Jan. 6 panel hearing: In video, Bill Barr calls Trump's election claims 'detached from reality'
The committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held its second public hearing, with a focus on former President Donald Trump's role in perpetuating the lie that the 2020 election was stolen.
In video testimony shown on Monday, former Trump advisers and administration officials said they told Trump that claims of massive voter fraud and a stolen election were false.
The committee showed video of former Attorney General Bill Barr saying that Trump's claims of fraud were "bogus" and "detached from reality," and called claims of Dominion voting machine fraud "idiotic." Former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue said he pushed back repeatedly against Trump's allegations of fraud, and told Trump, "much of the info you're getting is false."
BJay Pak, a Trump-appointed former U.S. attorney in Georgia, told the committee he looked into the president and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani's claims of "suitcases of ballots" in Georgia -- and found them to be false, while former City Commissioner of Philadelphia Al Schmidt said he found no evidence of widespread fraud in the city.
Earlier, Trump's former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, talked about the hours and days around the 2020 election. Chris Stirewalt, a former Fox News political editor, told the panel that the so-called “red mirage,” in which an apparent Republican lead on election day dissipates because absentee ballots heavily favor Democrats, “happens every time.”
- Catch up: On Thursday, the panel's first hearing laid out its case that Trump was responsible for the deadly insurrection at the Capitol. Panel Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson said Trump was at the center of the conspiracy that the 2020 election was stolen from him and he "spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Constitution to march down to the Capitol and subvert American democracy." Read a recap.
- A third public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET. Follow the livestream on NPR.org. NPR will also broadcast live special coverage of the hearings. Find your local member station or use the NPR One app to listen.
Stepien's attorney says his client's testimony was presented accurately
The attorney for Trump 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien, who canceled his appearance before the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, said his testimony was accurately reflected in the panel’s presentation Monday.
Kevin Marino said he and his client, who had been subpoenaed by the committee, were in Washington, D.C., Monday morning but Stepien went to New Jersey before the panel convened after he got news that his wife had gone into labor.
Marino said Stepien offered to testify later but the panel didn't see the need for that and instead relied on video clips from an earlier interview.
In the interview, Stepien is seen telling investigators that he and other advisers cautioned Trump against claiming victory on election night as Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, was pushing him to do.
Marino said the Trump campaign went in an entirely different direction when Giuliani got involved, as Stepien was shown saying.
Marino said Stepien "is the finest political consultant in the country," saying he is "a data-driven, by-the-numbers" professional and that he tried to communicate facts to Trump.
Stepien is currently managing the campaign of Trump-backed Harriet Hageman, who is challenging Rep. Liz Cheney, the top Republican on the committee, in the primary for her Wyoming congressional seat.
'The Big Rip-Off': Committee says Trump campaign misled donors
As the committee wrapped up Day 2 of hearings, Rep. Zoe Lofgren tied the Trump campaign's repeated litigation of the 2020 election to its fundraising tactics.
"If the litigation had stopped on Dec. 14, there would have been no fight to defend the election and no clear path to continue to raise millions of dollars," the California Democrat said.
Lofgren played a video that featured Amanda Wick, senior investigative counsel for the committee, whose comments were interspersed with snapshots of Trump campaign fundraising emails sent to donors between Election Day and Jan. 6, many of which claimed the "left wing mob was undermining the election."
"As the select committee has demonstrated, the Trump campaign knew these claims of voter fraud were false, yet they continued to barrage small dollar donors with emails, encouraging them to donate to something called an Official Election Defense Fund," Wick said.
She added that the committee discovered that the fund did not exist.
"Claims that the election was stolen were so successful, President Trump and his allies raised $250 million, nearly $100 million in the first week after the election," Wick said.
She detailed how Trump created a separate entity called the Save America PAC on Nov. 9.
"Most of the money raised went to this newly created PAC, not to election related litigation," she said, adding that the committee discovered that this political action committee gave millions in contributions to pro-Trump organizations.
