The House January 6 select committee’s next hearing will largely focus on showing that former president Donald Trump knew he had legitimately lost the 2020 election when he began spreading the lies which culminated in the worst attack on the Capitol since 1814, but nonetheless mounted an extensive campaign of propaganda and frivolous litigation to convince his supporters that he was the true victor.
Monday’s hearing, the second of an expected six sessions this month, will zoom in on the former president’s attempts to promote outright falsehoods about the conduct of the election, including his attempts to pressure election officials and news media into backing his lies in the run-up to the 6 January 2021 attack.
“Tomorrow hearing is focused on the Big Lie — the decision by the former president to ignore the will of voters, declare victory on election night, spread claims of fraud and then decide to ignore the rulings of the courts when the judgement of courts didn’t go his way,” said a select committee aide who briefed reporters on the panel’s plan for Monday’s hearing.
“We will reveal information about how the former President’s political apparatus use these lies about fraud, about a stolen election, to drive fundraising, bring in hundreds of millions of dollars between Election Day 2020 and January 6, and we will show that some of those individuals responsible for the violence on [January 6] echoed back those very same lies that the former president peddled in the run up to the insurrection”.
The aide said California Representative Zoe Lofgren, who served as a House manager during Mr Trump’s first impeachment trial in 2020, will play a “key role” in the panel’s presentation during the hearing, which will feature two separate sets of witnesses.
The first will consist of Bill Stepien, the New Jersey political operative who served as Mr Trump’s campaign manager for the latter months of 2020, and Chris Stirewalt, the former Fox News editor who lost his job in 2021 after he incurred the former president’s wrath for authorising the network to correctly project that Mr Trump would be the just the second-ever Republican to lose Arizona and the first since Bill Clinton carried the state in 1996.
Mr Stirewalt, now an editor at the cable news channel NewsNation, revealed that he would be testifying to one of his network’s anchors last week but said he was “not in a position now to tell you what my testimony will be about”.
But Mr Trump’s reaction to his preferred television network calling the Grand Canyon State for Joe Biden foreshadowed how he would conduct himself for the weeks leading up to the Capitol attack.
According to multiple reports, Mr Trump and his inner circle became apoplectic upon hearing that Fox had called Arizona with just 73 per cent of the vote counted.
Trump adviser Jason Miller immediately began to contradict Fox’s call on Twitter by accusing the network of being “a complete outlier” and accusing it of trying to “invalidate” Republican votes that had yet to be counted. He also demanded that the network retract the call in a series of phone calls with Fox executives.
Jared Kushner, the former president’s son-in-law and a senior adviser to Mr Trump, went so far as to press Fox owner Rupert Murdoch to order his employees to retract the call, but Mr Murdoch declined to do so.
He later delivered a rant replete with the lies he continues to tell to this day in a 2.30 am appearance before supporters in the East Room, calling the election “a fraud on the American public”.
“This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win the election,” he added (he did not win the election).
The second set of witnesses will include Ben Ginsberg, a veteran Republican attorney who served as the top lawyer for multiple GOP presidential campaigns, including those of George W Bush and Mitt Romney, and who for years represented the Republican National Committee and other GOP campaign committees until his retirement in August 2020.
It will also feature two former GOP government officials, former US Attorney BJay Pak and Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt and
Mr Pak, who served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2011 until Mr Trump tapped him to be the top federal prosecutor for for the Northern District of Georgia, resigned in late 2020 after being informed that Mr Trump planned to fire him because he was not pursuing cases based on the false claims and conspiracy theories which the then-president and his allies began spreading after Mr Trump became the first Republican to lose the Peach State’s electoral votes since 1992.
Mr Schmidt has previously testified before the Senate Rules Committee regarding the danger to election officials posed by misinformation such as Mr Trump’s “big lie”.
During his October 2020 Senate testimony, he recalled how his family received threats after Trump allies began spreading false claims about voter fraud in Philadelphia.
The then-president went so far as to target him in a tweet in which he claimed Mr Schmidt was “being used big time by the Fake News Media to explain how honest things were with respect to the Election in Philadelphia” and accused him of “[refusing] to look at the mountain of corruption & dishonesty”.
The select committee aide said Mr Pak and Mr Schmidt “were the ones who looked for” the fraud Mr Trump and his allies were claiming to be victims of, and said they would testify “about how the effort to uncover these baseless allegations of fraud bore no fruit”.
“The fraud that they were looking for didn’t exist and the former president was told that again and again that the claims were baseless, but he continued to repeat them anyway,” the aide said.