Lawmakers investigating Donald Trump’s involvement in last year’s US Capitol insurrection offered fresh evidence on Thursday that the defeated president had planned to declare victory in the 2020 election – regardless of the outcome.
Trump had a “premeditated plan” formulated months before the vote to claim he had won on election night, whatever the vote tally showed, panel member Zoe Lofgren told the hearing.
“The evidence shows that his false victory speech was planned well in advance, before any votes had been counted,” Lofgren said, citing evidence gathered by the committee, including testimony from Trump’s one-time campaign manager.
Individual panelists have publicly suggested Attorney General Merrick Garland should charge Trump over the Capitol attack.
Although the committee has not announced formally whether it will make criminal referrals, multiple US media reported Thursday that members planned to vote to subpoena Trump during the hearing.
The House of Representatives panel has already unveiled reams of evidence on the former president’s involvement in a labyrinthine series of connected schemes to overturn the 2020 election.
In what could be its last public pitch before it issues a report on its findings, the panel of seven Democrats and two Republicans offered fresh damning evidence on the January 6 insurrection.
“The vast weight of evidence presented so far has shown us that the central cause of January 6 was one man – Donald Trump – whom many others followed,” said committee deputy chair Liz Cheney.
The committee also pressed its position that Trump – who continues to be a wellspring of disinformation about the 2020 presidential election – represents what it called a “clear and present” threat to democracy.
“Why would Americans assume that our constitution and our institutions and our Republic are invulnerable to another attack?” said Cheney.
“A key lesson of this investigation is this our institutions only hold when men and women of good faith make them hold, regardless of the political cost.”
Blockbuster witness testimony across eight hearings in the summer provided stunning examples of Trump and his allies pressuring election officials and trying to get lawfully-cast votes nullified in swing states, and of Trump’s inertia amid the mob uprising.
‘Right to the violence’
The panel plans to release its final report by the end of the year, but after the November 8 elections that decide which party controls Congress. A preliminary report may come out beforehand.
It was the first hearing without live witnesses – instead featuring new video evidence, including footage from a Danish film crew shot for a documentary about longtime Trump ally Roger Stone.
In one clip from the day before the 2020 election played to the packed hearing room, the notorious self-styled “dirty trickster” was seen telling the filmmakers he has no interest in waiting to contest the vote tally.
“Let’s get right to the violence,” says the 70-year-old Republican operative, who has not been charged in connection with the riot.
The panel said Stone had “maintained extensive direct connections to two groups responsible for violently attacking the Capitol, the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys.”
Leaders of both groups have been charged with seditious conspiracy over the insurrection.
The panel also unveiled evidence developed from nearly one million pages of documents surrendered by the Secret Service, as lawmakers seek to understand why certain agents’ text messages from the eve of the insurrection and the day itself went missing.
The records confirm evidence from earlier hearings that Trump riled up his supporters despite being repeatedly warned of mounting violence on January 6, said panel member Adam Schiff.
‘This is embarrassing’
Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified in June that Trump was briefed that some of his supporters had turned up armed, and demanded they be permitted into his rally anyway.
Secret Service emails obtained by investigators confirm Cassidy’s evidence that Trump wanted to lead the mob at the Capitol – a move that would have escalated a riot into an attack by one branch of the government on another, potentially upending the republic.
And they prove that agents were aware in the run-up to January 6 of planning by the Proud Boys and other extremists to lead an assault on the Capitol, Schiff said.
Trump, who urged his supporters in a fiery speech near the White House to “fight like hell,” was impeached for inciting the mob to storm Congress to halt the peaceful transfer of power to Joe Biden.
The panel showed never-before-seen footage of Hutchinson testifying that Trump said he “didn’t want people to know we lost” after the Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit challenging the election.
“This is embarrassing. Figure it out. We need to figure it out. I don’t want people to know that we lost,” Trump is alleged to have told chief of staff Mark Meadows.