Lofgren said that political fundraising is part of the electoral process and allows voters to make their voices heard, but that they "deserve the truth about what those funds will be used for."
"Not only was there the Big Lie," Lofgren said, "there was the Big Rip-Off."
Trump's former lawyer will testify
Later this week, Eric Herschmann will testify regarding his conversation with pro-Trump legal scholar
John Eastman the day following the attack on Jan. 6. Herschmann was formerly Trump's impeachment lawyer.
“I said to him ‘are you out of your f-ing mind? I only want to hear two words coming out of your mouth from now on: orderly transition,” Herschmann said in a video clip presented during Monday's hearing.
The next hearings will focus on the former president’s planning for Jan. 6 “including his plan to corrupt the Department of Justice and his detailed planning with lawyer John Eastman” to pressure officials to overturn the election, said the panel vice chair, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. The committee is scheduled to next meet on Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET, followed by another hearing on Thursday at 1 p.m. ET.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misdated when Herschmann would testify.
Election officials pushed back against Trump fraud claims
Former Trump officials and state election officials interviewed by the committee emphasized that they tried to convince the president that voter fraud was not occurring during the 2020 election voter count.
Former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia BJay Pak’s office investigated one of the claims of voter fraud, which alleged that a suitcase full of ballots was inflating the count.
“We found that the suitcase full of ballots, the alleged black suitcase that was being seen pulled from under the table, was actually an official lock box where ballots were kept safe,” Pak said while testifying before the hearing live.
Partisan watchers were accidentally sent home but brought back, along with the box, to continue the count.
"The allegations made by [Trump lawyer Rudy] Giuliani were false," he said.
Another clip of interviews with former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue included him insisting he told Trump the fraud claims were not true.
Meanwhile, former Attorney General Bill Barr in a video called Trump's claim that more people voted in Philadelphia than there was eligible voters “rubbish.” The claim was saidduring an interview with NPR that Trump abruptly cut short.
Former Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt said he and his staff received general threats before Trump named him on Twitter as a RINO, or Republican in name only. After Trump tweeted about him, "the threats became much more specific, much more graphic" and included details about him and members of his family such as their addresses, Schmidt told the committee.
Schmidt, a Republican, famously rejected allegations that dead people voted in Philadelphia.
"Not only was there no evidence of 8,000 dead voters voting in Pennsylvania, there wasn't evidence of eight,” he said.
Benjamin Ginsberg, the Republican lawyer who played a pivotal role in the recount of the 2000 presidential election won by George W. Bush, said the Trump campaign never presented evidence to back its claims of election fraud.
"The simple fact is the Trump campaign did not make its case,” he told the panel.
Ginsberg noted that the Trump campaign did get a chance to make its cases of fraud but there was "no credible evidence" in any of them.
"The 2020 election was not close," he added.
Richard Donoghue tried to convince Trump against voter fraud claims
Former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue said he pushed back repeatedly against Trump's allegations of fraud in the weeks after the Nov. 3 election.
"Sir, we've done dozens of investigations, hundreds of interviews. The major allegations are not supported by the evidence developed," he said he told Trump. "We've looked in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada. We're doing our job. Much of the info you're getting is false."
Donoghue said the president accepted some explanations as to why the fraud allegations did not hold up, but when shown he was wrong, Trump "would move onto another allegation."
He said Trump listed a litany of false claims about the election: "Dead people are voting. Indian people are getting paid to vote. There's lots of fraud going on here." Donoghue said he repeatedly rejected those false claims.
"I told him flat out that much of the information he was getting was false or not supported by the evidence," said Donoghue, who served as acting deputy attorney general for two months starting in December 2020.
What do the references to '2,000 Mules' mean?
Both Rep. Liz Cheney and former Attorney General Bill Barr referenced 2,000 Mules, a pro-Trump film, during the committee's hearing Monday.
In a video clip of Barr played by the committee, the former attorney general said that he believed the election was not stolen by fraud.
