The Jan. 6 committee concludes second public hearing on its investigation of the Capitol riot

By Heidi Glenn (NPR), Ximena Bustillo (NPR) and Barbara Sprunt (NPR)
June 13, 2022 1:28 p.m. Updated: June 13, 2022 5:12 p.m.

The committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol has concluded its second public hearing, which focused on former President Donald Trump’s role in perpetuating the lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

Watch the hearing here:

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In video testimony aired 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 lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s claims of “suitcases of ballots” Georgia -- and found them to be false, while former City Commissioner of Philadelphia Al Schmidt said he found no evidence of widespread fraud in Philadelphia.

Earlier, President 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 what happened during the first hearing here.

People gather in a park outside of the U.S. Capitol to watch the Jan. 6 House committee investigation hearing on Thursday night. The panel convened again the morning of Monday, June 13, 2022.

People gather in a park outside of the U.S. Capitol to watch the Jan. 6 House committee investigation hearing on Thursday night. The panel convened again the morning of Monday, June 13, 2022.

Jose Luis Magana / AP

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 Mr. 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 Barr in a video called Trump’s claim from Trump that more people voted in Philadelphia than there was eligible voters “rubbish.” The claim was said during 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 claim

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 Dec. 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 reported2,000 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 cell phones 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.

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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 digital 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 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 despite he and his advisers knew that Joe Biden had won.

Hearing focuses 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.”


For the latest updates on Monday’s hearing head over to NPR’s live blog.

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