An apparently drunk Rudy Giuliani was key to convincing former President Donald Trump to throw the nation into chaos and simply declare victory on election night in 2020, drowning out the voices of some of Trump’s closest advisers who preferred that he await final results.
That was just one of the bombshells from the Jan. 6 Committee’s second hearing on Monday, as members of the panel sought to answer a famous question from another case of presidential impropriety: What did the president know, and when did he know it?
Members of the Committee came out swinging Monday, seeking to definitively answer that question.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who is taking the lead on this hearing, started her opening statement by saying Trump “knowingly” relied on false claims that there was widespread election fraud to dupe his supporters into believing the 2020 election was stolen—something he knew was incorrect.
“Mr. Trump’s closest advisers knew it. Mr. Trump knew it,” Lofgren said.
The committee also revealed that Trump’s “official election defense fund”—which raised $250 million for a Political Action Committee created after his loss—didn’t actually exist. It was instead a marketing ploy to redirect money to other entities that enriched those closest to them. him.
A slide put together by congressional investigators pointed out that $5 million went to Event Strategies, which helped set up the rally at The Ellipse near the White House where Trump fired an angry crowd that later attacked the Capitol building. They also noted that $1 million went to his chief of staff Mark Meadows’ nonprofit Conservative Partnership Institute, another $1 million was directed to the America First Policy Institute to support Trump-loyal candidates across the country, and $204,857 was funneled to the Trump Hotel Collection .
“The Big Lie was also a big rip off,” Lofgren said.
Co-chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) said the panel would explore that element in a future hearing.
As for this hearing, it officially got underway 47 minutes late, after Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien pulled out of testifying because his wife went into labor. When the hearing finally did start, Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said today he was about telling “the story of how Donald Trump lost an election, and knew he lost an election.”
“As a result of his loss,” Thompson continued, “Trump decided to wage an attack on our democracy, trying to rob you and your voice in our democracy, and in doing so, lit the fuse that led to the horrific violence on January 6th.”
Cheney followed that statement up by saying Trump ignored the evidence and instead “followed the advice of an apparently inebriated Rudy Giuliani,” who told him just to reject the results and fight them anyway.
The committee played videotaped depositions of some of Trump’s closest aides—Stepien and senior adviser Jason Miller—speaking about the unwelcome role played by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
In the videos, Trump advisers said Giuliani appeared to be drunk on election night and repeatedly insisted on talking to Trump, just as Fox News called Arizona for Joe Biden and the mood was souring at the White House.
“It was far too early to be making any call like that. Ballots were still being counted. Ballots were still to be counted for days,” Stepien testified back in February. “My recommendation was to say that votes were still being counted, it was too early to call the race.”
At his videotaped deposition, Miller told the committee he said “we should not go and declare victory until we had a better sense of the numbers.” But Giuliani became defiant and told them, “We won it, they’re stealing it from us… we need to go say that we won.”
Miller said Giuliani’s aggressive tone was that “anyone who didn’t agree with that position was being weak.”
Former Attorney General also repeatedly said he told Trump that claims of widespread voter fraud were incorrect.
“I thought, boy, if he really believes this stuff, he has lost contact with—he’s become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff,” Barr said.
Barr recalled setting up a lunch meeting with Associated Press reporter Mike Balsamo in which the attorney general told him—in no uncertain terms—that the DOJ had not seen levels of fraud that would come even close to affecting the results of the 2020 election. Barr told the committee he expected to be fired at the White House later that afternoon. Instead, he met with Trump at the Oval Office, where the president was incensed and spewing conspiracy theories.
Barr said Trump was “as mad as I’ve ever seen” when he told the president he didn’t believe there was anything substantive to claims of voter fraud.
Barr said he was shocked by the “idiotic claims” and “disturbing allegations” about voting machines and the supposedly covert deliveries of faked ballots that would sway the election toward Biden.
“I told them that it was crazy stuff and they were wasting their time on that. It was doing a serious disservice to the country,” Barr told the committee.
Instead of dropping it, Trump allowed White House adviser Peter Navarro to develop an official, conspiracy-theory-riddled report summing up flimsy and made-up evidence to cast doubt on the election. The committee played a video deposition of Alex Cannon—a Trump Organization lawyer who later joined the candidate’s campaign—in which he recalled his interactions with Navarro shortly after the election in mid-November.
When Cannon pushed back on Navarro’s mass fraud thesis—and pointed out how the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency had publicly assured that the 2020 election was indeed secure—he was personally attacked.
“I remember telling him that I didn’t believe the Dominion allegations, because the hand recount in Georgia would resolve any issues with the technology problem,” Cannon said.
He recalled that Nava accused him of being “an agent of the deep state” working against the president.
Cannon swore he never took another call from Navarro.
Fox News’ former political editor, Chris Stirewalt, also testified before the committee on Monday that Biden undeniably won in 2020—and stood by his network’s decision to quickly report Trump’s surprising losses in the otherwise red states of Arizona and Georgia. As time went on, he said, Trump’s loss just became more apparent.
“We already knew Trump’s chances were small and getting smaller,” he said.
His testimony was notable, given that the television network for weeks after the election continued to fuel conspiracy theories about missing and destroyed ballots with news reports that were so far detached from reality that the company was eventually sued by a voting machine manufacturer.
Although Stepien didn’t appear in person, his taped depositions were damning enough. He repeatedly said he didn’t believe there was evidence to claim Trump had won the election, and Stepien said Giuliani and Trump’s insistence on a strategy of claiming victory eventually led him to “step away” from the campaign.
During the second half of the hearing, Lofgren spoke to those on the frontlines who dealt with Trump’s lies. BJay Pak, who served as the top federal prosecutor in northern Georgia, testified on Monday that the FBI thoroughly investigated a video that supposedly showed a Fulton County poll stashing ballots in a briefcase under a desk worker—only to find that the employee was actually doing their job and securing balls in an authorized locked box.
Afterward, Al Schmidt, former Philadelphia City Commissioner, said the city took “seriously” every claim of election fraud and investigated the Trump camp’s allegations that fake ballots were submitted on behalf of dead people.
“Not only was there no evidence of 8,000 dead voters in Pennsylvania, there was not even evidence of eight,” Schmidt said.
When Trump tweeted at the then-city commissioner directly, Schmidt said, he and his family were inundated by detailed death threats.
“The threats became much more specific, much more graphic, and included not just me by name, but included members of my family, their names, ages, address, pictures of our home, every bit of detail you could imagine,” he said. .