"I haven't seen anything since the election that changes my mind on that, including the 2,000 Mules movie," he said.
As NPR's Tom Dreisbach reported, 2,000 Mules is a documentary film directed by Dinesh D'Souza that alleges it has "smoking gun" evidence of massive voter fraud in the 2020 election in the form of digital device location tracking data.
For the film, D'Souza worked with True The Vote, which claimed to have purchased geolocation data from various electronic devices. The group said it used that data to track the movements of people in key swing states around the time of the 2020 election, alleging that the data shows thousands of people making stops at mail-in vote drop boxes. The "mules" in the title refers to the individuals they claim stuffed drop boxes with stacks of completed ballots.
In his testimony, Barr said he was "unimpressed" with the film and that the "photographic evidence" didn't hold up.
He added that the premise itself was flawed.
"If you take 2 million cellphones and and figure out where they are physically in a big city like Atlanta or wherever, just by definition, you're going to find any hundreds of them have passed by and spend time in the vicinity of these boxes," he said.
"The premise that if you go by a box, five boxes or whatever it was, you know that that's a mule is just indefensible."
Barr said the film did not establish proof of widespread illegal ballot harvesting.
For his part, Trump embraced the film and hosted a premiere event for the film at his Mar-a-Lago resort featuring Republican politicians like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida.
'Detached from reality': Bill Barr grew concerned over Dominion voting machine claims
Former Attorney General Bill Barr told the committee that when discussing allegations of voting fraud tied to Dominion machines with Trump that he was “demoralized” because if “he really believes this … he’s become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff.”
Barr noted that Trump had no interest in what the facts were.
“Before the election, it was possible to talk sense to the president and — while you sometimes had to engage in a big wrestling match with him — it was possible to keep things on track,” Barr said in interviews recorded earlier this year with the committee. “I felt that after the election he didn’t seem to be listening.”
Claims that the voting machines of Dominion Voting Systems had been tampered with were woven into one of the biggest conspiracy theories to come out of the 2020 election. Dominion later sued Fox in a $1.6 billion defamation suit that is still pending.
Even before the polls closed on Nov. 3, Trump had discussed the potential voter fraud, and for weeks after he floated various allegations of how the election was "stolen" that were eventually debunked. Of all Trump's allegations, Barr found those related to Dominion the most disturbing.
"Disturbing in the sense that I saw actually zero basis for the allegations," he said, "but they were made in such a sensational way that they obviously were influencing a lot of people."
Barr told the Jan. 6 committee that the first time he talked to Trump after the election was Nov. 23. Barr's intent to resign was announced on Dec. 14.
“The [Justice] department is not an extension of your legal team," he said he told Trump, adding that Trump's claims of election fraud were "not meritorious."
He said that he asked Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and Jared Kushner, the president's adviser and son-in-law, after the meeting with Trump: “How long is he going to carry on with this stolen election stuff?”
Meadows, Barr said, replied: "I think that he's becoming more realistic."
Kushner, he said, replied: "Yeah, we're working on this. We're working on it."
Campaign advisers say they told Trump not to declare victory on election night
Video clips from depositions with top Trump campaign staff, including Bill Stepien, Jason Miller and Ivanka Trump, illustrated how many of the former president's advisers argued against declaring victory on election night.
In a selected video clip, Miller, a senior adviser to the campaign, referenced an inebriated Rudy Giuliani wanting to speak to the president on election night, telling Miller that he wanted Trump to say that "We won. They're stealing it from us."
"To the best of my memory, I said that we should not go declare victory until we had a better sense of the numbers," Miller said.
In a separate video clip, Stepien, Trump's campaign manager, said “It was far too early to be making any calls like that. Ballots were still being counted. Ballots were still going to be counted for days."
Stepien added that he recommended the campaign instead say that votes were still being counted and it was too early to call the race.
Another video clip was played of Ivanka Trump stating that she didn't have a "firm view as to what he should say."
"The results were still being counted. It was becoming clear that the rates would not be called on election night," she said.
