The January 6 panel hears: Trump “detached from reality” in defeat

WASHINGTON (AP) – Donald Trump’s closest election advisors, senior government officials and even his family were dismantling his false claims 2020 election fraud ahead of January 6, but the defeated president seemed “detached from reality” and clinging to outlandish theories to remain in power, the committee investigating the attack on the Capitol was told Monday.

With compelling testimony, the panel is preparing step by step how Trump ignored his campaign team data as state after state addressed Joe Biden, and instead latched onto conspiracy theories, court cases and his own declarations of victory rather than having to admit defeat .

Trump’s “big lie” about election fraud escalated and morphed into marching orders that evoked supporters in Washington and then sent them to the Capitol on January 6 to block Biden’s victory.

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

Barr called the election fraud claims “bull——”, “false” and “idiotic” and later resigned. “I didn’t want to be part of it.”

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

Witnesses on Monday, mostly Republicans and many who testified in pre-recorded video, described in blunt and sometimes exasperated terms in detail how Trump refused to take the advice of those closest to him, including his family. When the people around him split into a “normal team” led by former campaign manager Bill Stepien and others led by Trump’s confidant Rudy Giuliani, the president chose his side.

On election night, Stepien said, Trump “was becoming more and more miserable” and refused to accept the “gloomy prospects”.

Son-in-law Jared Kushner tried to push Trump away from Giuliani and his distant theories of election fraud. The president would have none of that.

The comings and goings intensified in the period preceding January 6. Former Justice Department official Richard Donoghue recalled denying one claim after another – from a truckload of ballot papers in Pennsylvania to a missing suitcase of ballot papers in Georgia – and told Trump “much of the information you’re receiving are false “.

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However, he continued with his false claims even after the failure of dozens of court cases.

An unrepentant Trump on Monday blew up hearings in his familiar language calling them “ridiculous and treacherous” and repeated his claims.

The former president, mulling over another race for the White House, defended the attack on the Capitol as mere Americans trying to “hold their elected officials accountable.”

Nine people died in the uprising and its aftermath, including a Trump supporter shot and killed by the Capitol police. More than 800 people were arrested and members of two extremist groups they were indicted on rare charges of sedition for their role as prosecutor’s lead in the Capitol.

During the hearing, the jury also provided new insights into how Trump’s fundraising machine raised about $ 250 million from its “Stop the Steal” campaigns and others in the aftermath of the November election, mainly from small dollar donations from Americans. A request for money was made 30 minutes before the January 6, 2021 uprising.

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

President Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., opened Monday’s hearing by saying that Trump “betrayed the trust of the American people” and “tried to stay in office when the people excluded him.”

While the hearings are held for the public, they are also followed by one of the most prominent viewers, Attorney General Merrick Garland, who must decide whether his department can and should prosecute Trump.. No president or former president has ever faced such an accusation.

“I’m watching,” Garland said at a press conference at the Justice Department on Monday, though he may not watch all hearings live. “And I can assure you that the January 6 prosecutors are watching all the hearings too.”

Biden was getting updates but wasn’t looking “blow after blow,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Stepien was supposed to be a key person witness on Monday, but abruptly withdrew from appearing live because his wife went into labor. Stepien, who is still close to Trump, was called to appear. He is now one of the top election advisors to Trump-approved House candidate Harriet Hageman, who is challenging Rep. Liz Cheney. in the Republican primaries of Wyoming.

The panel moved on after a morning run and a delay, with witness after witness claiming Trump embraced and reiterated his election claims, although closest ones told him the stolen ballot or machine the rigged vote simply weren’t true.

Stepien and Senior Counsel Jason Miller described how the festive atmosphere at the White House on election night turned gloomy when Fox News announced that Trump had lost the state of Arizona to Joe Biden, and aides worked for. advise Trump on what to do next.

But he ignored their advice, choosing instead to listen to Giuliani, who was described as drunk by several witnesses. Giuliani issued a general denial on Monday, rejecting “all the falsehoods” he said had been said about him.

Stepien said: “My belief, my recommendation was to say that the votes were still being counted, it’s too early to tell, too early to call the race.”

But Trump “thought I was wrong. He told me. ”

Barr, who also testified in last week’s successful hearing, said Trump was “as crazy as I’ve never seen him” when the Attorney General later explained that the Justice Department would not be lining up in the election.

Barr said when he would tell Trump “how crazy some of these allegations were, there never was, there never was an indication of interest in what the real facts were.”

Over the past year, the committee has been investigating the most violent attack on the Capitol since the war of 1812, which some believe represented a serious threat to democracy.

The hearing on Monday was also attended by live witnesses, including Chris Stirewalt, a former political editor of Fox News Channel who said on election night that Arizona had been won by Biden. Former US attorney in Atlanta, BJay Pak, also appearswho abruptly resigned after Trump pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find enough votes to overturn his defeat.

The jury also heard election attorney Benjamin Ginsberg discuss the rules of campaign challenges, and former Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, the only Republican on the city’s electoral council, who told the jury that Regardless of how “fantastic” some of the claims Trump and his team were making, city officials have been investigating. He discussed addressing threats after Trump criticized him in a tweet.

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Associated Press writers Kevin Freking and Michael Balsamo in Washington and Farnoush Amiri and Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.

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For full coverage of the January 6 hearings, go to https://www.apnews.com/capitol-siege.