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Trump's inner circle says in Jan. 6 hearing he refused to accept election results

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., speaks to reporters after the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol held its second public hearing to discuss its findings of a year-long investigation, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on June 13, 2022. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

June 13 (UPI) -- Donald Trump's inner circle, including former Attorney General William Barr, said Monday that the former president refused to accept the 2020 election results and continually claimed fraud.

"He went off on a monologue saying that there was now definitive evidence involving fraud through the Dominion machines," Barr said in recorded testimony during the second hearing of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

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"I was somewhat demoralized because I thought, boy, if he really believes this stuff he has become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff."

Barr also shot down Trump's claims of significant fraud that would change the election results in his favor, and he noted that even if courts threw out votes as fraudulent, it would not mean that the results would change.

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He called Trump's allegations that there were more ballots than voters in Pennsylvania particularly "rubbish."

Byung J. Pak, a former U.S. attorney in Atlanta who investigated voter fraud claims, testified that his office found that a claimed "suitcase full of ballots" in an alleged incident of voter fraud promoted by Trump's supporters was an official lockbox. Trump insisted Pak be fired for not finding any evidence.

"The FBI interviewed the people depicted in the videos who purportedly were double, triple-counting of the ballots and determined that nothing irregular happened in the counting and that the allegations made by Mr. [Rudy] Giuliani were false," Pak said.

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Barr said that before the election "it was possible to talk sense to the president."

"While you sometimes had to engage in a wrestling match with him. ... I felt that after the election, he didn't seem to be listening," he said.

Barr also criticized a film from Dinesh D'Souza about voter fraud that Trump has been promoting since its release, and said that the photographic evidence in it was "lacking" and "didn't establish widespread illegal harvesting."

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Bill Stepien, a campaign manager for Donald Trump, said Monday that it was "far too early" for the former president to declare victory on the night of the 2020 presidential election.

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"It was far too early to be making any calls like that," Stepien said in recorded testimony. "Ballots were still being counted, ballots were still going to be counted for days."

The hearing was expected to start at 10 a.m., but was delayed by at least 45 minutes after Stepien said he could not testify under subpoena because his wife is in labor, commitee chair Bennie Thompson said.

In his recorded testimony, Stepien said that most everyone in the room was "surprised" that the election was called for Biden, while former campaign senior advisor Jason Miller said it shifted the atmosphere in the White House "completely."

That was "because Fox News was the first one to go out and say that," Miller said, adding that Trump's advisers felt "both disappointment with Fox and concern that maybe our data or numbers weren't accurate."

In the aftermath of the election being called for President Joe Biden, Trump declared victory on the advice of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

"I heard that he was upstairs in that aforementioned reception area and he was looking to talk to the president and it was suggested instead that he come talk to several of us," Stepien said.

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"A few of us -- myself, Jason Miller, Justin Clark and Mark Meadows -- gathered in a room off the map room to listen to whatever Rudy presumably wanted to say to the president."

Miller said Giuliani was "definitely intoxicated," but he did not know his level of intoxication when he advised the president to declare victory on election night.

The committee played a clip of Trump's election night speech in which he said: "This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were preparing to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election."

"I, to the best of my memory, I was saying that we should not go and declare victory until we had a better sense of the numbers," Miller said in his recorded testimony.

"I think, effectively, Mayor Giuliani was saying, 'We won it. They're stealing it from us. Where did all the votes come from? We need to go say that we won.'"

Ivanka Trump, the president's eldest daughter, reiterated in recorded testimony that "the votes were still being counted."

"It was clear that the race would not be called on election night," Ivanka Trump said.

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Stepien said that his advice to the president was to tell Americans that votes were still being counted and that it was too early to call the race, rather than declare victory.

"The president disagreed with that," Stepien said. "I don't recall the particular words, but he thought I was wrong and he told me so, and that he was going to go in a different direction."

Chris Stirewalt, a former Fox News politics editor, explained the so-called "Red Mirage" and the statistical impossibility of widespread voter fraud.

The Red Mirage occurs as votes are counted on Election Day that can show Republicans with a significant lead. Republican voters are more likely to vote on election day while Democrats are more likely to vote by mail, and those votes typically are counted after Election Day votes are counted.

"We had gone to pains, and I'm proud of the pains we went to, to make sure that we were informing viewers that this was going to happen because the Trump campaign and the president made it clear they were going to try to exploit this anomaly," Stirewalt said.

He noted that Trump would have had to have the results change by a margin of just hundreds of votes in three different states win the election, in defending Fox News calling the election for Biden.

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"You're better off to play the Powerball than to have that come in," Stirewalt said.

Further testimony in the hearing included comments from Ben Ginsberg, a Republican legal strategist, who provided an explanation for the normal practice for contesting an election and said that Trump's legal challenges after the election were made without evidence -- which is why those challenges were lost.

The committee played clips of Trump saying he wants "all voting to stop" as the mail-in ballots were counted, contradicting the advice of his advisers.