Stirewalt defends his decision to call Arizona for Biden
Chris Stirewalt, the former Fox News political editor, told the panel that the so-called “red mirage,” in which an apparent Republican lead on election day dissipates because absentee ballots heavily favor Democrats, “happens every time.”
“When you put together a jigsaw puzzle, it doesn’t matter what piece you put in first, the picture is the same,” he told the panel.
Conspiracy theorists have speculated — without basis in fact or evidence — that this fading “red mirage” is because of fraud.
Stirewalt defended his network’s decision to call Arizona for Biden, noting with pride that: “It was really controversial to our competitors, who we beat so badly by making the correct call first.”
Earlier, William Stepien, Donald Trump's 2020 campaign manager, described as a “surprise” Fox’s decision to call Arizona, a typically Republican stronghold, for Biden.
But Stirewalt said that by the time his colleagues “found out how much everybody was freaking out and losing their minds over this call, we were already trying to call the next state."
Stirewalt was also asked what the chances of Trump winning the election were after the Arizona call. None, he said, adding that winning the Powerball was more likely.
An apparently inebriated Giuliani urged Trump to declare victory, Cheney says
An "apparently inebriated" Rudy Giuliani urged Donald Trump on the night of the 2020 election to just claim he won and stop the vote-counting, Rep. Liz Cheney, the senior Republican on the Jan. 6 committee, said in her opening statement Monday.
Jason Miller, a former Trump campaign senior adviser, told the committee in his recorded testimony, that the former New York mayor "was definitely intoxicated” when he talked to him that night.
Bill Stepien, Trump's 2020 campaign manager, said he advised against taking the course that Giuliani was suggesting.
"It was far too early to be making any calls like that, ballots were still being counted," Stepien said in his recorded testimony.
Stepien was scheduled to appear before the panel this morning, but canceled because his wife had gone into labor.
The panel reiterated the claim that Trump perpetrated the lie that fraud cost him the election even though he and his advisers knew that Joe Biden had won.
Today's hearing focusing on Trump false claims of fraud
Rep. Liz Cheney, R- Wyo., used her opening statement to focus on the Trump campaign experts and advisers who knew the claims of voter fraud were false and that they knew Trump had lost the election.
Cheney is the top Republican on the House committee investigating the riot, and a vocal critic of the former president, despite the risk to her own political future.
“The Trump campaign legal team knew there were no legitimate arguments, fraud, irregularities or anything to overturn the election,” Cheney said in her opening remarks following a video interview clip of former Trump campaign counsel Matt Morgan. “And yet, President Trump went ahead with his plans on January 6 anyway.”
Cheney said that Trump rejected the advice of his campaign experts on election night and instead followed the recommendations of "an apparently inebriated Rudy Giuliani to just claim he won and insist that the vote counting stop — to falsely claim everything was fraudulent."
Cheney noted that a federal court reviewed findings from the committee that conclude Trump tried to convince millions of Americans that the election was stolen by overwhelming fraud.
The false claims as a root cause for the violence on Jan. 6 were echoed by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., in her opening statement.
“The big lie was also a big rip-off,” Lofgren said, noting that in addition to convincing voters that the election was stolen, the Trump campaign also raised millions of dollars from supporters, claiming to need funds to legally dispute the election results.
“The attack on Jan. 6 was a direct and predictable result of Mister Trump’s decision to make false claims of election fraud to overturn the election and to cling to power,” Lofgren said.
Rep. Bennie Thompson kicks off Day 2 of hearings
Rep. Bennie Thompson said in his opening remarks that the goal of day 2 of the hearing is to "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."
"He lied to his supporters and the country," the Mississippi Democrat, who chairs the committee, said. "He tried to remain in office after the people had voted him out."
Thompson added that "as someone who's run for office a few times, I can tell you at the end of a campaign, it all comes down to the numbers."
"For the most part, the numbers don't lie, but if something doesn't add up with the numbers, you go to court to get resolution. And that's the end of the line," he said.
