Jun 13, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Trump refused calls from top officials to shut down false fraud claims

Former President Donald Trump displayed on a screen during the Jan. 6 committee's second hearing. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Top Trump administration and campaign officials privately tried to convince Trump he lost the 2020 election, but he continued to push the "Big Lie" anyway according to witnesses and taped depositions featured during the second public hearing of the Jan. 6 committee.

Why it matters: The committee's Day 2 goal was to reveal how deliberately the former president peddled election conspiracies and contradicted facts that were clearly presented to him.

  • They did so by having those closest to Trump in the aftermath of the election present the evidence themselves.

Between the lines: Those in the former president's inner circle — including Trump's family members, campaign advisers, Justice Department appointees, and his hand-picked attorney general — shared in taped depositions how they repeatedly told Trump his claims the election were stolen were false, but he refused to listen.

The DOJ

The committee leaned heavily on former Trump Justice Department officials — a department meant to be nonpartisan and independent from the executive branch — to document in detail how Trump denied the reality he lost.

Former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr recounted telling Trump that had become “detached from reality ... I would tell him how crazy some of the allegations were” Barr testified.

  • “There was no interest in what the facts were,” he said.
  • Barr added there was “zero basis” for arguing the election contractor Dominion Voting Systems, which Trump and members of his team made a core fixture of their fraud claims, had rigged the voting machine in favor of Joe Biden.

Former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue offered insight into how Trump's refused to embrace the proof he lost:

  • "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'd move to another allegation," he said in taped testimony.
  • “I told the president myself that several times, in several conversations, that these allegations about ballots being smuggled in a suitcase and run through the machines several times, it was not true.”

Bjay Pak, the former U.S. district attorney in Atlanta who abruptly resigned before the Jan. 6 riot, said he was asked by Barr to investigate Giuliani's voter fraud claims in Georgia and was "unable to find any evidence of fraud which affected the outcome of the election."

  • “The FBI interviewed the individuals … and determined that nothing irregular happened in the county and the allegations made by Mr. Giuliani were false,” Pak said, referring to Giuliani's claims of an alleged “suitcase full of ballots."
  • "The alleged black suitcase that was being seen pulled from under the table was actually an official lockbox where ballots were kept safe."

The Trump Campaign

Trump's former campaign chairman Bill Stepien, who pulled out of his slated in-person appearance shortly before the hearing due to his wife going into labor, and former advisor Jason Miller described urging Trump not to declare victory on election night, but he refused their advice.

  • “It was far too early to be making any calls like that," Stepien said in recorded testimony.
  • Stepien also made clear that as the post-election conspiracies continued to grow and Giuliani and campaign lawyer Sidney Powell gained influence within Trump's orbit, he was classified as part of "Team Normal."
  • "I didn't mind being categorized as part of Team Normal," Stepien said in a previously taped deposition with the panel.
  • "I didn’t think what was happening was honest or professional," Stepien said.

Jared Kushner, a former Trump White House official and adviser, also said he told Trump not to take advice from Giuliani. “I have confidence in Rudy," Trump responded.

Alex Cannon, former Trump campaign lawyer, said he told Trump and other top administration officals directly there was no evidence of election fraud.

  • Cannon recounted telling former Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro that a Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) report proved the election was secure.
  • “Mr. Navarro accused me of being an agent of the deep state," Cannon said.

Money

An investigation led by the Jan. 6 panel revealed Trump's campaign raised $250 million from false claims that the 2020 election was stolen

  • Roughly $100 million of that was raised in first week after the election, a committee investigator said.
  • "The 'Big Lie' was also a big rip off" committee member Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.). She added Trump's team used the false claims of election fraud to raise money, but never actually used that money try and overturn the results.
  • Much of that money was put into Trump's "Save America PAC" and donated to other conservative-leaning organizations.

Erin Doherty contributed to this report.

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