A bipartisan House select committee on Monday kept its focus squarely on former President Donald Trump as it detailed the initial findings from its investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
The second hearing outlined the push by Trump and his allies to spread false claims of sweeping election fraud following the then-president's loss to Joe Biden in the 2020 contest. It leaned heavily on testimony from Trump's former Attorney General William Barr, who said he repeatedly told Trump that there was no evidence of widespread fraud, but that the president refused to listen.
Witnesses testified on two panels during Monday's hearing. The first featured Chris Stirewalt, the former Fox News political editor who came under fire from Trump's supporters after Fox called Arizona for Biden before other outlets on Election Day 2020.
Former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien was slated to speak, as well — but less than an hour before the hearing was set to start at 10 a.m. ET, the committee announced that Stepien would not attend "due to a family emergency."
Stepien's lawyer will appear and make a statement on his behalf, the committee said. The event started about 45 minutes late.
Stepien is reportedly currently advising Cheney's Trump-endorsed Republican primary challenger Harriet Hageman.
The second panel included testimony from election attorney Benjamin Ginsberg, former Philadelphia city commissioner Al Schmidt and BJay Pak, former U.S. attorney for the northern district of Georgia.
House Jan. 6 committee says there was no Trump election defense fund even though the campaign fundraised off of it
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol said it discovered that former President Donald Trump's election defense fund never existed.
"The select committee discovered no such fund existed," said Amanda Wick, a member of the committee's senior investigative counsel looking into the insurrection.
The new video evidence presented to the public during the hearing showed two former Trump campaign staffers disputing during testimony that the fund ever existed.
"I don't believe there is a fund called the Election Defense Fund," Hanna Allred, identified by the committee as a former Trump campaign staffer, said in a recorded statement. Gary Coby, a former Trump campaign digital director, told the committee that the defense fund was part of a marketing tactic.
The Trump campaign was regularly trying to raise money after the former president lost the Nov. 2020 election, encouraging donors to give to what fundraising pitches called the "official election defense fund." The committee discovered that the Trump campaign and its allies raised nearly $100 million in the first week after the election.
— Brian Schwartz
Former Philadelphia city commissioner: After Trump tweeted at me by name, threats became 'much more graphic'
Former Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt told the select committee that threats against him became "much more graphic" and began to include details about his family after then-President Donald Trump criticized him in a tweet.
Schmidt, a Republican official in charge of overseeing the 2020 election in Philadelphia, had pushed back on some of Trump's fraud claims in a "60 Minutes" interview days after the election.
Trump responded in a tweet: "A guy named Al Schmidt, a Philadelphia Commissioner and so-called Republican (RINO), is being used big time by the Fake News Media to explain how honest things were with respect to the Election in Philadelphia. He refuses to look at a mountain of corruption & dishonesty. We win!"
Schmidt said that he had already received threats as part of his job. But after Trump called him out by name, "the threats became much more specific, much more graphic and included not just me by name, but included members of my family by name, their ages, our address, pictures of our home, just every bit of detail that you can imagine," Schmidt told the select committee.
"That is what changed with that tweet," he said.
— Kevin Breuninger
Barr repeatedly slams Trump election fraud claims as 'bulls---,' 'crazy,' 'nonsense'
Former Attorney General William Barr repeatedly, and colorfully, dismissed the wide array of voter-fraud conspiracies being floated by Trump and some of his allies after his 2020 election loss, video from his interviews with the committee shows.
Barr ripped some of those conspiracy theories as "bulls---," "nonsense," "idiotic" and "crazy stuff," and said he told Trump to his face after the election that that the claims are "not panning out." He ran the Department of Justice from Feb. 14, 2019 to Dec. 23, 2020,
The panel played a clip of Barr recounting an Oval Office meeting a few weeks after the Nov. 3, 2020, election, in which he had to tell Trump that the DOJ "is not an extension of your legal team" and can't be used to "take sides in elections" by investigating fraud claims.
"We'll look at something if it's specific, credible, and could have affected the outcome of the election, and we're doing that and it's just not meritorious, they're not panning out," he said.
After seeing Trump spread those claims on Fox News, Barr on Dec. 1, 2020, told an Associated Press reporter that the DOJ has not seen fraud on scale that could affected outcome of election. When he next met with Trump, Barr said he thought he was going to be fired, telling the committee, "the president was as mad as I've ever seen him." The then-president accused him of making the statement "because you hate Trump."
