Committee suggests Trump knew he lost election but devised stolen-election lie to stay in power

Public hearing told of multi-pronged conspiracy aimed at overturning presidential election result

The congressional committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol on January 6th, 2021, has sought to portray Donald Trump as a potential autocrat who knew he had lost but devised a “big lie” of a rigged election that he sold to his supporters in a desperate bid to cling on to power.

Senior committee figures argued those who attacked the Capitol in Washington on the day Congress was scheduled to certify the election victory of Joe Biden were motivated by Trump’s claims the election was stolen and that he was the rightful president.

“President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack”, vice-chair of the committee Liz Cheney said.

However, the committee is not focusing only on the riots at the Capitol. It is contending Trump was at the centre of a much broader conspiracy aimed at overturning the election results of which the January 6th riot in Washington represented just one component.


It is understood the committee believes multipronged efforts also included “corruptly” planning to replace the acting attorney general so the Department of Justice would back Trump’s claims about election fraud, putting pressure on vice-president Mike Pence to not count the official election results from a number of key states and leaning on officials and politicians in certain states to change their results.

One of the most explosive claims to emerge from the committee’s public hearing on Thursday was the suggestion Trump was so angry with Pence for refusing to take part in his plan that he believed he deserved to be hanged, as some of his supporters at the Capitol were demanding.

The committee is fully aware that Trump and his supporters will argue that it is a partisan body and that its findings are another “witch hunt” against the former president.

Trump has already dismissed it and lashed out at members of the committee as “political thugs”.

The committee has, therefore, sought to use the words of some key figures in the former president’s orbit to persuade Republican voters of its case that Trump was at the centre of a multipronged conspiracy to stay in the White House.

Trump’s former attorney general Bill Barr testified he had told the former president his contention about losing the election due to widespread fraud was “bulls**t”.

“I made it clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff which I told the president was bulls**t,” Barr said in a recorded interview with investigators from the committee.

“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.

“You can’t live in a world where the incumbent administration stays in power based on its view, unsupported by specific evidence, that there was fraud in the election,” Mr Barr said.

Trump’s daughter Ivanka gave evidence suggesting she was persuaded by Barr’s view.

Other aides, according to the committee, also said they had told the former president that he had lost the election.

Close to 800 people have either been prosecuted or are facing prosecution on foot of their activities on January 6th.

Intriguingly Cheney appeared to suggest that some of her party colleagues recognised they could face legal trouble arising from efforts to support Trump.

She said “multiple” members of Congress had approached the White House for a presidential pardon.

Cheney is a strong conservative and part of Republican Party royalty — her father is the former vice-president Dick Cheney. However, she was jettisoned from the party’s leadership over her continued criticism of Trump.

In a strongly worded rebuke for her colleagues on Thursday she reminded them that “there will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonour will remain.”

One of the key objective of the committee was to persuade the American people that at a time of high inflation, record fuel prices and shortages of key goods in stores, claims that Trump tried to undermine democracy 18 months ago really matter.

The committee set out its stall like a prosecutor opening a case in court.

It has three more hearings scheduled for next week where it will aim to put more meat on the bones of the case it has made.

However, another crucial audience for the committee was the US department of justice, which has to decide whether it believes any crime was committed by Trump or his allies.

The committee certainly used the term “illegal” on several occasions in relation to its view on some of the former president’s actions. However, there is no indication yet as to whether Trump will face any form of criminal charges.

Trump supporters have sought to deflect the central charges of a conspiracy made by the committee. Already, some of those who featured in the presentation on Thursday have maintained their video evidence was taken out of context. The most popular cable channel, Fox News, did not broadcast the hearings at all.

It remains to be seen how many Americans are prepared to stay with the whole process and whether it will move the dial in any way on the current situation where Trump seems set to run again for the White House in 2024 and where large swathes of Republican base still believe Joe Biden is not the legitimate president.