US Capitol riot hearing to focus on Trump’s ‘Big Lie’ election fraud
- Congressional hearings will aim to show Trump’s unfounded allegations of fraud quickly grew into a conspiracy to cling to power
- However, committee’s star witness, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien, cancelled appearance Monday; his wife had reportedly gone into labour
The congressional hearings into the US Capitol assault were set to focus Monday on Donald Trump’s unfounded claims that the 2020 election was stolen, which fuelled the anger investigators say led to the deadly insurrection.
Trump started pushing what came to be known as his “Big Lie” around 2.30am on November 4, 2020, making baseless allegations of fraud and prematurely declaring victory in an election he ultimately lost to Joe Biden by seven million votes.
The committee says it will show how that initial claim grew quickly into a conspiracy to cling to power by Trump and his inner circle, even though they knew he had lost.
The defeated former president, his fundraising organisation and the Republican National Committee raised a fortune pushing bogus election fraud claims, investigators say.
“We will hear from witnesses … who will talk about the fact that the former president didn’t have the numbers to win, that he was told again and again that he didn’t have the numbers to win,” a committee aide said.
“We will reveal information about how the former president’s political apparatus used these lies about fraud about a stolen election to drive fundraising, bringing hundreds of millions of dollars between Election Day 2020 and January 6 ,” the aide added.
The committee suffered a setback, however, when its star witness, Trump 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien, cancelled his appearance due to a “family emergency”; his wife reportedly went into labour.
Stepien, who was believed to be appearing under subpoena, helped formulate the strategy to challenge the election results, but he cut his ties to the Trump campaign in December 2020.
He supervised the “Stop the Steal” effort, the committee says, promoting “certain false claims related to voting machines despite an internal campaign memo in which campaign staff determined such claims were false”.
Other witnesses who are still due to appear include Chris Stirewalt, a former Fox News political editor who was part of the team that called Arizona for Biden before the network’s competitors, infuriating Trump and his inner circle.
Some Trump aides reportedly complained directly to the network’s leadership and Stirewalt was fired by what Fox News called a structural reorganisation in January 2021.
Ben Ginsberg, a top Republican election lawyer, will also appear alongside BJay Pak, the former top federal prosecutor in Georgia.
Pak was pressured by Trump to investigate false claims of election fraud and resigned in January 2021 after learning the then-president planned to fire him.
“The evidence is very powerful that Donald Trump began telling this big lie even before the election,” Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, a member of the panel, told ABC on Sunday.
“That lie continued after the election and ultimately led to this mob assembling and attacking the Capitol.”