JAN 6th REPORTS: Part 1 — Trump’s criminal intent and the Big Lie

JAN 6th REPORTS: PART ONE — Trump's criminal intent and the Big Lie

This is a first part in a series that will cover the revelations of the House Select Committee on Jan 6th and the crimes of Donald J. Trump.

Today we’ll concentrate exclusively on how Trump and his cronies knew full-well that he had lost the election, yet continued to spread lies to try to disrupt the peaceful transition of power, laying the groundwork for the January 6 attack.

We know from witness testimony that Trump was planning to undermine the process from the very beginning, intending to declare himself the victor as soon as possible – knowing that the mail-in ballots being counted in the days following the election would go against him and trying to get out a narrative beforehand.

In its report, the committee called Trump’s decision to make accusations of fraud and insist on election night that he was the winner “premeditated.”

Steve Bannon, Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman who briefly worked in the White House, put it succinctly to some Chinese associates:

“If Biden’s winning, Trump is going to do some crazy shit.”

In his testimony to the committee, former Trump Attorney General Bill Barr explained how the president was never truly interested in the facts, only in justifying his remaining in power by any means:

“[R]ight out of the box on election night,” he stated, “the President claimed that there was major fraud underway. I mean, this happened, as far as I could tell, before there was actually any potential of looking at evidence.”

By November 7, Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Sepien, and others were telling him that things were looking extremely bleak and that there was at least a 90% chance he had legitimately lost, even if certain recounts did take place.

Sepien told the committee that he was talking about challenges that could be reasonably raised in a court – not the many baseless ones Trump and his supporters would continue to file just to raise doubts.

Senior advisor to the campaign Jason Miller also testified that incontrovertible data was presented to Trump demonstrating that he had indeed lost.

Multiple witnesses conveyed to the committee that not only did Trump very clearly understand that he had lost, but that there was no evidence of fraud as well, making his public statements to the contrary obvious efforts just to sow discord and subvert the democratic process.

In addition to Stepien and Miller, the extensive list of people who had explained to Trump that he had lost and had even had numerous conversations with him about it include former VP Mike Pence, Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, Bill Barr, and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.

At a meeting at the White House, many of these advisors and officials tried to level with the president.

“According to testimony received by the Select Committee, the only advisor present who supported President Trump’s inclination to declare victory was Rudolph Giuliani, who appeared to be inebriated.”

Rather than heed to reality, however, Trump turned more and more to a team led by Giuliani and the legal strategies of Sidney Powell, both of whom appeared to have no compunctions about spreading obvious lies and starting lawsuits that lacked any real standing.

But even Giuliani and his lead investigator, former NYC Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, could not come up with any evidence indicating widespread fraud.

In December, after the Supreme Court had refused to intercede and states had ratified their slates of electors, many in Trump’s inner circle, including members of his own family, pushed him to concede.

Trump would continue to make claims that he knew were false.

For instance, though Rosen had told him that the matter of a supposed suitcase full of votes being delivered in Georgia was completely bogus, Trump declared a week later:

“There is even security camera footage from Georgia that shows officials telling poll watchers to leave the room before pulling suitcases of ballots out from under the tables and continuing to count for hours.”

Likewise, despite Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger making it clear to Trump that there was no evidence that votes had been scanned multiple times, Trump told people the very next day that it had occurred.

After Barr told him that the voting in Michigan had been done completely by the book, the next day Trump gave a speech wherein he claimed thousands upon thousands of false votes were being delivered and that “there were more votes than there were voters.”

Acting Attorney General Richard Donoghue told the president again that that claim was utterly false on December 27, 2020, but Trump continued to make it.

He said it about both Michigan and Pennsylvania.

He also continued to claim that “illegal votes” had been cast in Georgia and that thousands of “dead people” had voted there, even though Raffensperger had informed him that these claims also had no basis in truth.

Even Trump sycophant Kayleigh McEnany (among others) had told the president that the notion that Dominion Voting Systems had been corrupted were baseless.

Yet he continued to pump the narrative that Dominion had somehow been involved in a conspiracy against him.

Meanwhile, Trump continued to raise massive amounts of money off of his voter fraud claims – to the tune of $250 million between the election and January 6.

Trump was helped in his efforts by willing media ally Sean Hannity, who continued to give air time to Powell as she voiced baseless fraud claims, even though we now know from his depositions in the $1.6 billion Dominion case against Fox that he “did not believe [Trump’s claims] for one second.”

In the next part of this series, we will discuss Trump’s specific actions to disrupt the transition of power.

Keep up with the series by following me on Twitter: @RossRosenfeld.

Ross Rosenfeld

is a news analysis and opinion writer whose work has also appeared in the New York Daily News and Newsweek. He lives in New York.