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Jan. 6 Panel Is Told Trump Was ‘Detached From Reality’ of Defeat

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A video of Donald Trump speaking is displayed at the House select committee hearing on Monday, June 13, 2022. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via AP)
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WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s closest campaign advisers, top government officials, and even his family were dismantling his false claims of 2020 election fraud ahead of Jan. 6, but the defeated president seemed “detached from reality” and kept clinging to outlandish theories to stay in power, the committee investigating the Capitol attack was told Monday.

Son-in-law Jared Kushner tried to steer Trump away from Giuliani and his far-flung theories of voter fraud. The president would have none of it.

With gripping testimony, the panel is laying out in step-by-step fashion how Trump ignored his own campaign team’s data as one state after another flipped to Joe Biden, and instead latched on to conspiracy theories, court cases, and his own declarations of victory rather than having to admit defeat.

Trump’s “big lie” of election fraud escalated and transformed into marching orders that summoned supporters to Washington and then sent them to the Capitol on Jan. 6 to block Biden’s victory.

“He’s become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff,” former Attorney General William Barr testified in his interview with the committee.

Barr called the voter fraud claims “bull——,” “bogus” and “idiotic,” and resigned in the aftermath. “I didn’t want to be a part of it.”

The Giuliani Factor

The House 1/6 committee spent the morning hearing delving into Trump’s claims of election fraud and the countless ways those around him tried to convince the defeated Republican president they were not true, and he had simply lost the election.

The witnesses Monday, mostly Republicans and many testifying in prerecorded videos, described in blunt terms and sometimes exasperated detail how Trump refused to take the advice of those closest to him, including his family members. As the people around him splintered into a “team normal” headed by former campaign manager Bill Stepien and others led by Trump confidant Rudy Giuliani, the president chose his side.

On election night, Stepien said, Trump was “growing increasingly unhappy” and refusing to accept the grim outlook for his presidency.

Son-in-law Jared Kushner tried to steer Trump away from Giuliani and his far-flung theories of voter fraud. The president would have none of it.

The back-and-forth intensified in the run-up to Jan. 6. Former Justice Department official Richard Donoghue recalled breaking down one claim after another — from a truckload of ballots in Pennsylvania to a missing suitcase of ballots in Georgia —- and telling Trump “much of the info you’re getting is false.”

Still, he pressed on with his false claims even after dozens of court cases collapsed.

Trump Blasts the Hearings

On Monday an unrepentant Trump blasted the hearings in his familiar language as “ridiculous and treasonous” and repeated his claims.

The former president, mulling another run for the White House, defended the Capitol attack as merely Americans seeking “to hold their elected officials accountable.”

Nine people died in the riot and its aftermath, including a Trump supporter shot and killed by Capitol police. More than 800 people have been arrested, and members of two extremist groups have been indicted on rare sedition charges over their roles in leading the charge into the Capitol.

During the hearing, the panel also provided new information about how Trump’s fundraising machine collected some $250 million with his campaigns to “Stop the Steal” and others in the aftermath of the November election, mostly from small-dollar donations from Americans. One plea for cash went out 30 minutes before the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

“Not only was there the big lie, there was the big ripoff,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.

Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., opened Monday’s hearing saying Trump “betrayed the trust of the American people” and “tried to remain in office when people had voted him out.”

What Will the Attorney General Do?

As the hearings play out for the public, they are also being watched by one of the most important viewers, Attorney General Merrick Garland, who must decide whether his department can and should prosecute Trump. No sitting or former president has ever faced such an indictment.

“I am watching,” Garland said Monday at a press briefing at the Justice Department, even if he may not watch all the hearings live. “And I can assure you the Jan. 6 prosecutors are watching all of the hearings as well.”

Biden was getting updates but not watching “blow by blow,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

Stepien was to be a key in-person witness Monday but abruptly backed out of appearing live because his wife went into labor. Stepien, who is still close to Trump, had been subpoenaed to appear. He is now a top campaign adviser to Trump-endorsed House candidate Harriet Hageman, who is challenging committee vice-chair Rep. Liz Cheney in the Wyoming Republican primary.

The panel marched ahead after a morning scramble and delay, with witness after witness saying Trump embraced and repeated his claims about the election although those closest told him the theories of stolen ballots or rigged voting machines were simply not true.

 

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