House Jan. 6 committee’s focus turns to Trump’s false claims in second hearing

The House Jan. 6 committee focused their second public hearing on those closest to former President Donald Trump, who told him it was too premature to declare victory on election night in 2020 — and how Trump used his premature declaration of victory to push baseless claims that he won the election.

“This morning, we’ll tell the story of 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, an attack on the American people, by trying to rob you of your voice in our democracy — and in doing so, lit the fuse that led to the horrific violence of Jan. 6, when a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol, sent by Donald Trump to stop the transfer of power,” Committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson said.

The first witness to testify was former Fox News political editor Chris Stirewalt, who defended the network’s controversial early call that President Biden won Arizona — a call that was ultimately correct. 

Thompson asked Stirewalt if Trump had any basis to declare victory on Nov. 4, 2020, and Stirewalt responded “no.” Some of Trump’s top advisers testified that the former president was angry when that call was made. 

Capitol Riot Investigation
Chris Stirewalt, former Fox News political editor, is sworn in to testify as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, June 13, 2022.

Susan Walsh / AP

The witness who was supposed to testify with Stirewalt, Trump’s former campaign manager Bill Stepien, did not end up appearing because his wife went into labor. The committee played video of Stepien’s testimony, where he said he was part of “Team Normal,” unlike “Rudy’s team,” meaning Rudy Giuliani, who pushed the false election claims.

“I didn’t think what was happening was necessarily honest or professional at that point in time,” he said of Trump allies raising unfounded claims the election was rigged. “That led to me stepping away.”

Rep. Liz Cheney, the committee’s Republican vice chair, said in her opening remarks that Trump decided not to heed the advice of some of his closest advisers but instead decided to listen to an “apparently inebriated” Giuliani. The committee also played video of former Trump adviser Jason Miller saying that Giuliani was “definitely intoxicated” on election night. 

The committee also played extensive video of former Attorney General William Barr’s testimony. Barr said he knew the early claims that Trump had won the election were “bogus” and “silly.”

Barr testified that he told an Associated Press reporter that there could not have been fraud on a scale that would have changed the outcome of the election, a statement he knew would anger the White House. He had a meeting scheduled at the White House that same day.

“I went over there and I told my secretary that I would probably be fired and told not to … not to go back to my office, so I said, ‘You might have to pack up for me.'”

Sure enough, Barr said Trump was “as mad as I’ve ever seen him.” 

Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and top adviser, and her husband Jared Kushner, also a Trump adviser, told committee investigators that they were at the White House on the night of the election. Ivanka Trump said “it was becoming clear that the race would not be called on election night,” while Stepien said he recommended waiting to make a statement, since the votes were still being counted. 

A second panel of witnesses is set to testify at Monday’s hearing, including election attorney Benjamin Ginsberg, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia B.J. Pak, who resigned effective Jan. 4, 2021, and former Philadelphia city commissioner Al Schmidt. 

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