Donald Trump's advisers warned him of bogus claims, January 6 panel hears

Former president 'detached from reality' if he really believes fraud claims, William Barr says

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Top advisers to Donald Trump testified on Monday that they had told the former president his claims of election fraud were bogus and urged him not to claim victory on election night.

The latest testimony came as the US House panel investigating the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol zeroed in on Mr Trump's baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, even at times adopting outlandish theories in a bid to cling to power.

In video testimony, Mr Trump's former attorney general, William Barr, dismissed Mr Trump's claims of election fraud as “crazy stuff”.

“If he really believes this stuff, he's become detached from reality,” Mr Barr said.

“And I didn't want to be a part of it. And that's one of the reasons that went into me deciding to leave when I did.”

Mr Barr resigned as attorney general on December 14, 2020.

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren said: “January 6 was a direct and predictable result of Mr Trump's decision to use false claims of election fraud to overturn the election, and declaring the power.”

Representative Liz Cheney, the panel's vice chairwoman, said the former president ignored advice from legal experts on the night of the election and instead followed the course of action recommended by an “apparently inebriated” Rudy Giuliani — Mr Trump's personal lawyer.

The former New York City mayor told Mr Trump to falsely claim victory on election night, Mr Cheney said.

Mr Trump began pushing what became known as the “Big Lie” on November 4, 2020 as he falsely claimed victory over Democratic challenger Joe Biden. The January 6 committee used Monday's hearing to show how the claim grew into a conspiracy that Mr Trump and his inner circle clung to in an effort to remain in power.

Ivanka Trump, Mr Trump's daughter and former top adviser, said she believed it was too early for Mr Trump to declare victory.

“It was becoming clear that the race would not be called on election night,” Ms Trump said in recorded testimony.

Jared Kushner, Ms Trump's husband, also advised his father-in-law to not take Mr Giuliani's course of action.

“He said, 'I have confidence in Rudy,'” Mr Kushner said in video testimony.

And Trump 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien, whom the panel said organised the “Stop the Steal” effort, said the race was too early to call on election night.

Asked if anyone disagreed with him, Mr Stepien replied that Trump “thought I was wrong. He told me so.” Mr Stepien cut ties with the former president in December 2020.

Mr Stepien abruptly backed out of Monday's meeting because his wife was in labour.

Ben Gisburg, a conservative election attorney, said campaigns look for voting irregularities but the 2020 election “was not close”.

Ms Lofgren said the House panel has records of 61 court losses by Mr Trump's team.

“In no instance did the court find the charges of fraud were real,” Mr Ginsberg said.

Another example of Mr Trump's claim of election fraud involved a “suitcase of ballots” being pulled from under a table and “added in secret in Georgia” at an Atlanta voting centre. BJ Pak, the former top federal prosecutor in the state, said his review showed the “suitcase” was an official lockbox where ballots were stored to be kept safe.

Others scheduled to testify on Monday included Chris Stirewalt, the Fox News host whose decision to call Arizona for Mr Biden on election night infuriated Mr Trump and his inner circle. Mr Stirewalt was fired by the conservative US network in 2021.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: June 14, 2022, 4:05 AM
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