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Takeaways from second day of Trump Jan. 6 hearings

·3 min read

By Richard Cowan and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top advisers to then-President Donald Trump told him that his claims of widespread election fraud were unfounded and would not reverse his election loss, but he refused to listen, according to testimony on Monday at a hearing of the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

The committee is showcasing this testimony as part of a broader picture it aims to paint of a president trying to illegally hold onto power after losing the Nov. 3, 2020 election to Democratic President Joe Biden.

Here are some key takeaways from Monday's hearing:

HE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER

Witnesses said Trump pushed his election fraud conspiracy theory long after aides shot down claim after claim. Instead, they said, Trump would acknowledge their findings and then just move onto the next unsubstantiated claim.

Bill Stepien, Trump's former campaign manager, said he urged the president not to preemptively declare victory on Election Night, when votes were still coming in.

"He thought I was wrong. He told me so," Stepien said.

Richard Donoghue, the former No. 2 Justice Department official, said there were so many spurious claims that it was difficult to discredit them all. He says he told Trump that "much of the info you're getting is false."

'TEAM NORMAL'

Stepien told the committee that he and other aides viewed themselves as "Team Normal" as they tried to steer Trump away from dubious fraud claims being peddled by Rudy Giuliani and other lawyers and discourage him from contesting his defeat.

"I didn't think what was happening was honest or professional," Stepien said in videotaped testimony.

Campaign adviser Jason Miller testified that Giuliani was not sober on Election Night when he urged Trump to deliver a victory speech.

Giuliani was "definitely intoxicated but I did not know his level of intoxication when he spoke with the president."

The committee also showcased what witnesses said were a series of outlandish election fraud allegations that proved to be false.

These included a "suspicious black suitcase" containing fake ballots that turned out to be a local election lock box in Georgia, a tractor-trailer truck that supposedly transported ballots from New York to Pennsylvania, computer chips being swapped into voting machines that automatically awarded Trump votes to Biden and rampant fraudulent voting among Native Americans. The Trump aides and advisors dismissed all of them as having no merit.

FOLLOWING THE MONEY

Amanda Wick, an investigator with the select committee, said a series of Trump fundraising appeals based on the allegation of voter fraud raised $250 million, with nearly $100 million in first week after the election.

Legal experts have said these fundraising activities could have been fraudulent.

Trump repeatedly has denied doing anything illegal in connection with Jan. 6 events.

Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren, said, "It's clear that he intentionally misled his donors, asked them to donate to a fund that didn't exist and used the money raised for something other than what he said. Now it's for someone else to decide whether that's criminal or not," she told reporters following the Monday's hearing.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Alistair Bell)