Trump repeatedly ignored advisers who told him the voter fraud theory was baseless

In the careful script prepared by the United States congressional commission for the televised sessions with the conclusions of its investigation into the attack on the Capitol, this Monday it was time to travel to the election night of November 3, 2020 in order to demonstrate that Donald Trump knowingly spread the lie that he had been robbed at the polls, and that this hoax led, in an unequivocal relationship of cause and effect, to the events of January 6. Everything was perfectly choreographed for the audience, 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 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, its members were gathered and it was not difficult to imagine the frantic pace with which they would be flipping the script.

And that is not anything in this case. The sessions ―in which the group of nine congressmen (seven Democrats and two Republicans, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, both banned from their party, present their findings after almost a year of work: a thousand interviews and the review of 140,000 documents ― are televised, so the readjustment was also for the grid of the handful of networks 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 They were also protagonists: the other long-awaited witness was Chris Stirewalt, who was director of political information for the network, who was fired after he reported on the victory of Joe Biden in the State of Arizona, ahead of the rest of the media, during election night most tense and extraordinary in recent US history.

Chris Stirewalt, during the session this Monday.
Chris Stirewalt, during the session this Monday.JOSHUA ROBERTS (REUTERS)

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 electoral fraud theory?” Thompson launched.

“None at all,” replied Stirewalt.

— 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. It was one of the five Key States. 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 the 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 was the first.” In the White House he felt then, recalled Miller, a mixture of “disappointment and anger.”

Reconstruction

Another of the most interesting moments of the hearing, in which Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, representative for California, played the role of questioner, 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 Trump’s court counsel. 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 family and friends, and of the campaign advisers, all present at the White House for a celebration that never came.

It was then that he stood before the American people and said something that, Lofgren recalled, he had been warning for a year would say: “Frankly, we 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.”

Then former Attorney General William Barr, whose statement was one of the highlights of the first day’s session, came back to the spotlight on Monday. 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”

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.

After the recess, they sat in the witness seat Byung J. bjay Pak and Benjamin Ginsberg, a Republican election attorney. Both described the pressures they suffered to undo the electoral result. And both remained firm in the months prior to January 6 in their convictions that Biden’s victory was fair. Congresswoman Lofgren thanked both for their “service to the country” and their bravery.

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