And Trump’s 2020 campaign manager recalled — in the days and weeks after the election — joining the unofficial “truth-telling team” tasked with informing Trump that he had, in fact, lost the 2020 election.
“It’s easier to tell the president about, you know, wild impeachments,” Bill Stepien, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, said in testimony aired Thursday by the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol. 2021 examined. “It’s harder to tell him at the back, ‘Yeah, that wasn’t true.’ ”
The panel’s likely final hearing on January 6 painted a portrait of a US president who, with the help of a clique of right-wing allies, embarked on a premeditated plan to refuse to relinquish power regardless of the election results and who, despite personally acknowledging that he had lost to Biden — eventually executing that deadly plan on January 6, 2021.
“All of this demonstrates President Trump’s personal and substantial role in the plot to undo the election,” said Representative Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.). “He was deeply involved in it. He was the central player.”
Before voting unanimously to subpoena Trump, the panel made a case against Trump that was as ruthless as it was damning: In the days and weeks before he encouraged a frenzied mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol, close advisers and others repeatedly accused Trump of told he had lost the election – and Trump himself had personally acknowledged the defeat.
Analysis: The Case Against Donald Trump
Through approximately 2.5 hours of pre-recorded testimony, footage of riots, grim statements from lawmakers and incriminating text messages, the commission argued that despite Trump’s enormous capacity for self-deception and dishonesty, the former president fully understood that he had the election lost – and yet kept fighting the results anyway.
“Recognize that President Donald Trump was in a unique position, better informed about the absence of widespread electoral fraud than almost any other US president,” said Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) “Trump’s own campaign experts told him there was no evidence to back up his claims. His own Justice Department appointees investigated the allegations of vote-rigging and told him – without a doubt – that they were false. In mid-December 2020, President Trump’s senior advisers told him it was time to concede the election. Donald Trump knew the courts had ruled against him.”
“He had all this information,” Cheney continued, “yet he made the conscious choice to fraudulently claim the election was stolen.”
As further evidence that Trump understood he would not serve a second term, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) on Nov. 11, 2020 — just four days after news organizations officially declared the election in Biden’s favour — Trump signed an order calling for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Somalia, to be completed before Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021.
Kinzinger argued that the directive — previously reported by Axios and in the book “Peril” but ultimately not being implemented — underscored Trump’s rush “to wrap up his unfinished business” in what he understood as the waning days of his government.
“These are the very sweeping actions of a president who knows his term is coming to an end soon,” Kinzinger said.
Of course, Trump’s false and baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen have continued to this day and have become something of a litmus test for Republican candidates across the country. But the committee on Thursday argued, as Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said at one point that “this plan to declare victory was in place before any of the results were determined.”
Lofgren noted that at one point the committee interviewed Brad Parscale, who had served as Trump’s campaign manager before Stepien, and that Parscale told them “that President Trump was planning to say as early as July that he would win the election, even if he’s lost.”
The California lawmaker also played audio from Stephen K. Bannon — a former senior Trump adviser who had been in touch with him prior to Jan. 6 — telling officials in China a few days before the election that, regardless of the actual results, Trump will simply say that he had won.
5 takeaways from the January 6 hearing
“And what Trump is going to do is just declare victory, right?” Bannon says in the audio clip, grinning at points. He’s going to declare victory. And that doesn’t mean he’s the winner. He’s just going to say he’s the winner.”
Bannon added that the public would wake up the day after the election to “a firestorm”: “If Biden wins, Trump is going to do a crazy show.”
The committee also reminded viewers that later, on January 5 — just a day before the deadly riot — Bannon claimed on his radio show, “Tomorrow all hell will break loose.”
And that’s exactly what happened.
The facts are now out: A president, unable to bear the blow of electoral defeat to his ego, urged his furious and frantic supporters to march to the Capitol, which culminated in a deadly uprising that left five dead, including a Capitol. Police officer who died after being beaten by a mob of rioters.
But the story the committee wanted to tell on Thursday was more nuanced. Trump was not, legislator after legislator argued, an angry king or reckless madman — caught up in the emotion of the day — or just a hapless bystander, oblivious to the destruction he wrought.
In fact, it was quite the opposite: Trump was a leader who knew he had lost—who was repeatedly told he had lost and who privately admitted he had lost—but who went ahead with a calculated and deliberate plan that would lay the foundations of the very democracy he had sworn to maintain.
“President Trump knew the truth,” Kinzinger said. “He heard what all his experts and senior staff were telling him. He knew he had lost the election, but he made the conscious choice to ignore the courts, ignore the Justice Department, ignore his campaign leadership, ignore senior advisers and make a completely illegal attempt to undo the election. .”
Kinzinger concluded, “His intention was clear: ignore the rule of law and stay in power.”