Trump repeatedly ignored advisers who told him the voter fraud theory was baseless | International
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In the careful script of televised hearings written by the United States congressional commission investigating the attack on Capitol Hill, this Monday it was time to travel to the election night of November 3, 2020. The objective was to demonstrate that Donald Trump repeatedly ignored the advisers that they assured him that the theory of electoral fraud was baseless, that he spread it knowing it was a lie, and that this hoax led, in a cause-effect relationship, to the events of January 6. Everything was perfectly choreographed for the session, until at the last minute one of the main dancers, Bill Stepien, former president’s campaign manager, and the most anticipated star of this second chapter (the first of the audiences, the last Thursday, it was actually something quite like a prologue).
He came to testify forced by a subpoena and excused himself in extremis: It turns out that his wife had unexpectedly gone into labor precisely in the morning, the committee announced on Twitter an hour before the start of the show. Stepien was in Washington, ready to talk, according to his lawyer, but had to get the hell out.
That delayed the start of the session, scheduled for 10:00, by 45 minutes, and forced the commission to readjust its plans; during that time, among the public present in the elegant Caucus room of the Cannon building, one of the most traditional in Washington, there was a certain disappointment. Everyone was waiting for the exchange, which was expected to be tense, between Stepien and the commission. Behind the doors on either side of the dais, its members were gathered and it was not hard to imagine the frantic pace with which they would be flipping the script.
And the script is not easy to improvise in this case. The group of nine congressmen (seven Democrats and two Republicans, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, already outlawed in their party), present their findings after almost a year of work, a thousand interviews and the review of 140,000 documents. The sessions are televised, so the readjustment was also of the grid of the handful of chains that broadcast it. After skipping the first episode, which was followed by 19 million people in total, Fox News decided to broadcast the second on Monday, perhaps because they were also protagonists: the other long-awaited witness was Chris Stirewalt, who was director of political information for the network. He was fired in January 2021, after he confirmed Joe Biden’s victory in the key state of Arizona, ahead of the rest of the media, during the most tense and extraordinary election night in recent United States history.
Commission Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, said at the beginning of his speech: “This morning, we will tell the story of how Donald Trump lost the election and he knew he lost it, but because he did not want to accept his defeat, decided to attack our democracy.” And then he greeted Stirewalt with two questions, asked and answered with a suitable dose of theatrics from him:
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— “Would you say there is any basis for the voter fraud theory?” Thompson launched.
“None at all,” Stirewalt replied.
— “And who won that night?”
― “Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. of the Great State of Delaware”, sentenced the former employee of the conservative network.
Stirewalt, who was “very proud” of the professional decision that ended with his dismissal, recalled the details of that night. “At some point, it was clear that Arizona had fallen on the Democratic side. We voted in the newsroom if we should consider it resolved at that moment or wait, and the majority came out yes. Everyone lost their minds after that.”
Despite his absence, Stepien was very present through the videos of the long interview recorded with him by the commission. It is impossible to know if those recordings were put together on the run to fill their gap, but if so, it must be recognized that they did a wonderful job. In one of those recordings he said that the news of the loss of Arizona was “very surprising” in Trump’s entourage. Jason Miller, another of the still president’s close advisers, added in another recorded interview that Trump was surprised that “Fox News were the first” to report it. In the White House he felt then, recalled Miller, a mixture of “disappointment and anger.”
Another of the most interesting moments of the hearing, in which the protagonist was also Democratic congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, representative for California, who played the role of interrogator, came with a video with the reconstruction of those hours. It was assembled with crossed testimonies from those who spent in the White House on election night: in addition to Stepien and Miller, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and son-in-law, were heard, as well as Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York and court counselor to Trump. Giuliani, who was visibly drunk, according to several witnesses, urged the Republican to declare victory before the vote count was complete. And this, as was customary, heeded him, against the opinion of his relatives and relatives who asked him for caution, and of the campaign advisers, all present at the White House for a celebration that never came.
It was then that Trump appeared before the American people and said something that, Lofgren recalled, he had been warning for a year that he would say: “Frankly, we have won the election.” The commission presented videos of various public appearances already advancing months before the campaign even began that the “only way” the GOP could lose in November was “through fraud.”
Later, former Attorney General William Barr, whose recorded statement was one of the highlights of the first day’s session, returned Monday to claim the spotlight. His obstinacy in opposing Trump’s unfounded theories on electoral fraud is already one of the key elements of this series of hearings, which are seen in the mirror of other historical trances such as Watergate (1987) or the committee that investigated the scandal Iran-Contra under Ronald Reagan (1987). “After the 2020 election,” Barr was heard to state, “Trump went crazier than ever.” He also said that he “detached himself from reality” and that “he never observed signs of interest on his part in knowing the facts as they happened.”
What the former attorney general repeated to the still president about his conspiracy being nothing but “nonsense” (nonsense) is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle handled by the commission and it seems clear that they do not plan to stop bringing it up. This Monday another term was added, “madness” (nuts), pronounced by the lawyer Eric Herschmann, who worked in the White House in the last stages of the Trump era, to refer to the process by which he spread an unsubstantiated lie that was struck down by several courts. No fewer than 61 claims have since been dismissed. Number 62 was accepted, but the recount did not affect the result.
“That was more than just a big lie,” Lofgren said earlier in the session, “it was also a big scam.” The accusation made sense at the end of the hearing, when another video provided evidence that Trump and his campaign aides created something called the Election Defense Foundation, to which, according to the congressional committee, his supporters donated $100 million in the week. after the elections. An investigator quoted on Monday maintains that there is no evidence that such a fund existed. Afterward, Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat and a key committee member, told reporters that candidates who lose an election immediately stop receiving money. “It was not the case with Trump, who lost, but he continued to raise a huge amount of funds,” Raskin said.
After the recess, Altanta prosecutor Byung J. bjay Pak and Benjamin Ginsberg, a Republican election attorney. Both described the pressures, which went into the realm of threats, they suffered to undo the electoral result in Georgia and Pennsylvania. The two remained firm in the months prior to January 6 in their convictions that Biden’s victory was fair. Congresswoman Lofgren thanked them for their “service to the country” and their bravery.
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