Thompson drew a direct line between accepting the results of an election and respecting the rule of law, adding that "those numbers aren't just numbers - they are votes. They're your votes."
Thompson referred to Trump's effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election as "a scheme unprecedented in American history."
California Rep. Zoe Lofgren says panel will prove Trump knew he lost
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., will play a key role in this morning's hearing, which will focus on former President Donald Trump’s knowing that he lost the election and his efforts to change the outcome.
“[W]e're going to show that Trump lost the election and he knew that he lost the election and he went on a campaign to convince his supporters that it was stolen, even though it was not,” Lofgren said while speaking with NPR's Rachel Martin on Friday’sMorning Edition. “We'll talk about his efforts to corrupt the Department of Justice, his pressure on state officials to reverse what their voters had decided and substitute fake electors to elect Trump — basically a whole scheme that he was involved in to make sure that he held power even though he lost the election.”
The California Democrat is the only member on the committee to have been involved in three presidential impeachments. And as chair of the House Administration Committee, Lofgren led a hearing on a review of Capitol Police actions on Jan. 6.
“I think that I have some sympathy for people who believe President Trump. They liked him. They voted for him. He was their president and he told them that there had been fraud. And he convinced them,” Lofgren said. “But it wasn't true. And, as he was engaging in that, I think he knew it wasn't true. So I think our job is to lay out the facts and to do that service to the American people to let them know what the truth is.”
Committee members say those who sought pardons will be revealed later
Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., a member of the Jan. 6 panel, said information revealing which members of Congress sought pardons would be discussed in upcoming hearings.
During an interview on Chuck Todd’s Meet The Press, Luria would not say who or how many members of Congress may have tried to receive a pardon. Rep. Liz Cheney’s opening statement on Thursday night called out Rep. Scott Perry and “multiple other Republican congressmen” for seeking pardons for “their roles in attempting to overturn the 2020 election.”
Perry has denied the allegations.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., another member of the committee, also would not identify which members sought pardons or how many of them did.
Asked by CNN’s Dana Bash on State of the Union on Sunday, Raskin responded, "Yeah, well, the seeking of pardons is a powerful demonstration of the consciousness of guilt, or at least the consciousness that you may be in trouble, and that's what's so shocking about this. It's not just one."
After Bash asked if the committee had evidence, Raskin replied, "It is multiple members of Congress, as the vice-chair said at our opening hearing, and all in due course the details will surface.”
Next up on Wednesday
The third of seven hearings will take place on Wednesday at 10 a.m.
The hearing is expected to focus on the plan to pressure the Justice Department to pursue claims about election fraud.
NPR's Carrie Johnson has confirmed that former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who replaced Bill Barr, is going to appear alongside two other DOJ officials: former acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue and former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Steve Engel.
Donoghue has previously been interviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which also looked into Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Chris Stirewalt is in, Bill Stepien is out
William Stepien, Donald Trump's 2020 campaign manager, is no longer testifying this morning because his wife went into labor, a source familiar with the situation tells NPR’s Claudia Grisales. His counsel is instead expected to appear before the committee and make an on-the-record statement. Video clips of his previous testimony to the committee are expected to be played at the hearing, per the source.
Stepien wasexpected to provide insightinto the campaign’s strategy for winning and whether they believed they have a chance of succeeding. He was set to appear under subpoena from the committee, though that doesn't mean he was expected to be a hostile witness. The committee has publicly subpoenaed about 100 individuals.
The hearing will also have a late start, approximately 30 to 45 minutes, the committee announced.
The first panel of witnesses to face the Jan. 6 committee on Monday will include Chris Stirewalt, a former FOX News digital political director. Stirewalt confirmed on NewsNation, the TV network where he now works, on Friday that he will appear at Monday's hearing.
Stirewalt was involved in the FOX News’ decision to project that Biden had won Arizona on the night of the 2020 election, a decision that angered Trump allies. He was forced out of his job shortly after the election.