Stepien was so concerned about Trump's position on mail-in voting that he met with him and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, during which the pair tried to convince the president that mail in voting was not a bad thing for his campaign.

"But, you know, the president's mind was made up," Stepien said. "Urging your voters to vote only on Election Day leaves a lot to chance."

Other outlets followed suit in calling the election for Trump on Nov. 7, days after the election. Stepien recalled a meeting with Trump that day.

"As that week wore on ... and the vote by mail ballots were tabulated, Trump's lead grew more narrow and in some placed, Biden passed Trump in the vote total," Stepien said, noting that he advised the president then of his "bleak" view of winning the election.

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The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol started its second hearing Monday with testimony detailing that former President Donald Trump knew his claims of voter fraud were lies.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who sits on the committee, said during her opening statement that Trump's plan to overturn the results of the election relied on "a sustained effort to deceive millions of Americans with knowingly false claims of election fraud."

"Today, we'll demonstrate that the 2020 election was not stolen. The American people elected President Joe Biden. We'll present evidence that Mr. Trump's claims of election fraud were false, that he and his advisors knew that they were false and they continued to peddle them anyway," Lofgren said.

"We'll also show that the Trump campaign used these false claims of election fraud to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from supporters who were told that their donations were for the legal fight in the courts. But the Trump campaign didn't use the money for that. The big lie was also a big rip-off."

Lofgren played a series of clips of Trump speaking in various press conferences, debates and rallies as early as April 2020, more than six months before the presidential election in November, in which he "laid the groundwork for these false claims."

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"The only way we'll lose this election is if the election is rigged. The only way that we'll lose the election," Trump said in another clipped played by the committee from April 17, 2020. "This is not going to end well."

In yet another from late September 2020, Trump claimed that "this is going to be fraud like you've never seen" and then said mailmen were dumping ballots in rivers during a debate with Biden.

"Mr. Trump decided even before the election that regardless of the facts and the truth, if he lost the election, that it was rigged," Lofgren said. "Mr. Trump was right about one thing. It did not end well."

Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson and vice-chair Liz Cheney also gave opening statements discussing the importance of the hearing addressing Trump's election fraud lies.

"As someone who has run for office a few times, I can tell you at the end of a campaign, it all comes down to the numbers. The numbers tell you the winner and the loser," Thompson said in his opening statement.

"For the most part, the numbers don't lie. But if something doesn't add up with the numbers, you go to court to get a resolution and that's the end of the line. We accept those results. That's what it means to respect the rule of law."

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Thompson said that Trump went to court to try to earn more votes using claims of voter fraud and still lost the election, betraying the trust of Americans as he did so.

"He ignored the will of the voters. He lied to his supporters and the country. And he tried to remain in office after the people voted him out and the courts upheld the will of the people," Thompson said.

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on the seven-member panel, said in her opening statement that the committee would present a detailed account of how Trump tried to convince voters the election was stolen from him.

"You will hear first-hand testimony that the president's campaign advisors urged him to await the counting of votes and not to declare victory on election night," Cheney said.

"President Trump knew, even before the election, that many more Biden voters voted by mail because President Trump ignored the advice of his campaign advisers and told his supporters to only vote in person."

Eric Herschmann, a former White House lawyer for Trump, said in recorded testimony played by Cheney that he "never saw any evidence whatsoever" to sustain allegations that Dominion Voting Systems and software company Smartmatic conspired with Venezuelan "communists" to steal the election.

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"The Trump campaign legal team knew there was no legitimate argument -- fraud, irregularities or anything -- to overturn the election," Cheney said. "And yet President Trump went ahead with his plans for Jan. 6 anyway."

Alex Cannon, a former campaign lawyer for Trump, in recorded testimony Monday recounted conversations with Peter Navarro about he did not believe the allegations about Dominion Voting Systems.

"I believed that the hand recount in Georgia would resolve any issues with the technology problem with Dominion and with Dominion flipping votes," Cannon said.

He said he believed a report from Chris Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, that the voting machines were secure.

"Mr. Navarro accused me of being an agent of the deep state working with Chris Krebs against the president and I never took another call from Mr. Navarro," Cannon said.

Matt Morgan, the former general counsel for the Trump campaign, said in recorded testimony that "everyone's assessment in the room" during a meeting in the days before the insurrection was that, even if Trump's claims were true and the courts had ruled in his favor, they would not have changed the outcome of the election.

A committee aide told reporters Sunday night the panel will delve into fundraising built around Trump's claims to increase his war chest by hundreds of millions of dollars.

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During the first public hearing Thursday, Cheney said Trump knew he lost the election and still chose to engage in a "massive effort to spread false and fraudulent information" to overturn the result, which culminated in the Capitol riots.

Cheney also said three Republican lawmakers sought presidential pardons following the riots, which may be further explored in upcoming hearings.

The committee also plans two additional hearings -- one Wednesday that Cheney said would discuss threats to resign by senior leadership in Trump's administration, and one Thursday that is to focus on Trump's efforts to "pressure" former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election.

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