Elsewhere, Barr recalled, "I told him that the stuff that his people were shoveling out to the public was bulls---. I mean, that the claims of fraud were bulls---. And he was indignant about that."
"I reiterated that they'd wasted a whole month on these claims on these Dominion voting machines, and they were idiotic claims." Barr said he found those claims, that Dominion voting machines were rigged to flip votes to Joe Biden, were "disturbing" in that "I saw absolutely zero basis" for them.
"But they were made in such a sensational way that they were obviously influencing a lot of members of the public," even though they were "complete nonsense," Barr said.
"I told him that it was crazy stuff and they were wasting their time on that and it was doing a grave disservice to the country," Barr said.
— Kevin Breuninger
Former Trump campaign manager says he and McCarthy tried to convince Trump mail-in ballots were OK
Former Trump campaign chief Bill Stepien told the committee that he and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., met with Trump to convince him that mail-in ballots weren't at a high risk of fraud as the former commander-in-chief discouraged voters from using them.
"We made our case for why we believed mail-in balloting, mail-in voting, not to be a bad thing for his campaign but, you know, the president's mind was made up," Stepien said in new testimony presented at the hearing.
The meeting with Trump took place in the summer of 2020 as the president publicly ripped the idea of mail-in ballots being used to vote during the coronavirus pandemic.
"Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country, because they're cheaters," Trump said at a White House briefing that year.
— Brian Schwartz
'Definitely intoxicated' Rudy Giuliani said Trump should declare victory on Election Night, campaign aide says
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was "definitely intoxicated" on Election Night 2020 when he said at the White House that then-President Donald Trump should simply declare victory over Joe Biden, ex-Trump campaign aide Jason Miller said.
Miller said that he noticed Giuliani was inebriated when he and other officials, including former campaign manager Bill Stepien and then-chief of staff Mark Meadows, gathered at the White House to listen to what Giuliani wanted to tell Trump to say.
"The mayor was definitely intoxicated, but I did not know his level of intoxication when he spoke with the president, for example," Miller said as part of an interview with the select committee, clips of which were played in the hearing.
"There were suggestions by, I believe it was Mayor Giuliani, to go and declare victory and say that we'd won it outright," Miller said. He said he recalled saying at the time that Trump shouldn't declare victory until the numbers were more clear.
Giuliani was effectively saying, "'We won it, they're stealing it from us, where'd all the votes come from, we need to go say that we won,' and essentially anyone who didn't agree with that position was being weak," Miller told the investigators.
In a separate interview, Stepien told the committee it was "far too early" to make any such pronouncement.
Trump, in the early hours of Nov. 4, 2020, falsely claimed, "frankly, we did win this election."
— Kevin Breuninger
The 'big lie' was also the 'big ripoff,' Lofgren says of Trump's fundraising
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif, a member of the January 6th House Select Committee, says they plan to show how the Trump campaign ripped off their supporters by convincing them to contribute to their legal fight against the 2020 election results.
Lofgren says donors were deceived and much of those contributions weren't actually used in the eventual legal fight.
"We'll also show how that the Trump campaign used these false claims of election fraud to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from supporters who were told their donations were for the legal fight in the courts," Lofgren said. "But the Trump campaign didn't use the money for that. The big lie was also a big ripoff."
— Brian Schwartz
Thompson says Trump 'decided to wage an attack on our democracy'
The select committee will explain how Donald Trump lost the 2020 election, but instead of conceding, he "decided to wage an attack on our democracy," Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said at the start of the hearing.
"The numbers don't lie," Thompson said of election outcomes. If those don't add up, you can go to court — and "that's the end of the line," he said.
Trump "didn't have the numbers. He went to court. He still didn't have the numbers. He lost," Thompson said.
In Tuesday's hearing, "we'll tell the story of how Donald Trump lost an election" and "knew he lost," but decided to wage an attack on our democracy," the chairman said.
— Kevin Breuninger
Trump campaign manager dropped out of hearing after wife went into labor, NBC reports
Former Trump 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien's wife went into labor Monday morning, keeping him from testifying under subpoena before the Jan. 6 select committee in its second public hearing, NBC News reported, citing a source familiar with the matter.
The panel announced the scheduling shake-up less than an hour before the hearing was initially slated to begin. The news delayed the scheduled 10 a.m. ET start of the hearing by 30 to 45 minutes.
The panel intends instead to play video of Stepien's taped deposition, sources told NBC.
— Kevin Breuninger