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Next Jan. 6 hearings to focus on how Trump’s ‘big lie’ fueled rioters

A video of then-President Donald Trump speaking at a rally near the White House on Jan. 6, 2021, is shown as members of the House select committee investigating the attack that day on the U.S. Capitol holds a public hearing on June 9, 2022. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
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correction

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) will lead Monday's hearing. Luria is scheduled to lead the hearing on June 23. An earlier version also misspelled the name of the "Fox News Sunday" host. He is Bret Baier, not Brett.

The second public hearing by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection will focus on then-President Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen — dubbed the “big lie” — and how those false claims were connected to the pro-Trump mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol that day in a bid to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral college win, lawmakers on the bipartisan panel said Sunday.

In a background briefing with reporters on Sunday night, a select committee aide said the hearing on Monday, led by Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) with an assist from Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), will also dissect the fundraising apparatus that was built around the “big lie” to drive up the post-election cash haul.

“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 in hundreds of millions of dollars between Election Day 2020 and January 6,” a committee aide said.

“And we’ll show that some of those individuals responsible for the violence on the 6th echoed back to those very same lies that the president peddled in the run-up to the insurrection,” the aide added.

The Post has previously reported that investigators have sought to trace every dollar raised and spent on Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen, interviewing low-level Trump campaign officials who penned fundraising pitches and grilling advisers about who personally profited from raising large sums of cash in the wake of Trump’s defeat.

Testifying on Monday before the committee will be former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien; Chris Stirewalt, a former political editor for Fox News; Benjamin Ginsberg, a Republican election lawyer; former U.S. attorney B.J. “BJay” Pak; and Al Schmidt, a former city commissioner of Philadelphia.

The witnesses are likely to bolster the committee’s assertion that Trump had a “seven-part plan” to overturn the results of the 2020 election, as Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the committee’s vice chair, said Thursday.

Complete coverage of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and hearings

Trump and his allies’ efforts to pull “every lever of government” to try to keep him in power would become clear across the compilation of the committee’s findings, Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), a member of the committee, said Sunday on NBC News’s “Meet the Press.”

“If there weren’t some people in the right places at the right time who did the right thing, this could have turned out very differently — and that includes at the Department of Justice, the former vice president,” Luria said, referring to then-Vice President Mike Pence’s refusal to overturn the election results. “This pressure campaign was widespread.”

The select committee will hold three public hearings this week as its members continue to lay out the findings of their year-long investigation. Nearly 19 million viewers watched the first hearing during prime time on Thursday. The committee’s third public hearing, on Wednesday, will focus on Trump and his allies’ pressure campaign at the Justice Department to overturn the results of the presidential election.

Members of the Jan. 6 select committee on June 12 declined to say whether former president Donald Trump should be prosecuted for the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

Luria said the bipartisan panel has interviewed 1,000 witnesses and pieced together “a very comprehensive ticktock timeline” of what Trump did as the attack on the Capitol was unfolding. Luria will lead a hearing later this month on whether and how then-President Donald Trump’s actions — and inaction — may have encouraged his supporters to attack the Capitol that day.

“I think it’d be more clear to describe it as what he was not doing,” Luria said. “[For] 187 minutes, you know, this man had the microphone; he could speak to the whole country. His duty was to stand up and say something and try to stop this. So, we’ll talk about that and what I see to be his dereliction of duty, and he had a duty to act.”

Other Jan. 6 committee members said Sunday that the next hearings would continue to show evidence that Trump was responsible for the Capitol attack. On ABC News’s “This Week,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said that there was credible evidence that Trump committed multiple federal crimes and that it would be up to the Justice Department to make a decision about whether it could prove that to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

“The evidence is very powerful that Donald Trump began telling this big lie even before the election that he was saying that any ballots counted after Election Day were going to be inherently suspect,” Schiff said, referring to Trump’s baseless claims that widespread voter fraud cost him the 2020 election. “That lie continued after the election and, ultimately, led to this mob assembling and attacking the Capitol.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) acknowledged that there was no specific statutory provision for just referring crimes by a former president to the Justice Department. He also distanced himself from weighing in on whether the department should indict Trump, saying he wanted to respect its independence.

“I suppose our entire investigation is a referral of crimes, both to the Department of Justice and to the American people, because this is a massive assault on the machinery of American democracy, when you have a sitting president who tries to overthrow the majority in the electoral college of his opponent, who beat him by more than 7 million votes,” Raskin said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Trump “absolutely knew” that he had lost the election, Raskin added, something he believed the committee could prove to “any reasonable, open-minded person” over the course of its hearings.

“[Trump] heard it from the White House counsel. He heard it from all of the lawyers who threatened to resign if he staged his little mini-coup against the Department of Justice by installing someone that would go along with his fairy tale about there having been electoral fraud and corruption,” Raskin said. “So, yes, I think any reasonable person in America will tell you he had to have known he was spreading a big lie. And he continues to spread it to this very day. He continues to foist that propaganda on his followers.”

Both Raskin and Schiff said the hearings this week would also provide proof that multiple House Republicans sought pardons from the Trump White House for trying to overturn the election, dismissing the denials of some of those GOP lawmakers, including Rep. Scott Perry (Pa.), whose office called the allegation a “soulless lie.”

“We will show the evidence that we have that members of Congress were seeking pardons,” Schiff said. “To me, I think that is some of the most compelling evidence of a consciousness of guilt. Why would members do that if they felt that their involvement in this plot to overturn the election was somehow appropriate?”

The select committee’s first public hearing, on Thursday, was covered by every major cable news outlet except Fox News Channel.

In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) tried to pierce the partisan information bubble by squeezing in remarks about the committee in a segment that was otherwise dominated by questions about inflation and threats to Supreme Court justices.

“I think the point here has been to take a hard and clear-eyed look at what happened on Jan. 6, and new evidence that they’ve uncovered about the role of the former president’s close advisers in how they shaped the events that led to that really critical moment in our modern American history,” Coons told host Bret Baier. “We’ve never had our Capitol stormed by Americans. We’ve never had an attempt through an insurrection, through a riot to try to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power.”

Shortly after that, Baier redirected the interview to questions about whether Biden would seek reelection in 2024.

Nick Quested, a filmmaker who was embedded with the Proud Boys during the Jan. 6 attack and who testified during the Thursday hearing, said he had originally been making a much different documentary about why America is so divided, asking broader questions about the far-right group’s views on health care and immigration.

“In retrospect, if I’d have known what I know now, I’d have very much changed my line of questioning,” Quested said on “Meet the Press,” adding that it took his crew months to process — mentally and physically — what it had witnessed. “My camera was broken. I’d been shot with pepper balls and I’d got into various scuffles just on the [Capitol] steps, which was particularly shocking because we weren’t prepared for this.”

Aaron Gregg and Caroline Kitchener contributed to this report.

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