Trump’s Election Lies Take Center Stage on Capitol Hill

From a story on politico.com by Eugene Daniels and Ryan Lizza headlined “Trump’s election lies take center stage on Capitol Hill”:

Just before 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 4, 2020, then-President DONALD TRUMP went before a group of supporters at the White House and prematurely declared victory over JOE BIDEN in an election he ultimately lost.

Today at 10 a.m., that moment — and the avalanche of lies about the election that followed — will be front and center as the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack (1) highlights the origins of the “Big Lie” about the 2020 election, (2) shows how it spread and (3) attempts to prove that in the weeks and months following Election Day, even as Trump continued to falsely claim that he’d actually won, he privately knew he’d lost — and that his public insistence otherwise led to the insurrection. Read the preview from Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu

Here’s what to expect in today’s big hearing:

The logistics: Chair BENNIE THOMPSON (D-Miss.) will helm the hearing, though Rep. ZOE LOFGREN (D-Calif.) will play a “key role” in presentations, per committee aides.

Unlike what we saw Thursday night, today will be a more traditional congressional hearing, with two separate panels of witnesses testifying.

— The first panel has just two witnesses: (1) BILL STEPIEN, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, whose participation was a surprise when announced Sunday; and (2) CHRIS STIREWALT, Fox News’ former political editor, who defended the network’s decision to call Arizona for Biden before its competitors did, and was fired by the company in January 2021. (Fox has maintained that his dismissal was part of a corporate restructuring.)

Two big questions: 

  • Is Stepien a friendly or hostile witness? Some observers have speculated that because he’s appearing under subpoena, Stepien might not be a “friendly witness” for the committee. But as Kyle points out, (1) if he reallydidn’t want to testify, Stepien could have sued to block or at least delay his testimony (as other Trump allies have), and (2) “existence of a subpoena doesn’t necessarily mean a witness is resistant,” as we saw with filmmaker NICK QUESTED’s testimony Thursday.
  • What will Stepien reveal? NYT’s Luke Broadwater and Maggie Haberman report that Stepien “was present for key conversations about what the data showed about Mr. Trump’s chances of succeeding in an effort to win swing states, beginning on election night,” and part of a Nov. 7 meeting after a cascade of news outlets called the election for Biden, in which Stepien told “Trump of the exceedingly low odds of success with his challenges.” Interesting tidbit: Stepien is an adviser to HARRIET HAGEMAN, the Trump-backed candidate aiming to oust committee Vice Chair LIZ CHENEYin her Wyoming GOP primary.

One thing you can count on: Whatever Stepien has to say is sure to take over the news cycle — and, depending on what he says, earn him Trump’s ire.

— The second panel has three witnesses: (1) BENJAMIN GINSBERG, a renowned Republican election lawyer who helped craft the GOP’s Florida recount strategy in the 2000 election between AL GORE and GEORGE W. BUSH; (2)BJAY PAK, a former U.S. attorney based in north Georgia who was pressured by Trump to pursue bogus election fraud allegations in the state following the 2020 election and resigned in January 2021 after learning Trump intended to fire him; (3)AL SCHMIDT, a former Republican city commissioner in Philadelphia who was on the board that oversaw the city’s elections and whom Trump falsely accused of refusing “to look at the mountain of corruption & dishonesty.”

The common theme: “We’re going to hear testimony from government officials who were the ones who looked for the fraud, and about how the effort to uncover these baseless allegations bore no fruit,” a committee aide said Sunday night. “Simply, the fraud that they were looking for didn’t exist.”

Looking ahead: Wednesday’s committee hearing will focus on the efforts by Trump and his allies to pressure the Department of Justice into overturning the presidential election results. Among the expected witnesses: former acting A.G. JEFFREY ROSEN, former acting deputy A.G. RICHARD DONOGHUE and former head of the Office of Legal Counsel STEVE ENGEL.

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