that the Trump campaign did not make its case." pic.twitter.com/2BXIeqSZdR
Republican election lawyer Ben Ginsberg said “the 2020 election was not close” and “the Trump campaign did not make its case” in court.
“In no instance did a court find that the charges of fraud were real,” Ginsberg said.
The committee’s next hearing will be held Wednesday morning.