Trump advisors told him his election fraud claims were bogus
Campaign Manager Bill Stepien, left, watches as President Donald Trump speaks at his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Va., on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Stepien and other Trump advisors have told the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol that the president knew long before the riot at the Capitol that his claims of election fraud were lies. | Alex Brandon / AP

The Select House Committee probing the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol used sworn testimony of former President Donald Trump’s campaign managers and his top Republican advisors against him as it laid out, in its televised session Monday, what amounts to a case to criminally prosecute him on several fronts.

Trump intentionally spread what he knew was the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him in an attempt to overturn his defeat by President-elect Joe Biden and, to make matters worse, the committee proved, he used that lie to raise a quarter-of-a-billion dollars to supposedly fight his case. Instead, he used the money he took from his loyal supporters to line his own pockets and those of his family members. He paid his own daughter-in-law, the wife of Donald Trump, Jr., for example, $63,000 for a two-minute speech she gave in support of the Big Lie.

“The Big Lie was followed by the big rip-off,” Democratic committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren declared at the hearings Monday.

Bill Stepien, the former Trump campaign manager who ran things for the last four months of the campaign, failed to appear in person yesterday because his pregnant wife was in labor, so the committee scrambled to pull together video of the already-extensive testimony they had heard from him prior to Monday’s hearing. Stepien testified that already on the night of the election itself he and other advisors told the former president that his chances did not look good. Stepien and others cautioned Trump not to declare victory because counting was still going on, and Stepien, in particular, thought there was no more than an outside 5 or 10% chance the president could pull off a victory.

Rather than listen to lawyers who were telling him the election was lost, Trump took the counsel of an inebriated Rudolph Giuliani, who told him exactly what he wanted to hear – that the election was stolen from him. Giuliani’s advice matched perfectly with the plan Trump had already made to declare victory before the election even happened. | Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP

Instead of listening to that advice, the president took the counsel of Rudy Giuliani, who came into the room in a state of intoxication, according to witnesses before the committee, and told the president what he wanted to hear—that he had really won but the election was being stolen. Trump took the word of the drunken Giuliani and went to the podium and announced to the country that he had won the election.

Giuliani has subsequently denied he was intoxicated but has not challenged the report that he endorsed the Big Lie in his talks with the president that night.

In another indication that Trump knew he had not really won, as Election Night wore on, the president demanded that the vote counting be stopped because the later it got, the more that large numbers of votes for Biden were expected to come in. All the Trump advisors who testified to the committee said the so called “Red Mirage” was something known to the president. This was the expectation that early in the night it would look like Trump was winning because the early vote counted was the same-day vote, in which Republicans typically predominate.

The expectation was that Biden supporters would predominate in the later counting of enormous numbers of mail-in votes. As the predictions Trump and everyone else knew about materialized, the president began demanding a halt to the counting. “We don’t want votes coming in at four in the morning,” Trump said, according to the testimony of Stepien and other Republican advisors in the room on Election Night.

Trump, with the support only of the inebriated Giuliani, made the decision to declare victory that night. All the testimony presented by the committee affirms this, killing any possibility that the former president could avoid prosecution for defrauding the United States by claiming he was surrounded by “bad” people giving “bad” advice. He may have been surrounded by cowards afraid to confront him or condemn the Big Lie in public, but he was not surrounded by advisors telling him to commit crimes against the people. That was his own doing.

Stepien, Eric Herschman, and other White House lawyers noted that when Trump didn’t like what he heard from his own legal team—people like Herschman and others who told him there was no substantial fraud in the elections—he got rid of them and replaced them with Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who curried favor with him by telling him what he wanted to hear. Stepien said that was how the press came to be talking about “Team Normal” and “Team Crazy” and that he, Stepien, “didn’t mind being characterized as part of Team Normal.”

The Republican advisors testified how Trump tried to involve and corrupt the Department of Justice in the Big Lie by demanding that they investigate one outrageous claim after another. The former president did not stop after losing 60 court cases, many of them before judges he had appointed. Former Attorney General Bill Barr told the committee that as soon as Trump put out one outrageous claim it would be followed by another.

Giuliani falsely claimed that “truckloads of ballots” were “coming in from all over the place. They were coming in, in garbage pails,” he said.

Trump himself falsely claimed that there were illegal “ballot dumps,” including his famous claim that a suitcase full of illegal ballots was pulled out from under a table by a Georgia elections official and added to the official totals at her polling place. Barr said that that claim was debunked by his department.

Barr said all the claims, no matter how outrageous, were thoroughly investigated by the FBI and found to have no merit. He said he told Trump that he and his department were “not the personal legal team for the president.”

One would think that many of the claims coming from the likes of Giuliani and Powell were so off-the-wall that any legitimate investigatory body would have tossed them before even looking into them.

One of those absurd claims was that voting machines were somehow converting Trump votes into Biden votes. At one point, the press had confronted Powell, wanting to know whether she knew of a single example of a single vote having been flipped. She scoffed and responded by saying that “when you have a body on the floor full of bullet holes you don’t need a gun to prove that it had happened.” Trump advisors reminded the committee of that quote from Powell.

Commentators noted Monday that it would have been good if people like Barr had come forward with their testimony in November and December of 2021 because that might have helped squelch the Big Lie in its infancy. Barr testified that he resigned from his position because he couldn’t take the Trump lies anymore, but in his resignation letter, he had mentioned none of that. In fact, in that letter he had praised Trump for having accomplished good things.

There was also testimony that Trump had planned his Big Lie well before the election in speeches where he told the public the only way he could lose is if the election were stolen. As if to make it easier to fight a battle on the basis that the election was stolen and use the false claims to raise $250 million to line his own pockets after the election, he told his supporters not to vote by mail but to vote in person.

Both Stepien and Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy testified that they told Trump that discouraging early voting by his supporters would increase his chances of losing but that he was determined to wage a campaign against Republicans taking advantage of early voting.

Other Republicans also apparently wanted to prepare the ground for a Big Lie challenge after the election. In Pennsylvania, for example, the Republican legislature blocked changing a law that disallows counting of mail-in ballots until Election Day. That guaranteed a big delay in the vote count and threw open the door for Trump to engage in all kinds of false claims about the voting in that key state.

Trump had already decided well before Election Day, the committee has proven, that he was going to pursue the Big Lie that led to the insurrection.

A fundraising video of former President Donald Trump speaking is displayed as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continued to reveal its findings on Monday. Trump used the Big Lie of a stolen election to line his pockets with a quarter-of-a-billion dollars donated by his loyal followers. | Mandel Ngan / Pool via AP

Ben Ginsburg, the Republican lawyer who won the Bush vs. Gore case before the Supreme Court in 2000, gave powerful testimony that by ignoring his 60 losses in the courts, Trump was waging a full frontal attack on American democracy.

He reminded the committee and the public that Giuliani, because of the unethical lawsuits he filed on behalf of Trump, among other reasons, has lost his license to practice law.

“There is nothing more important to American democracy than elections,” Ginsburg said. “What Trump did was so out of bounds and was an attack on the heart of our democracy.”

Trump was still pushing his Big Lie Monday in a 12-page letter claiming falsely that Democrats had inflated voter rolls, illegally “harvested” ballots, removed Republican poll watchers, and bribed election officials—all, again, with no evidence whatsoever.

Read more People’s World coverage of the Trump coup, as it was planned and executed:

> Trump coup plan exposed: Declare victory before votes are counted

> GOP planning a ‘soft coup’ by refusing to recognize Biden win?

> ‘Sedition Summits’ taking place in the Trump White House

> Trump’s fascist insurrection in D.C. aims to destroy U.S. democracy


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.