How Trump pushed his Big Lie

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riots held its second public hearing on Monday morning — the first of three this week. Unlike the inaugural hearing, which was viewed by an impressive 20 million viewers, Monday’s proceeding wasn’t during prime time. But the testimony that it highlighted was just as riveting and damning, as the committee homed in on how Donald Trump seeded and propagated his “big lie” despite objections from his inner circle and top federal and local officials. This is a key point, because Trump’s potential culpability may hinge on when he knew the election fraud theories he kept pushing to followers were false.

Former Trump aide Jason Miller said that an inebriated Rudy Giuliani counseled Trump to “go say we won” on election night.

Many members of that inner circle claimed in taped testimony that they privately pushed back against Trump’s fraud claims on Election Day — and that the president persisted anyway. Former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in recorded testimony that he saw himself as part of “Team Normal,” advising against propagating false claims about the election, in contrast to “Team Crazy.” Former Trump aide Jason Miller said that an inebriated Rudy Giuliani counseled Trump to “go say we won” on election night before the full results were in. Ivanka Trump also distanced herself from her father’s claims of fraud.

There was also remarkable testimony from former Attorney General Bill Barr, who described Trump as “detached from reality,” and said that on Nov. 23, 2020 he told the president that the Justice Department “doesn’t take sides in the election, and the department is not an extension of your legal team.”

BJay Pak, a former U.S. attorney in Georgia, and former Philadelphia city commissioner Al Schmidt both described their resistance to pressure from the Trump administration after they found no irregularities in their respective ballot counts. Schmidt also described how a tweet from Trump singling him out for failing to find fraud led to targeted threats against him and his family.

The hearing concluded by reviewing evidence that Trump and his allies had used election falsehoods to raise a reported $250 million in funds — and that this money was not mostly used for election litigation, as Trump had suggested to his followers, but instead largely funneled toward other pro-Trump groups. “So not only was there the ‘big lie,’ there was the ‘big rip-off,’” California Rep. Zoe Lofgren said.

The next hearing, which will be held on Wednesday, is expected to focus on the Department of Justice.

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