Here’s what to expect in the rest of the Jan. 6 committee hearings
After laying out its case against former President Donald Trump and his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in its first public hearing last week, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection will provide details in six more hearings this month.
Here’s how committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., outlined the upcoming hearings in her opening statement:
Today’s hearing will examine how Trump, despite knowing that he had lost the election, engaged in a “massive effort” to convince Americans that it had been stolen from him. It will also detail Trump’s efforts to litigate those claims, which saw him lose more than 60 cases in state and federal courts. The committee says Trump’s disinformation campaign directly led to the Jan. 6 riot.
In the third hearing, on Wednesday, the committee will present evidence of Trump’s attempts to remove the attorney general and replace him with a loyalist so that the Justice Department would spread his false claims that the election was stolen, including sending a letter to six states saying DOJ had “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election.”
Thursday’s hearing will look at Trump’s “relentless” pressure, both publicly and privately, on Vice President Mike Pence for him to refuse to count electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021, despite Pence and his staff’s repeated response that what he was suggesting was illegal. A federal judge who reviewed the committee’s evidence concluded that Trump’s efforts likely violated two federal criminal statutes.
The fifth hearing will detail Trump’s pressure on state legislators and election officials to change election results and efforts by his campaign and associates to instruct Republican officials in a number of states to create false electoral slates, falsely certifying that Trump had won states that he had actually lost.
In the final two hearings, the committee will present evidence of how Trump summoned the insurrectionist mob and directed supporters to march on the Capitol. It will also detail how while police were fighting rioters inside and around the Capitol, Trump refused to take immediate action to stop the violence and tell his supporters to leave the Capitol.
Five witnesses will testify Monday, including Trump’s former campaign manager
Five in-person witnesses will testify publicly before House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Monday as the panel continues making its case that former President Donald Trump was responsible for the deadly riot.
Tomorrow's hearing is focused on the "the decision by the former president to ignore the will of the voters, declare victory on election he lost, spread claims of fraud and then decide to ignore the rulings of the courts when the judgment of the courts didn't go his way," select committee aides told reporters on Sunday.
They said the committee will present "great deal" of new information — chiefly in the forms of records and depositions.
Monday's hearing will feature two panels of witnesses.
Watch the hearing at NPR's livestream here starting at 10 a.m. ET.
On the first panel is Bill Stepien, former President Donald Trump’s campaign manager from July 2020 through the election. He previously served as deputy campaign manager when Brad Parscale was running the operation during much of the 2020 cycle and also had served as political director inside the White House at the start of Trump’s term, after working on the 2016 Trump campaign. Stepien had been an aide to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, but was fired in the wake of the Bridgegate scandal, though Stepien was never criminally charged in the matter. Stepien will appear alongside former Fox News political director Chris Stirewalt, who was ousted following the election.
On the second is veteran GOP election lawyer Ben Ginsberg, who was outspoken against Trump’s election lies even before the 2020 vote. He will testify with BJay Pak, the former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia who abruptly resigned following the leak of the recorded phone call in which Trump pressured state officials in Georgia to “find” enough votes to overturn President Biden’s victory there. During the call, Trump referred to a “never-Trump U.S. attorney” in Georgia, though he didn’t explicitly refer to Pak.
Also appearing will be Al Schmidt, a Republican former city commissioner in Philadelphia who was outspoken in the days and weeks after the election defending the city’s administration of the vote as Trump allies launched unfounded allegations of fraud and legal action that failed to show any widespread issues with the vote count. A Trump campaign case against Philadelphia officials was dismissed by a federal judge nominated by former President George W. Bush after acknowledging their accusation that Republican observers had been barred from the city’s ballot-counting venue was false.
California Democrat Rep. Zoe Lofgren will play a key role in the panel presentation, committee aides said. The meeting will last roughly two hours with a 10-minute recess between the two panels.
The presentation will generally follow chronologically – starting on Election Day, election night and then up through Jan. 6.
Monday's hearing will be the second of seven public hearings.
In September, the panel is expected to release an extensive report on its findings.